26 Oct Sukkot
Sukkot –is celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish calendar month Tishrei (varies from late September to late October) 5 days after Yom Kippur. It is the last of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals. It is considered one of the most joyous holidays known as the Season of our Rejoicing.
Sukkot also called Z’man Simchateinu (Season of Our Rejoicing). It is the only festival associated with an explicit commandment to rejoice. A final name for Sukkot is Chag HaAsif, (Festival of the Ingathering), representing a time to give thanks for the bounty of the earth during the fall harvest.
A Jewish thanksgiving/ harvest festival and at the same time it commemorates the Exodus from Egypt and the 40 years spent wondering in the dessert living in temporary shelters under the stars.
The holiday lasts a week and throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many people sleep there as well.
Building a sukkah
The sukkah walls can be constructed out of any material, or be free standing or part of another structure. The only stipulation is that the roof be organic, preferably leafy. It is customary to decorate the inside of the sukkah with hanging decorations. The aim is that the structure be temporary and that one can see the stars at night.
Sukkahs can be as creative and festive as your imagination! But what they all have in common is the symbolic custom of the four species of plants.
Four species; most bind them together as part of the ceremony. The symbolic nature of the four plants are identified as:
- etrog (אתרוג) – the fruit of a citron tree
- lulav (לולב) – a ripe, green, closed frond from a date palm tree
- hadass (הדס) – boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree
- aravah (ערבה) – branches with leaves from the willow tree
The symbolism is as follows:
- The lulav has taste but no smell, symbolizing those who study Torah but do not possess good deeds. Lulav – the spine
- The hadass has a good smell but no taste, symbolizing those who possess good deeds but do not study Torah. Hadass – the eye
- The aravah has neither taste nor smell, symbolizing those who lack both Torah and good deeds. Aravah – the mouth
- The etrog has both a good taste and a good smell, symbolizing those who have both Torah and good deeds. Etrog – the heart
What kinds of foods are eaten on Sukkot?
There are no traditional Sukkot foods, except for kreplach (stuffed dumplings). The theme of stuffed anything is now a tradition for Sukkot. A Sukkot meal inspiration can come from the harvest origin of the holiday, and meals can include fresh fruits and vegetables, roasted veggies from local and or other harvest-related ingredients.
Try this: Stuffed Figs with Goat Cheese
Sukkot: A meaningful takeaway for our times;
1. Focus on Housing Issues
Housing issues and homelessness. On Sukkot, we are commanded to live in temporary booths for seven days, to remind us of the time when our wandering ancestors had to dwell in sukkot following the exodus from Egypt. This naturally draws to mind those who are homeless, or who must live in temporary housing all year round, We have the privilege of returning to our homes;
Takeaway: Volunteer or donate to local housing initiative programs during the week of Sukkot to help people in need.
2. Make a Recycled Sukkah
The seven days spent in the sukkah allow for closer interaction with the environment in a way that permanent homes do not. Eating and sleeping in sukkot creates a connection with the wind, outside air, sun, moon, and stars.
Takeaway: be inspired to pay closer attention to environmental issues. Use as many recycled materials as possible and really think about how to use sustainable and environmentally friendly products.
3. Honor Farmers and Farm Workers
Sukkot is an excellent opportunity to honor those who provide us with produce and other healthy food.
Takeaway: visit a farm family, connect with people who grow our food, go for apple picking, shop local, plan a garden for next year.
4. Host an Autumn Warm Clothing Drive
Sukkot signals the end of summer and the beginning of colder temperatures. A clothing drive held as the weather gets colder is a simple yet very important mitzvah.
Takeaway: Create a warm clothing drive to donate warm cloths for the less fortunate; such as gently used coats, gloves, hats, mittens, wool socks, etc. during the week of Sukkot. Contact local shelters to see where your donation will be most needed.
Decorate and Donate
While we rejoice with friends and family at this time of year, we also must assist others who are financially incapable of rejoicing. According to the Jewish scholar Maimonides, proper observance of Sukkot requires that we feed those around us who are in need.
Takeaway: Hold a Sukkot potluck event to celebrate the holiday and feed or donate to help the hungry in your community.