02 October 2017
There is a wonderfully comforting prayer that is a part of the daily evening service in Jewish tradition. As the night falls with all its related anxieties, we ask the Creator of Day and Night to “Cause us to lie down in peace…. and spread over us Your sukkah/shelter of peace.” It occurs to me at this holiday season, as many struggle to build family sukkot, that this is a pretty flimsy structure. A sudden wind could peel off its bamboo covering. Why then, even metaphorically, would we request that our peace be housed in such a seemingly temporary and vulnerable place?
One of our earliest narratives involves a temporary and flimsy structure, made strong and impactful by the activity inside. Abraham and Sarah are barely settled in after a journey to a new land when they set up a tent with doors open to the crossroads, sharing shelter, food and drink. Whereas others may be self-absorbed in their own resettlement, this couple immediately put out a welcome mat and searched for travelers in need of hospitality. In so doing, they established a legacy for generations of their children.
The echo of the open tent of Abraham and Sarah can be heard in many initiatives of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, our partner agencies, local congregations and many other organizations in the community.
Together, we strive to build a caring and inclusive community, where every individual can participate in and feel welcome at community activities. All are invited and encouraged to participate. We are proud of the welcome mat we put on every invitation: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington welcomes the participation of interfaith couples and families, and people of all abilities, backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations. Building an inclusive community is a priority; we strive to accommodate all needs whenever possible.”
In our community tent, we must expand services to the most vulnerable among us to meet the growing needs of at-risk populations locally, in Israel and around the world. We must welcome in those who may not feel that they have a place to rest or stay.
And, sometimes, as we have been so recently reminded, we need to provide a tent for shelter, food or clothing for people displaced by disaster. Our community needs to be at the ready, responding swiftly to address the immediate needs of individuals and communities in crisis by delivering support, respite and relief.
We, together, stand upon the shoulders of our ancestors who understood this sacred responsibility.
Now we see the truth behind the notion of a sukkat shalom, a tent shelter of peace. What appears fragile is made strong by our activity and partnerships. When we take responsibility for ourselves and others, when we open our doors and remove barriers to entry, when our welcome mat leads to meaningful engagement with individuals whose contributions to the community enrich and strengthen it, the promise of peace inches closer to reality.
Wishing you a meaningful holiday,