I was invited to participate in a blog collaboration called “I’ll Show You My…” with some friends I met via Instagram – Christina and Katie. This month’s topic is “religion,” which fit right in with my post today all about the holiday we are currently celebrating – Sukkot. I have written a lot about Sukkot over the years because it is one of our favorite holidays with a lot of symbolism and fun for the kids. I thought I would once again share some of the background on the holiday as well as this year’s pictures of our Sukkah.
“Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival.”
“The word ‘Sukkot’ means ‘booths,’ and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering. The Hebrew pronunciation of Sukkot is ‘Sue COAT,’ but is often pronounced as in Yiddish, to rhyme with ‘BOOK us.’ In honor of the holiday’s historical significance, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The temporary shelter is referred to as a sukkah (which is the singular form of the plural word ‘sukkot’). Like the word sukkot, it can be pronounced like Sue-KAH, or to rhyme with Book-a.”
“The sukkah is great fun for the children. Building the sukkah each year satisfies the common childhood fantasy of building a fort, and dwelling in the sukkah satisfies a child’s desire to camp out in the backyard. The commandment to ‘dwell’ in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one’s health permit, one should spend as much time in the sukkah as possible, including sleeping in it.”
“The ‘walls’ of the sukkah do not have to be solid; canvas covering tied or nailed down is acceptable and quite common in the United States. A sukkah may be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment of dwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referred to as sekhakh (literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such as tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours.”
“It is common practice, and highly commendable, to decorate the sukkah. In the northeastern United States, Jews commonly hang dried squash and corn in the sukkah to decorate it, because these vegetables are readily available at that time for the American holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Many families hang artwork drawn by the children on the walls. Building and decorating a sukkah is a fun family project.”
“Another observance during Sukkot involves what are known as the Four Species (arba minim in Hebrew) or the lulav and etrog. We are commanded to take these four plants and use them to ‘rejoice before the Lord.’ The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit similar to a lemon native to Israel; in English it is called a citron), a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav, because the palm branch is by far the largest part. The etrog is held separately. With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down), symbolizing the fact that God is everywhere.” [source for all the information].
Aside from our family meals in our sukkah and meals with friends, we also look forward to “hot dog in the hut” at school, the community gathering at the synagogue sukkah, and the Cub Scout camp out in the sukkah! It’s a very exciting week around here!