We are currently in the middle of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival.
Sukkot presents us with an apparent paradox.
On one hand, is a festival of the harvest; a time when we rejoice and celebrate our abundance. And yet we are commanded to build and live in a sukkah – a fragile, sparse, hut with an open roof and doors that don’t lock. The sukkah, and anything inside it, is vulnerable to the elements and to potential intruders.
The sparseness of the sukkah seems at odds with the theme of abundance and harvest that we celebrate on Sukkot.
What can we learn from this?
One lesson that the sukkah teaches us is how to navigate the uncertainty of life.
Leaping Without a Net
Life is filled with uncertainty and risk.
On Sukkot, we celebrate the 40-year journey of the Jewish people through the desert after the exodus from Egypt. The ritual of living (or at least eating) in the sukkah recreates our ancestors’ experience in the desert, just as the ritual of eating matzah on Passover recreates their experience of the Exodus.
Although the Jews were slaves in Egypt, they had certainty; they knew what to expect from each day. Based only on the word of Moses, they left their homes in Egypt and the comforts of a life they knew, and embarked on a journey into the unknown wilderness of the desert for 40 years.
Their journey was a journey of faith. They had the courage to follow Moses, on his word that he was following God’s call. They did not know where they were going or how long it would take to get there. In the desert, God protected them and lived among them.
Our Journey of Faith
In my work helping people navigate change and transition, I see this pattern show up repeatedly.
Many people resist letting go of one thing unless they know where they will land. They don’t want to sell their home without having the next place lined up. They wait until they have a new job before they leave their current job. Or they stay in a relationship that’s long been over until they have met someone new.
This is prudent and safe, of course.
But trying to defend what you have is a recipe for staying stuck.
The Divine call often asks us to step into the unknown, to take the risk, to give up something we have worked hard to build or create.
Most people don’t answer their call because they fear giving up what they have without knowing how things will work out.
Life is uncertain. Faith is what allows us to act in the face of uncertainty.
Faith is the Opposite of Fear
Faith is the opposite of fear.
Faith is the courage to take a risk, knowing that even if we fail, we will be ok, because failure, like the sukkah, and like life itself, is only temporary.
Faith is what allows us to step into the unknown and to embrace the uncertainty of change and of life itself.
It’s what allows us to take a leap even if we don’t see the net, because we know that the net is there.