I hope your New Year celebrations were sweet, your fasting safe, your atoning meaningful. We're not quite done with these fall holidays, though!
Tonight is Shabbat Sukkot. During Sukkot, we read the words of Kohelet/Ecclesiastes. Kohelet is said to have been King Solomon, who despite his wealth, land, grand palace, many wives and consorts, travels, the glory of building the Temple, etc., was depressed and saw no meaning to life. In the book of Kohelet, he seems to mourn the endless cycle of life and nature. Nothing lasts or holds, the world goes on turning no matter what we do, and eventually everything new becomes old, and the old becomes new again. There is nothing originally under the sun.
Pete Seeger took these words and spun them in a positive light. Yes, it's true, the dent each of us individually makes on the Earth is fairly small. But, that means anything we feel guilty or embarrassed about is also not as bad as it feels! And it means that the difference we make in our own circles are as meaningful as we make them. If things feel bad now, don't worry - you can still turn it around!
We read these words on Sukkot as we live in temporary huts, remember our ancestors escaping Egypt without secure housing, and appreciate with gratitude the bounty we enjoy in our own lives. It's a harvest festival, enjoy the fruits of the Earth, while remembering a time when our ancestors survived on Manna that they constantly worried would cease to fall from Heaven day by day. Like with fasting on Yom Kippur, which propels us toward breaking chains of oppression and feeding those who are hungry all year round, the Sukkah should also remind us of those who do not live in secure homes as regularly as most of us do. Some may live on the streets, or bouncing from shelter to shelter. Some may live in warm houses with four walls, but live in fear from domestic abuse (October is also Domestic Abuse Awareness Month: https://jcada.org/www). Sukkot reminds us that everything is temporary, and there but for the grace of HaShem go I.
If you live in secure and safe housing the rest of the year, consider this the right time to go volunteer at a shelter, a food pantry, to open your home to a friend or neighbor in need, to donate to your local Picture The Homeless-type organization or a domestic abuse survivor's org. If you are not in a position to do any one those things, hang in there. Know that things change, sometimes abruptly, and you will see brighter days ahead.
May the time and season for peace, comfort, and safety be upon us all this Sukkot.