Obligatory joy—that is one of the commandments for the holy days of Sukkot. Just as we are supposed to build a Sukkah to eat and dwell in with guests, so too are we commanded to be joyous during these days. That is why the coincidence of Atlanta’s Pride Parade and the first night of Sukkot this past Sunday seemed so fitting: a day filled with pride and joy.
As a congregation, we participate in Pride because of our deep belief in two verses from Torah. First, that all human beings are created in the image of God. From this we know that every human being contains a spark of the Divine. If God’s likeness is found in each of us, then we owe one another the respect and dignity that we would give to God. Second, we follow the belief from Rabbi Akiva who says that the greatest principle in Torah is to love your neighbor as you love yourself. As a Jewish community, we have a responsibility to ensure that gender and sexual orientation are never obstacles to living meaningful Jewish lives.
Our day of Pride and Joy continued on Sunday evening when members from Northbrook United Methodist Church, St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church, and the Istanbul Cultural Center joined members of Temple Emanu-El in our new lobby to share a meal and bring in the first night of Sukkot. We taught our guests about the holiday of Sukkot and about Judaism in general. In turn, they shared with us their questions and reflections. The joy of welcoming guests into our sukkah was increased by the learning and bonds of friendship we formed that night.
Now, our joy increases as we approach the holiday of Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah truly marks the close of the High Holy Day season, and we end it with a bang! Everything that we do at Temple Emanu-El to live sacred time revolves around Torah—our Tree of Life. Join us this Sunday evening as we celebrate a new year of learning and growth by unraveling the entire Torah around the sanctuary. Like the blast of the shofar or the melody of Kol Nidre, seeing the whole Torah before you, held by members of our congregation, inspires true awe in the power of the Jewish people.
As we close out this High Holy Day season, may your sukkah be a shelter of peace which is filled with the joy of family and friends. May you feel the pride that comes from being your truest self as members of a proud Jewish community. And may you find fulfillment through the lessons of Torah.
Chag Sukkot Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!
 Deuteronomy chapter 16 verse 11
 Genesis chapter 1 verse 26
 Rabbi Akiva’s quote is found in Genesis Rabba 24:7. The quote from Torah is from Leviticus chapter 19 verse 18.