The High Holidays are a great time because we reconnect to the synagogue. Yet, most Jewish holidays are filled with ritual and custom that happens in the home. Being part of a community is so important but we must not just “do Jewish” at the synagogue. Sukkot is the holiday that is perfect after all the thinking, reflecting and FASTING of the High Holidays! The mitzvah of the sukkah says to “dwell” and that includes eating and sleeping in the sukkah. For children, this is a very exciting holiday with great things to do. The rules are simple for a sukkah as it is supposed to be a temporary dwelling. Try this mitzvah and you will never give it up. And more importantly, by continuing to put up your sukkah once the children have moved away, you are demonstrating that “building a sukkah” (or any Jewish ritual) is not just for the kids! We all can find meaning in every ritual although perhaps new and different meanings as we grow older (and wiser).
Another part of the holiday is to invite guests into your sukkah. We are excited when we can practice the Jewish value of “hachnasat orchim — welcoming guests” and Sukkot is the perfect time. There are other guests we are to invite as well. The tradition is to invite Ushpizin, biblical guests. Here are some conversation starters to have with them:
- ABRAHAM was told by G-d to take his long-awaited son Isaac, and bind him to a sacrificial altar. Have you ever been asked to “sacrifice” something that was very dear to you?
- ISAAC had to choose between two sons for his inheritance. Have you ever had something that couldn’t be shared and you had to choose from among your friends?
- JACOB wrestled with G-d’s angel and in the morning changed his name to Yisrael. What new name would you call yourself if you could?
- JOSEPH received a beautiful coat from his father that made his brothers very jealous. Have you ever been jealous of something a friend had? Has someone ever been jealous of you?
- MOSES was convinced of G-d’s presence by the Burning Bush. Did something unusual ever happen to convince you of something you weren’t sure of before?
- AARON was the brother of Moses, the Jewish people’s greatest leader. Do you ever feel you live in your brother’s or sister’s shadow?
- DAVID was chased by King Saul, who thought that David was after his throne. Have you ever been bothered by someone who thought you wanted something they had?
Often today people talk about who else they would like to invite to their sukkah and what possible questions they might ask. Think about whom, living or gone, you would like to have as a “special guest.” It is a great Sukkot conversation!
I couldn’t stop without including a “piggyback” song to the tune “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmit.”
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph,
Moses, Aaron and King David
These are the special guests – they’re called the ushpizin
They come to our sukkah every night — la la la la la la la!
We don’t want to leave out some very important biblical leaders, so sing this one, too:
Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah,
Hannah, Debra and Queen Esther
These are other special guests that we all should invite
To come to our sukkah every night — la la la la la la la!
Enjoy this wonderful holiday of Sukkot and get ready for my favorite — Simchat Torah. Then we have the month of Cheshvan to relax before Hanukkah (which comes VERY early this year).
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family JCC.