Bat Yam, Temple of the Islands: Our Sukkah and those who built it.
On Sunday, September 23, 2018, as the Jewish Festival of Sukkot was about to begin, our congregation, Bat Yam Temple of the Islands, joined our host congregation, Sanibel Congregational UCC, so ably pastored by Dr. John Danner, for an extraordinary morning of sharing and solidarity.
Sukkot is the Jewish Harvest festival. In its celebration lie the roots of our American Thanksgiving.
On Sukkot we celebrate that the earth has yielded food for us to eat in the Jewish year just begun. But this year we descry how we have abused the earth God has entrusted to our care.
When Vickie and I came to Sanibel for the first time in the spring of 2017, the waters were beautiful. Fish jumped, dolphins swam, and the docile manatees plodded along beneath the surface. Birds of every size and color decorated the air.
When we arrived this year in late August, there were no dolphins, fish or manatees to be seen. No pelicans dive-bombed into the Gulf for their daily sustenance.
We are shocked the by devastation pollution, red tide and green algae have wrought on Sanibel and the surrounding area. We want the earth to continue to yield food. We want our SW Florida home to be a place of beauty and abundant land and sea creatures once again. We want those who depend on tourism to earn their livelihoods.
When, a Midrash teaches, God finished creating the world, the Eternal One addressed humanity, saying, “You are in charge of and responsible for this earth. But it is the only one you will get. So preserve and enhance it. Do not pollute or destroy it” (Kohelet Rabbah, 7:13).
A Hasidic story tells that once there was a goat with horns so long and beautiful that when he lifted his head, he could touch the stars, and they would sing the most beautiful melody that anyone had ever heard.
One day, a man encountered the goat, and thought. “I could make my wife a gorgeous jewelry box for my wife’s birthday from a piece of the goat’s horns.”
The man approached the tame and friendly goat, and asked, “May I cut just a small piece of one of your horns. It won’t hurt, and I’ll just take a small piece.” The goat lowered his head.
Hi wife adored the beautiful jewelry box. When she showed it to her friends, they wanted one just like it, and many others cut off a small piece of one of the goat’s horns. Soon, of course, goat could no longer reach the stars, and that most beautiful melody was forever silenced.
Do we hope to pass on a beautiful and healthful environment to our children and grandchildren? Then we must find a way to restore the horns of the goat. We must do a much better job than we are now of taking care of our planet.
I am not a scientist, so I don’t have the formula to clean up the mess we have made. But I know restoring the beauty of our SW Florida home requires the effort of all of us. We must join forces to demand that our government pass the laws and spend the money to do what must be done to save this once beautiful corner of the world we have made our home. We must do it now, before it is too late.