We are only at school during Sukkot for two days this year so I began our study of Sukkot this week before it officially began. My fifth grade students and I were in our school’s garden watching the sun rise above the building’s roof. Students held in their hands leaves, flower petals, seeds, acorns, stones and seedlings gleaned from the garden. We had begun the morning by discussing Sukkot and the idea of harvest festivals. Students had read two short passages from Kohelet and we were outside reflecting on the reading and choosing items from the garden that represented one of the ideas from Kohelet that stood out to us.
As we discussed how the items we held represented birth and death, tearing down and building up, planting and harvesting. We discussed the cyclical nature of the statements made in the text and we came to the conclusion that although the plants and trees in our garden are “born” and “die” they also produce new generations and as such the cycle of life never really ends it is just surpassed by another generation that carries on the work of the previous generations.
I was moved by my student’s wisdom. As we left the field and began to return to our classroom I felt pride in my students, I also experienced the feeling that keeps teachers going, a feeling of contentment in knowing that students not only know something but that they have processed an idea.
Back in the class we discussed the last parsha in the Torah Ve-zot Haberakhah. We will see this passage again on Simchat Torah when we complete the reading of the Torah. It is in this parsha when Moses shares his final message with the Israelites, passes on the leadership of the people to Joshua and goes to Mt. Nebo where he dies and is buried by G-d. The students, without dropping a beat recognize that this is an end but not the end. They explained to me that although Moses, the leader of the people has died, his work, patience, soul, and memory continue on with the people into the land of Israel.
This Sukkot I want to keep these ideas in mind as we enter the new year and begin another cycle. We are not going through this world alone, but are setting up a world for future generations.