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You've probably heard about the Jewish holidays' shared theme: "They tried to kill us; we won; let's eat!"

Sure, the joke is inaccurate and shallow. But it brings out a valid point. There's something about crisis that awakens (many) people to higher values, to priorities, to G‑d. So, throughout our history, a communal crisis often brought a spiritual awakening; and our joy in triumph was expressed in a holy-day, a day of gratitude to G‑d.

On Chanukah, Purim and Passover we were threatened by various peoples, and Sukkot celebrates G‑d's protection in the desert's untamed wilderness.

Yes, crises seem to be at the center of our holiday experiences.

What about a day when things seem to be going right?Even in our personal lives, we may notice how emergencies give us a jarring wake-up call, prompting us to ask G‑d for assistance and to reevaluate our priorities. And when there's an appreciable victory, we feel the gratitude.

But what about the other days?

What about a day when things seem to be going right? What about the day when I landed the promotion, my relationships are fluid, my bills are paid? What if it's just a normal day? What of a day with assorted stresses and pressures, but – thank G‑d – no monumental crises?

What drives me to G‑d then? Do I appreciate G‑d then, amidst the success and the "normal"?

Hence Sukkot.

Yes, Sukkot celebrates G‑d's protection in a time of extreme vulnerability, in the desert. But there's something more.

Our calendar has a spine of festivals – Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – which are also framed in agricultural terms: Passover is the beginning of spring and the beginning of the barley harvest, Shavuot is the general Harvest Festival and Sukkot is the "Gathering [of the harvest from the fields]."

The Jews were protected in the desert as soon as they left Egypt, in the spring time. Yet the Torah postpones the celebration until the fall.

Perhaps this is a reason:

The Torah guides us to appreciate G‑d's consistent presenceAs the time for the communal gathering of the crops, Sukkot was, practically speaking, one's opportunity to soak in the rewards of a year's work. It was when you got your "bonus check"; a time when you were feeling good about yourself.

So at that time – specifically that time – the Torah guides us to appreciate G‑d's consistent presence and protection. Not amidst crisis, but amidst plenty. When there may be less of an instinctive push.

May this be a year of Sukkot, when we rise to the challenge of appreciating G‑d amidst the gifts which are certainly headed our way.

Rabbi Mendy Herson is director of the Chabad Jewish Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
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