Sukkot Takes to the Streets

5 years ago

This year, the Jewish tradition of Sukkot took to the streets.

The eight-day Jewish holiday of Sukkot (pronounced "sue-COAT") is a celebratory harvest occasion, during which the observant Jewish family will build a temporary dwelling called a "sukkah" (pronounced to rhyme with "BOOK-ah").

Image: Zhao Yue/Xinhua via ZUMA Press.

This dwelling, built as a reminder of the dwellings during the forty years Exodus from Egypt, is a small decorated enclosure, the walls of which can be made of anything, but the roof must be made of vegetation, like fresh green palms or evergreens or bamboo mats. All meals are to be eaten within the sukkah.

The point of the sukkah is to remind us of both abundance and fragility. But Sukkot is, above all, joy-filled. A site of Jewish FAQs tells us "Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z'man Simchateinu, the Season of our Rejoicing."

This year, in America, there was a new way of setting up the sukkah -- at a City Occupation. Sukkot was celebrated by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Setting up sukkahs in New York City, Chicago, Oakland, Seattle, where the police dismantled the sukkah, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. - and more. Great video can be found here on the site of the Jewish Publication, Forward

Demonstrators chose to make a clear progressive Jewish presence at the protest events, and to remind themselves and others that abundance is also fragile. They also felt, according to one NYC occupier, that the temporary shelters brought forward the image of how many people feel that their shelter is fragile in these precarious economic times.

There is much more to Sukkot than the Sukkah, such as the Four Kinds. These are four very different natural items that are gathered during Sukkot, and used in the rituals. The Chabad-Lubavitch (an Hassidic group) provides a detailed description of the four kinds --the etrog (citron), lulav (palm frond), hadas (myrtle) and aravah (willow) - There is a fine video of the Israeli 4 Kinds Market with an excellent narration about the tradition of the Kinds. And, a fun video about "Shaking the Lulav" (the Four Kinds) sung to the tune of "Twist and Shout" follows:

This holiday is one of community. Neighbors dine in each others sukkahs, and may even help each other build them. The Four Kinds remind us that any community must be made of different, yet included, elements to be complete.

A convert to Judaism, Shiksa in the Kitchen" has taken pictures of her lovely sukkah - the decorations are wonderfully festive. Kosher on a Budget displays ten pictures of sukkahs from around the world, each decorated with that family's individual style. But the comment on Sukkot that really touched me was from Booklovinggrandma who says:

"We leave the comfort of our warm (and dry) dining rooms to eat in a relatively flimsy structure that does not even keep out the wind! The experience is as strong a reminder as any that we rely on a Higher Being for protection from all that life sends our way, and the strength to withstand and grow from what befalls us. And, even after we return to our homes and our normal routines, this loving care does not end. Isn’t that enough of a reason to rejoice?"

How many of you BlogHers either built your own Sukkah, or dined in one this year? Please share your experience with us!

~~ Contributing Editor, Mata H. also blogs right along at Time's Fool

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