Today is the seventh day of Sukkot, also known as Hoshana Rabbah. I wrote a post about Hoshanah Rabbah last year, complete with an extemporaneous prayer for rain. This year I'm feeling a little bit disconnected, spiritually wiped-out from the long span of holiday consciousness that started with the new moon of Elul seven weeks ago. Maybe because I'm hovering on the edge of a new semester I feel distracted, not entirely here. I'm too busy anticipating what's coming to feel rooted in what's happening now.
My solution? I return to the sukkah with my laptop. I'll work from out here for a while. It's the last day of the festival, after all. This weekend I'll beat the rugs that have been living out here all week, and drape them over the railings of the deck to air out before being folded and stowed in the garage. (We'll use them at midwinter, to line our ger.) I'll untwine the autumnal tinsel garland and coil it for next year. But for now, I can sit outside, listening to the constant pulse of crickets singing and to the rattle of warm wind in the trees. I can take the time to notice how it feels to be sitting in this open-air house, inside and outside at the same time.
I watch leaves falling, spiraling lazily from the still-mostly-green forest overhead, and I think about the leaves of the aravot, the willow branches we beat against the ground today. The practice renders our lulavim unfit for future use, preventing ourselves from holding on to this festival too long. I can't come out here and bentsch lulav next week, because it won't be time for that any more. "To everything there is a season," as Kohelet has it -- Kohelet, the megillah we read during Sukkot. (I can't seem to help adding the Byrds' "Turn, turn, turn.") The autumn equinox has passed. The angle of the earth is turning.
Tonight, at my synagogue's Simchat Torah celebration, we'll do a different kind of turning -- from the end of the Torah to its beginning. "Turn it and turn it, for everything is in it." The planet turns, the cycle of the seasons turn, and our central story turns. Endings are always also beginnings. Dismantling the sukkah will be the first step toward putting it back together again next year. But for now, it's time to accept that the leaves are falling. I knock my aravah against the table and watch its leaves flutter to the ground.