Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Sukkot - A Stop Along The Way
I'll be taking a hiatus for a day or so to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot, which commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert. Sukkot is also a harvest festival and the direct ancestor of the American Thanksgiving...William Bradford and the Pilgrims were very familiar with the Bible (Bradford, like many other educated people of his time spoke and wrote Hebrew) and likewise wanted to give thanks for their deliverance from the wilderness.
In honor of the sojourn of children of Israel in the wilderness, people live in or spend time in temporary shelters. These contraptions are called sukkahs. The sukkah has at least three sides and a partially open roof covered with palm fronds, reeds, or whatever. Ideally the roof must be partially open so that the sky and the stars can be observed.
It's a tradition to eat in the sukkah and to have people over Essentially, it's a party, coming as a counterpoint to Yom Kippur and the Days of Awe.
The sukkahs can get extraordinarily inventive, and kids absolutely love to help put them up and decorate them:
Plain or fancy, elaborate or made from scratch and thrown together, the sukkahs reflect the long journey of the Children of Israel from there to here and remind them of their roots.
Another observance during Sukkot involves what are known as The Four Species or the lulav and etrog. The lulav consists of a palm branch, a myrtle branch, and a willow branch bound together. They all have symbolic meanings relating to the land of Israel.The etrog is a citrus fruit native to Israel (and now, California) and is held separately. With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waives the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down).
I'll let my pal Ya'akov have the last word....Chag Sukkot Sameach!