King Solomon who, according to tradition, is the author of the book. He says:
“I know there is nothing better for man than to rejoice and do good in his life. And also, that every man should eat, drink and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”
Sukkot is the festival described in our calendar as the “z’man simchatenu / season of our joy”. The one festival where we are commanded to rejoice and be happy, to celebrate and be glad. All the traditions connected with Sukkot assist us in bringing the joy of the festival to the fore; eating and drinking in our sukkot with friends and family, smelling the distinctive, refreshing scent of the etrog, shaking the lulav with its beautiful greenery, and reading the book of Kohelet to inspire us to live with better purpose and more joy. Kohelet stresses the importance of enjoying the bounty with which we are blessed, of eating and drinking, of sharing special moments and being grateful for the blessings in our lives. And it is particularly meaningful that we read these words in the sukkah, in the temporary structure and dwelling in which we live for the seven days of the festival.
The sukkah is a fragile structure. It is not the solid bricks and mortar of our homes, rather, it is exposed to the elements, offering some shelter but not providing much protection from a storm or unrelenting heat and sun. The sukkah though, by its very nature, causes us to do what Kohelet is encouraging through his words: to take stock and think about what is really important, what in our lives is temporary and what is permanent. When we sit in the sukkah, we begin to realise the fragile nature of our material possessions — that our homes, as safe as they might be, could be gone in an instant.
Sukkot is a poignant reminder that there are many in the world who are without the shelter that we sometimes take for granted: those in our own larger community who are without homes and others for whom their home is not a safe environment of shelter. This Sukkot we are also witnessing on tv the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. There are more people currently seeking refuge than ever before. During this time in our calendar we are reminded to address the issues faced by those without a home, to think about what we can do.