Many of us this past Thursday stopped and took time to reflect on the good in our lives.  We stopped to do as God did during creation, to reflect and say that it was good.  It’s important that we take these times for sharing gratitude about the good in our world and our lives.  One way that we take time to be thankful is through setting aside holy days and celebrating festivals. The Bible has quite a few holidays. The first holy day that was established was the Sabbath and it comes once a week. The Sabbath reminds us to rest and reflect. Christians observe the Sabbath with worship services and intentional meals. These range from the highly ritualized Eucharist of the Catholic Church or Orthodox to potlucks. We praise God give thanks, and take time to reconnect with one another.

The Bible has specific festivals and holy days including Passover, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot. Sukkot is the holiday set aside in the scripture we read in Leviticus. There are also plenty of celebration days that come from pagan or later Christian origin which also ask us to stop and reflect. They are frequently celebrating change in seasons. Today I am going to talk about Sukkot, a Jewish holiday focused on the harvest.  Sukkot has a couple of names but the common name is based on the part of the festival where people make simple structures. Sukkot celebrates growing and gathering food and is set at the final harvest of the season.

Sukkot reminds us of a time when we were deeply connected with weather and the seasons. During Sukkot people are encouraged to reconnect with nature. They even sleep in simple structures, the reason for the name of the holiday, outside under the stars.

There is a loss of connection from nature that comes from being in climate controlled conditions from bedroom to car. Seasons are left to the brief time we are outside. I urge you to take in the weather and not just see it as an inconvenience. We are also separated by electric lights that chase away the night and disconnect us from the movement of the Sun. One thing that has really been meaningful to me since moving to Klamath Falls is taking in the sunrises and the sunsets. I find myself stopping on my way to and from work to photograph the sunrise and sunset. We have a special gift here with skies that are still relatively dark. We can see the moon and the stars. Don’t take it for granted. In many places the orange glow of sodium vapor lamps sets a light surrounding the city that means even cloudy nights are not dark.

There is also a Jewish tradition surrounding harvest that involves caring for the poor and needy. This tradition is called gleaning. It is the practice of leaving some behind for those in need. While farmers do not generally do this anymore the tradition is carried on in other ways. When I worked at a grocery store, we would freeze meats and breads to be shared with the poor. Our church here shares with the hungry through the food pantry.

During Sukkot meals are given special attention. Unlike on the Sabbath cooking is allowed. Focus is also brought to them from eating them together in a sukkah or booth-like tent.  Thanksgiving for us involves an emphasis on eating as well.

Another important part of Sukkot is welcoming guests. This echoes in our traditions for Thanksgiving where many of us welcome guests to our tables. The welcoming of guests is so important that each sukkah frequently only has 3 walls. The shape of this structure is sometimes referred to as a hug. Guests are welcomed in two ways. One way has people welcomed in physical form. Then the question becomes who are these guests. One tradition has poor people welcomed in. This reminds me of my own experiences growing up. One Thanksgiving tradition in my family of origin was taking time to serve Thanksgiving dinners at a soup kitchen. We would serve the hungry and needy in our community. This places the emphasis on serving others.

Others celebrate Sukkot by visiting neighbors. Growing up I saw my neighbors the most when I was out raking leaves in the fall.  The Talmud says that “it is fitting that all Jews should sit in one sukkah.” This is not physically possible. There is, however, an expectation to bring together as many as possible within these simple structures.

The second way of welcoming guests is to welcome seven key ancestors from the Jewish tradition such as Abraham, Moses, and David. A modern spin welcomes key female ancestors too such as Sarah, Rachel and Ruth. We can welcome guests at our gatherings who have passed on by remembering them with special recipes and stories.

This past week many of us observed Thanksgiving setting aside a special time to be thankful for what we have. Holy days and festivals celebrate a few times a year what we have been given, but we can celebrate more often. As Quakers, we also recognize that every day is sacred. Any time can be a time to say thanks. Daily gratitude is also its own reward because it helps us to find happiness. I leave you with these queries.


  • What are you grateful for that comes from tradition and our ancestors?
  • What are you grateful for in connection with nature?
  • What are you grateful for in your relationships?
  • How do you practice gleaning or giving excess to those less fortunate?


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