Yom Kippur has ended and there is a faint sadness in the air as cars begin to roll slowly in the streets and electrical gadgets are plugged back in. The sounds of cell phones and news reports assault the air and all at once the otherworldly segment of time we just experienced is over.
Friends and family converge on the house for the fast breaking festivities and we are reminded of all the things we have yet to do. Most importantly, we have to build a sukkah!
The dishes have not even been washed from the meal, but the frame of the sukkah is pulled out of the storage unit and the sounds of wood being hammered can be heard throughout the neighborhood.
"Where are the decorations?"
"Don't worry about the decorations, where is the material for the sides"
"Wait, this goes here, not there"
"This plant has grown, we need to move it"
Multiply this by thousands of people and you have the beginning of Sukkot in Israel.
Sukkot is a very important festival. It is one of the three pilgrim feasts in which one is commanded to go to Jerusalem. Therefore, if one lives in or around Jerusalem, one can expect many guests. We are commanded to "dwell in booths" to commemorate our wandering in the desert and our dependence upon God. We are certainly reminded of our dependence upon God during this time as more guests come than are planned for.
Every meal is supposed to be eaten in the sukkah and each evening guests are invited. Some of these guests are no longer living on earth, and therefore don't need to be fed. We are to invite Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. As is typical with guests, they bring something with them to share, and these guests are no different. According to Yanki Tauber from Chabad.org., each guest bestows upon us their particular spiritual attribute!
Abraham brings benevolence; Isaac brings discipline; Jacob brings harmony; Moses brings victory and endurance; Aaron brings humility and splendor; Joseph brings connection and David brings leadership. These guests are welcome in our sukkah!
Prior to inviting guests, we must be sure that the sukkah is kosher. In other words, it must be up to specifications. The roof of the sukkah is usually made of palm branches that allow some light, wind, and rain to penetrate. One side needs to be open. In addition, it is to have a lulav and an etrog within it. An etrog is a yellow citron grown specifically and especially in Israel for Sukkot. The lulav is a combination of the branchs of a date palm tree, willow, and myrtle tree. The four different species signify four different kinds of people. One has Torah knowledge and mitzvot. One has Torah knowledge without mitzvot. One has mitzvot without Torah knowledge and one had neither.
We recite blessings toward he who has commanded us to dwell in booths and, as the weather is becoming chilly and the rains come, we are reminded of our temporary sojourn upon the earth and our complete and utter dependence upon the LORD.
Children make decorations for the sukkah that are hung along with other ornaments that can be purchased anywhere. Hanging things, draping things, elaborate scarves, sparkling creations that hang from the "ceiling of the Sukkah" and fall into the soup while you’re eating, are all a part of the festive decorations.
When the four kids were small, my husband slept with them, the dogs, and cats under the sukkah. Now that they are older they have renounced this custom, but I plan on reminding them of it when I am a grandmother (may it be speedily and in our day).
We feast! We sing! We rejoice! The weather turns cold and after eight days we move back inside.
When the fall feasts are over, and though the winter is coming, we bask in the memories of the family and friends and special times we have had during Sukkot.