Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Sukkot 5784-2023

A Woman goes to her therapist and complains that she doesn’t want to marry but her parents are pressuring her to do so.
Woman: I am educated, independent, and self-sufficient. I don’t need a husband.
Therapist: Due to your intelligence and track record of achievement, you will undoubtedly be a success but it’s inevitable that not everything will go the way you want. Sometimes your plans will fail or not materialize the way you had anticipated; sometimes your wishes will not be realized. Then whom will you blame? Will you blame yourself?
Woman: No, of course not.Therapist: Indeed; that’s why you need a husband.
Beginning with Adam and Eve, humankind has blamed people and circumstances for their failures. In a well known talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZWf2_2L2v8), Brene Brown teaches that blame is our unhealthy way of dealing with pain or discomfort. We do it instinctively to ease that discomfort but if we really want to deal with the situation properly and feel we were wronged, there is a proper way to hold others accountable. Some people have an interesting habit of blaming G-d when things in life don’t work out the way they had expected. Somehow, they acknowledge G-d when confronted with death, illness, financial loss or some other tragedy but don’t give Him credit when things are going well concerning health, job, relationships and other areas of life. G-d is only there to blame when I didn’t sign up for this occurs. The conscious or unconscious tendency to blame G-d when things go wrong, or life’s circumstance led to some people to believing “I was created with so many challenges that I was set up for failure.”  The Torah addresses this misconception in the following verse. The deeds of the Rock are perfect, for all His ways are just; a faithful God, without injustice. He is righteous and upright. (Deut. 32:4)
You were brought into this world because you have a purpose—and G-d knows what He’s doing. Instead of blaming people and circumstances, embrace your limitations but also your strengths so that you can share your special gifts with those in your world. There’s a light unique to you—and only you can choose to let it shine. The Talmud mentions a story about Hillel, who is referenced as the model of humility, making a statement seemingly out of character. When he would rejoice at the celebrations taking place during Sukkot, he would say:    If I’m here, everything is here, and if I’m not here, who is here? (Sukkah 53a). How could Hillel make such an ostensibly arrogant statement? Another dictum of Hillel sheds light on this question. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? (Pirkei Avot/Chapters of the Fathers 1:14) What Hillel was saying was that each individual has unique obligations and duties that cannot be fulfilled by anyone else. Thus, If I’m here, everything is here corresponds to If I am not for myself, who will be for me? When I’m present—confront my life with courage and honesty—I acknowledge the consequences of my good and bad choices. At the same time, there are other aspects of Judaism that require the help and participation of others. Thus, if I’m not here, who is here? If each person is to himself or herself and doesn’t come to celebrate on Sukkot with other Jews, then there is no community and nobody is really there. This is the meaning of But if I am only for myself, who am I. Hillel’s message, while relevant throughout the year, is particularly relevant as we transition from Yom Kippur to Sukkos. On Yom Kippur (and the days leading up to it), we hopefully took personal responsibility for our actions. We didn’t try to blame people or circumstances for our lack of good judgment resulting in a compromised situation in which we acted in a way we aren’t proud of. Hillel teaches that Sukkos is an opportunity to build on the momentum of Yom Kippur by seeking out specific ways in which we can fulfill our own personal mission and take a greater role in helping the macro-Jewish community fulfill its mission. Chag Samayach/Shabbat ShalomHave a wonderful and happy Sukkot/Good Shabbos
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