With Sukkot beginning tonight at sundown, I was struck last night about how this holiday is sort of “made” for the COVID world we are currently living in. (Stay with me for a moment and I think you will understand.)
The first of three harvest and pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish calendar, Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest and is celebrated by spending time in a sukkah… a temporary outdoor structure that is covered on three sides, with an opening in front so people can enter and visitors can be greeted when they arrive, and a ceiling that is loosely covered so people you can look up and see the sky and stars.
For many, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were hard because many of us were not able to gather with our community in-person because, for the most part, services took place either indoors or virtually. And with the Delta variant still ravaging society, it made it hard to feel comfortable being with others.
With Sukkot, however, since we are supposed to be outdoors to celebrate the holiday, we can be together with others, especially since our sukkahs are supposed to have many openings so we can feel the elements. While you may not be able to have everyone you want together due to the size constraints of your sukkah, there are eight evenings to bring your friends and family together to celebrate.
Growing up, I was always fascinated by this holiday. For me, Sukkot was my Jewish reminder that fall was here – well before Pumpkin Spiced Lattes and everything else pumpkin flavored indicated falls arrival. For me, Sukkot was THE fall festival.
Over the years, I have had numerous experiences and memories related to this holiday and being in a sukkah. From being a Sunday School student and decorating our synagogue sukkah with fruit and gourds (both real and colored pages) and the “required” paper chains, to being a Social Work intern in grad school and my first client wanting us to have our weekly session inside his sukkah because he really wanted to sit inside his with me, to helping build my synagogue’s sukkah, and being invited into community member’s sukkah for dinner, the holiday holds special meaning to me.
As a Sunday School teacher, one of my favorite lessons revolved around the idea of my students thinking about who they would invite (real or fictitious, alive or dead) to be able to sit with inside their own sukkah and why. Typically, the ideas the students came up with ranged from friends or a relative they don’t often get to see, a celebrity (or two), past “big” figures in history, etc., and their explanations as to why were amazing.
If given the chance… who would you invite and why?
I hope you and your family enjoy Sukkot this year are able to celebrate with your family and friends.