| Disney World, Florida. Las Vegas, Nevada. A drive through New England
the fall. Everyone loves vacations, don't they? I don't know where you
took your last vacation, but I'm sure we all have a 'wish-list' of those
we'd next like to visit. One of the places in America that I have a recent
in visiting, is Enterprise, Alabama.
You've not heard of Enterprise, Alabama? Let me tell you what it is
relatively obscure town that has earned it a ranking on my list of 'places
I'd most like
In the early 1900s, cotton was king in the South - and in particular, in
Alabama. In 1909 the Mexican Boll Weevil invaded the state of Alabama, and by
1915 it had destroyed 60% of the cotton crop in the county surrounding
Enterprise. With the local economy devastated due to it's dependence on 'King
farmers had to turn to something else. They began to diversify their crops,
sugar cane, potatoes, hay - and in particular, peanuts. Soon, in fact,
and its county became the number one peanut producing area in the entire
The local economy not only survived - but thrived - thanks to the most
characters, the Boll Weevil.
In appreciation to the boll weevil for lessons learned, the citizens of
Alabama, in 1919, erected the first and only monument in the world in honor
agricultural pest. The base of the monument has an inscription
that I hope one day to see in person, that reads as follows: "In profound
appreciation of the boll weevil and what it has done as the herald of
monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Alabama"
In 1915, I'm certain that it was difficult for farmers in Alabama who
in God to reconcile their faith with the devastation that occurred to their
to the economy. Nevertheless, understanding that "Gam zu l'tova' -'things
always happen for the
best' is an indispensable aspect of having 'emunah in HaShem' - having faith
in God -
and is, in fact, a lesson of the Sukkah.
The Sukkah is, by definition, a temporary structure, constructed of
branches and other things that grow from the ground. At a time of year that
begin to leave their backyard patios for the climate controlled environment
of the indoors, the Jew goes outside, to eat, rest and live for 8 days. If
degrees and sunny - wonderful! If it gets a bit chilly, or if rain is
threatening - gam zu
l'tova - everything that happens, is for the best. Is a plague of boll
weevils for the best? If we look hard enough, we'll see how it is.
I'm sure many of you followed the Summer Olympics which recently
One of my favorite stories from these recent Olympic games concerned a player
on the American baseball team named Doug Mientkiewicz.
Earlier this spring, it seems, Mientkiewicz was angry with Minnesota Twins
Tom Kelly for cutting him from the American League team, and demoting him to
minor leagues. In a recent article in the New York Times, it was reported
kiewicz's spirits were crushed, and he was bitter at having been cast aside.
changed suddenly for Mientkiewicz when, as a result of not being on a major
team, he became available to play on the US Olympic baseball team. With two
game winning home runs in the ninth inning in separate games, Mientkiewicz was
the hero of the underdog American baseball team that overcame the heavily
Cubans, and won the gold medal. Today, Mientkiewicz wants to thank Tom Kelly.
"It's really amazing, " Mientkiewicz said. "I want to shake Tom Kelly's hand
saying I wasn't ready for the big leagues."
How often in life have we experienced a professional or personal
left us feeling disappointed - or perhaps, shaken up to the point of being
It would have been hard for any of us in Doug Mientkiewicz's shoes to have
at the time of being cut from a major league team - but having 'faith in God'
understanding on an intellectual level, and integrating emotionally, that
happens is for the best.'
On Shabbos Shuva, two weeks ago, I shared with you that my car was
with the passenger side window broken, a jacket taken, as well as my
do have to admit to you that the first thing that came to mind was not 'Gam
zu l'tova' -
as I shelled out $150 for the broken window, dealt with the insult of an
my property, and scrambled furiously to the bank to make sure my checking
was closed before the ganaf attempted to cash some of my checks. Well, guess
what happened? As I was sitting at the bank feeling sorry for myself while
account was being changed, the woman assisting me said, "Well, Mr. Smason,
new account will be a free checking account - and won't have the other
charges that the old account had?" "Monthly charges?", I asked quizzically?
under the impression that my previous checking account had always provided me
with free checking. To make a long story short, unbeknownst to me, my
was being debited monthly for charges that I wasn't aware of - and if my car
hadn't been broken and my checkbook stolen, I would have continued to be
these monthly charges, which quickly would have added up to and surpassed the
amount of money the repair of the window cost me!
I'll be honest with you folks: I'm not prepared to shake the hand of the
vandalized my car - and I'm not even thinking about throwing a kiddush for
in the bigger picture, what happened to my car and checkbook turned out to be
blessing in disguise, in that I wound up saving money. Was I jumping for joy
the time that it happened? No. However, a person who lives with faith in
understands that everything that happens for the best might not immediately
the answer or answers to 'why things happen' that are painful and
disappointing - but
will know that somehow, someway, 'this is for the best.'
The transitory nature of the Sukkah stands in contradistinction to the
of our homes. The haftorah we read today spoke of a war that might take
the end of days - the war of Gog and Magog, where, on the holiday of Sukkot,
nations of the world make one last gigantic effort to destroy the nation of
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch explains that the name 'Gog' is related to the
'gag'...the Hebrew word for 'roof'. The Jews are the people of 'the Sukkah'
- those who
live with the realization that life is transitory, material things are a
means to an end,
and what's truly important is a relationship with God that involves, amongst
things, trust and faith in Him. 'Gog' represents the oomos ha'olam (nations
world) - the people of the fixed, permanent structure, who rely on their own
and might, rather than understanding that God is running the show.
True faith in God means seeing things as part of the Divine plan even
most difficult of circumstances. I'd like to close my remarks today by
you the following story. A woman I know suffered a serious automobile
several months ago, that left her car mangled, and her back racked with pain.
Months of physical therapy left her with only a minimal improvement and
of the pain, and upon the suggestion of her doctor, she went for a bone scan.
bone scan revealed that all, thank God, was well with her spine, and that
the pain from the accident was in soft tissues. Unexpectedly, however, the
scan did reveal something no one was looking for; a 'hot spot' on a bone in
that looked very problematic. Further investigation and testing revealed a
growing tumor that, without a bone scan, would have been left unnoticed (her
said) for two to three years. This woman had a biopsy performed Wednesday of
this previous week....and it's quite possible that the auto accident she
several months ago, saved her life.
Time spent in the Sukkah, is time to contemplate what's truly important
Whether it's the little irritants in life like a broken window, or the major
all will experience at times, such as health challenges to ourselves and
precious to us - walking with faith in God, and understanding that
that happens for the best, is a very important lesson to take from this Yom
Good Shabbos, and Good Yom Tov