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Sukkot: What We Learn When Our Walls Come Down

When Yom Kippur ends, another Jewish holiday begins. Sukkot! This week-long pilgrimage festival (October 5-13, 2017) commemorates the time when Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years after escaping from slavery in Egypt. The Jewish people built temporary tent-like structures to sleep, eat, and dwell in, and it’s a mitzvah for us to build a sukkah and to immerse ourselves in nature and God’s presence. At this time in our world, when everyday seems to bring another natural or manmade tragedy, from the hurricanes to mass shootings, we are reminded of how vulnerable we really are. The safety of four concrete walls can’t protect us from harm. Also, when we isolate ourselves in our shelters, we can’t connect with each other. So, Sukkot is a time for our walls to come down, for us to be in touch with not only nature and with God, but also with each other. During Sukkot, we are reminded that God’s presence is bigger than all of us. Sukkot, yet another opportunity to make the ordinary–like an outdoor hut–holy again. Continue reading

Mom Tries Camping Again, Only In A Sukkah

Yom Kippur starts out as the most solemn holiday of the Jewish year, but it ends with one of the happiest celebrations. Once we break the fast with a bite of cheese blintze and devilled egg, it’s time to move the party outdoors and hammer in the first post of the sukkah, an outdoor hut that marks the beginning of the next holiday, Sukkot. Continue reading

Sukkah Squad Helps Build Memories

In commemoration of our ancestors’ 40-year journey in the wilderness, Jews are supposed to leave their homes and live in temporary shelters. If I didn’t know better, the commandment (Leviticus) that tells us to “dwell in booths for seven days” sounds like a Salvation Army homeless shelter. Of course, I’m talking about a sukkah, a Hebrew word meaning “booths” or “huts” and is the symbol of our thanks for the plentiful Fall harvest. Continue reading

Sukkot Transforms Your Backyard Into a Bimah

During the Hebrew month of Tishrei, Jews go from the most solemn day of the year, Yom Kippur, to one of the simplest, Sukkot, which celebrates the plentiful Fall harvest. In a period of just 14 days, we move from the glorified high holidays to the most down-to-earth festival of all. In the time it takes to polish off the last bite of leftover defrosted brisket, we transcend from praying in the majestic, stained-glass surroundings in our congregation to shaking the lulav with our children in a makeshift outdoor hut. The synagogue is heavenly. The sukkah, literally, is under the heavens. Only in Judaism can we call both the beama and our backyard holy places of worship. Continue reading