Sukkot on the Farm

This time last year, after driving down a dusty, winding road between seemingly endless fields of sunflowers and through almond orchards, we pulled up to Eatwell Farm in Dixon, California. We parked near a row of Cypress trees that were serving as a barrier to break the wind from sweeping across the fields and looked out on where we would be living for the next few days. Stretching out in one direction was row after row of crops—chard, tomatoes, corn, squash, beets, herbs—spanning every color in the rainbow. To the other was a little makeshift village of tents next to a glowing sukkah. Walking up to the sukkah we stared up at the roof of branches. Sometime during the short drive down from San Francisco the sun had begun to sink in the sky and it was now casting playful shadows through s’chach and illuminating the brightly patterned tapestry walls. All around us outside of the sukkah were people harvesting food for dinner, playing games, listening to the birds. No sooner had we opened up our car to get our tent out did two chickens hop up into our warm trunk and nuzzle down together. If there was ever a moment when I felt words of prayer pouring out of me almost unconsciously, it was as we set up camp amid the other tents. Ma tovu ohalecha Yaakov, How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob…

It surprises me that it still amazes me when Judaism is so relevant and intertwined with my life. Not only were words of prayer from centuries past weaving through my mind as I dug the tent stakes into the soft earth, but I was observing a holiday in an entirely new and more personally relevant way. The community that had gathered at Eatwell for Sukkot for Wilderness Torah’s first-ever Sukkot program  was made up of young Jews who were part of Hazon’s Tuv HaAretz, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. As members of the CSA we each pay a yearly fee to the farm to keep it running and in return receive weekly boxes of fresh fruits, eggs, and vegetables from Eatwell. For Sukkot, we decided to join together in community to camp where our food was grown, to sleep next to the chickens that laid our eggs, to daven outdoors amidst the elements that affect our crops.

Reflecting on last year’s experience during this Sukkot, I recognize it as a powerful experience where I felt the Jewish tradition alive and pulsing with energy. Chag Ha’ Assif, the Festival of Ingathering, is a name for the holiday which became viscerally relevant to me as we harvested buckets of tomatoes and spent one day cooking and canning countless jars of tomato sauce to preserve the summer’s bounty. Our discussion on Kohelet (Ecclesiates) and the reality of impermanence was alive for us all as we sat in the fragile sukkah with only our tents for shelter if the weather turned.

As we continue to move from the solemnity, introspection, and cerebral nature of the Yamim Noraim into the jubilation, communal celebration, and embodied enjoyment of Sukkot, may we each open ourselves to the ways in which this holiday speaks to us today. May we connect to all of the ways in which Sukkot allows our Jewish history to intertwine with and inform our reality as Jews in the modern world, and may this festival be an opportunity for each of us to connect to the bountiful harvests we are each so blessed to enjoy in our own lives.