When we celebrated Sukkot with our temple this past weekend, in addition to the usual meanings associated with the holiday, namely celebrating the harvest season and remembering the 40 years the Jews wandered in the desert before entering the promised land, our rabbi encouraged us to consider change. That things change, and we can't always do anything about the circumstances of what's changing. What we can control is how we react to change.
The rabbi was encouraging us to think of different parts of the lulav (the stalk-like branch made of palm, myrtle, and willow), and the etrog (yellow citrus-like fruit) as parts of our own bodies - our spines, our limbs, our eyes, our mouths. If we are fortunate, we are in control of how we interact with our surroundings - what we say to our children, how we embrace them and in turn teach them to embrace change.
One thing that I've personally worked hard to internalize is that things change. Unexpected things happen, and there isn't anything I can do about it. But what I can do is react to change with as much grace as possible. I can show my children through my example that change is not always a bad thing. Sometimes we stand strong, like the lulav, but sometimes we bend in the wind. We don't break, but we bend.
The Jews of yore had no choice but to wander, and to embrace that time in the middle, before they got to where they were going. They slept in sukkahs (temporary housing structures) out under the stars, and had lots of time to think. I have to remind myself that usually it's worth it to reside in the middle, that the skills learned there are what helps me deal with changes as they occur.
I want my children to feel safe and strong, free to rest in the moment or to be inquisitive about what is changing. I want to teach them to use their words and their actions to impact their own happiness and that of the world around them.
So we will take time in the middle, the messy, crumb-laden, syrup-sticky middle. But we won't be afraid to face change when it comes. And next year, we will take time in our own sukkah, passed on as a mitzvah (good deed) from our friends from temple!