We’re in the middle of Sukkot, the festival of booths, when we live for seven days in temporary structures, in a state of transit, symbolically making our homes in a place where we don’t plan to stay permanently. And we have limited time in which to build our sukkah (if we have a place to put one!), only a few days in which to quickly construct and decorate and furnish our dwelling. With Sukkot following so closely on the heels of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we may not always have time to appreciate the reasons why we would leave the warmth and security of our homes right as the weather is beginning to cool.

But I found a reminder in the readings that bracket our days of reflection between the yamim noraim. We read the Akedah, the story of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, on the second day of Rosh Hashana. In the first verse, when god calls out to Abraham, he replies “hineni,” literally, “here I am.” Several verses later, as Abraham and Isaac are traveling to the mountain, Isaac starts to ask his father what on earth they’re doing, and again Abraham answers “hineni.” Finally, as Abraham has the knife in his hand raised over Isaac’s body, an angel calls “Abraham, Abraham!” and for a third time, Abraham replies, “hineni.” (Genesis 22:1, 22:7, 22:11)

Abraham is continually placing himself in the scene; here I am, he says, in relation to this new god who no one else knows and even Abraham himself does not always understand; here I am, he says, in relation to his child and family; and finally, having been given an impossibly difficult demand, he says here I am in response to yet another voice in the world telling him what he should or should not do.

This is the torah we carry with us through the intermediary days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. And on Yom Kippur afternoon, we read the dreaded line in the torah from Leviticus, most commonly interpreted as “you shall not lie with a man as you lie with a woman; it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22), the source of all of the misery queer Jews have experienced at the hands of those who interpret the laws.

But earlier the same day, we read in the haftorah from Isaiah our reward for pursuing justice, for taking care of those who need it, for treating others with kindness and pursuing tikkun olam; “Then you will call and god will respond; you will cry out and god will say hineni” (Isaiah 58:9). Abraham taught us to place ourselves in relation to the people and events which affect us, to continually respond to the world by saying “here I am” to anyone who needs to hear that we exist. Isaiah teaches us that if we make our presence known in the world, if we “call” and “cry out” our existence, then we will be rewarded with the presence of the divine in our lives.

These two readings combine to help us understand how to answer the question of where we are in our lives. Sukkot is a reminder that we are always in a state of transit, and the important thing is to know how we place ourselves in the world, no matter what that world is like. By the end of the chagim, we hope that no matter where we are, whether the shadow of the closet, or in the shade of a sukkah, or somewhere in between, we will be able to respond confidently to anyone who calls out to us, hineni, here I am.