Posts Tagged ‘sun’

Tishrei 13: Sukkot Is Coming

September 17, 2010

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It’s Day 43 of our 60-day spiritual journey.  If you haven’t already joined in, please come aboard; it’s not too late!

Of all our happy holidays, Sukkot is the only one on which we are actually commanded, straight from the Bible, to Be Joyful.  Now that we’ve been judged on how we behaved during the past year (Rosh haShanah), spent ten days trying to make it right (Ten Days of Return), and got in touch with our purist selves (Yom Kippur), it is time to party.  Yes, it is!

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot always starts on a full moon, on the eve of the 15th of Tishrei. This year (5771) the holiday begins at sundown on Wednesday night, September 22.

Sukkot Basics:

1. Build a sukkah and live in it as much as possible during all seven days of the holiday.  A sukkah is a hut or booth (or “tabernacle”) that we build with a deliberately flimsy structure so that it is quite subject to the weather.   This small hut is built out in the open, directly beneath the sky, not under the shade or protection of other structures or trees.  To make it even more vulnerable, we leave lots of holes in the roof, quite on purpose.  The roofing material, or skhakh (schach), is largely what defines a kosher sukkah.  The skhakh is made entirely of natural material (detached from the ground), provides shade to at least 50% of the sukkah but leaves plenty of holes through which rain can fall.

Living in a vulnerable little house reminds us that ultimately our safety and comfort and happiness all depend on Gd.

My sukkah, with pile of skhakh ready for creating the roof

2. Every morning inside the  sukkah we take up the Four Species and shake them in the six directions.  These comprise the etrog (citron, pictured above), plus three kinds of branches: hadasim (myrtles), ‘aravot (willows), and lulav (palm frond).  The branches are tied together in a bundle that is usually referred to as the lulav.

3. An important part of observing Sukkot is hosting guests in your sukkah. The more the merrier!  In addition to our family, friends, and neighbors, we also invite the “Exalted Guests” in spiritual form, in this specific order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David.  These guests are called ushpizin, which is Aramaic for “guests.”  There’s a wonderful movie called “Ushpizin,” which I highly recommend, for learning more about Sukkot and just for pure entertainment.

4. On Sukkot we read the Biblical book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes).  Many famous quotes come from Kohelet, including “To everything there is a season,” “The sun also rises,” “There’s nothing new under the sun,” and my personal favorite: “Futility of futilities — all is futile!”

If anything in #4 above reminded you of a song, you’re well on your way to experiencing the joy of Sukkot. Singing and dancing, common expressions of joy, are a big part of celebrating this holiday.

Hebrew names for the holiday include

HeHag (The Holiday)
Hag haSukkot (Holiday of Booths, or “Feast of Tabernacles”)
Z’man Simhateinu (Season of Our Joy)

‘Tis the season.  No matter what’s been going on in your life lately, you must now be joyful.   Sing.  Dance.  Find a way.

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Elul 29: Last day of 5770

September 9, 2010

Today we are halfway through our 60-day spiritual journey.  For the past 30 days we’ve been using the power of the month of Elul to consider what we accomplished in the past year, successes and mistakes, and what we’ve learned as a result.  We’ve also taken a close look at our Divine souls and how we might honor and cherish them in the coming year.

Most poignantly, perhaps, we’ve reviewed the past year through the lens of relationship — between ourselves and Gd, between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and our Selves.  What was good?  What hurt?  How shall we address the broken parts and make them whole again?  We try to emulate Gd by bringing compassion to all our relationships, with unconditional love.

Tonight, as the sun goes down before Rosh haShanah, the universe goes into a comatose state.  A slumber descends on all existence, everything comes to a standstill in cosmic silence, in apprehension of its contract being renewed.

Regardless of how you took advantage of the first 30 days of the journey, you still have 30 more days to experience spiritual transformation, thanks to the energy of the month of Tishrei, which starts with Rosh haShanah and contains all the “high holidays,” including the solemn and cleansing day of Yom Kippur and the week-long festival of joy that is Sukkot.

If you haven’t already done so, please consider subscribing to Rabbi Simon Jacobson‘s free daily emails about the spiritual journey.  Click here.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a year of health, happiness, and learning.

— Natasha Nataniela Shabat