Faith Voices: Spiritual Cities – Rabbi Bernie Gerson

On Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, Jews are charged with the mitzvah of living in a sukkah, a makeshift booth composed of at least three walls and covered by a roof of branches, for seven days. This is in conformity with the verse in Leviticus 23:43: “…so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

Sitting in our fragile huts and integrating the experiences of taking meals, studying and even sleeping with the wind blowing through the branches and the sounds of the neighborhood filtering, we must ask ourselves: How safe is it for me to live outside for a week?

Rabbi Yehoshua Rubin poses yet another question: “How do you measure the spirituality of a city? …Is such an essence grounded in the inventory of synagogues, churches, and mosques? …the number of charitable groups and volunteer organizations?” (1)

In classic pedagogic fashion, the Rabbi answers his question with another question: “Can a fourteen-year-old-girl walk home safely in the middle of the night?”

We can only be as spiritual as we can be safe. And, in a city, a state, such as ours where the disparity between socioeconomic pods is growing mightily, it is incumbent upon us to pour our ethics and our values as flowing rivers out of our homes so that we might become a part of the neighborhoods within which we live. As we recall the protection of God in the wilderness, may we all answer the call to construct more safe spaces in our land, so that its denizens might sleep peacefully throughout the night.

– Rabbi Bernie Gerson
Metro Denver Faith Leaders Caucus
Together Colorado Board of Directors


(1) Rubin, Yehoshua, Spiritual Awakenings: Illuminations on Shabbat and the Holidays (Urim Publications, 2003), pp. 95-96

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