The festival of Sukkot began at sundown on October 2nd and ends at sundown on October 9th. On Sukkot we shake the Lulav and Etrog in Six Directions (blessing all elements of the Earth) dine, relax, socialize or even sleep in a Sukkah — a temporary hut — signifying the transience of all things.
We must be able to view the stars through the branches, leaves and fronds that form the S’chach (roof) of the Sukkah.
The Talmud requires the s’chach (roof) of the Sukkah to provide more shade than sun.
The word for “sun” used in this instruction is “Chamah.” Rabbi Mecklenburg (1785-1865 Haketav V’hakabblah) connects the word chamah (sun) to chomah (wall) and cheimah (anger).
Noting interconnections between words containing the same Hebrew letters is a venerable Jewish method of scriptural interpretation.
The sheltering shade of the Sukkah shall be like a protective wall that is greater than the heat of your anger.
Hurt and anger are co-emotions. Giving ourselves safe space to process our anger allows us to channel it constructively into a form of self-care. Sometimes that means creating stronger boundaries (protective walls).
Sukkot is zman simchatainu — our time to rejoice, falling right on the heels of Yom Kippur — the day of atonement. It’s no coincidence that they fall back-to back. We need space to relax, ground and decompress after the emotional intensity of Yom Kippur.
In the Sukkah we are b’tzilah d’mehaimanusa — sitting in the sheltering shade of our Faith. Sukkot represents Faith in yourself and our Medicine Wheel Universe.
What if you don’t have a Sukkah near you or resources to build one? Hit the pause button, get out your picnic blanket or lawn chairs and spend this week enjoying al fresco meals under the clouds and gazing at the stars.
What exactly is a Sukkah? Rabbi Akiva believed they were simple booths made of natural materials, built for shelter by the Israelites.
Rabbi Eliezer saw them as as ananei hakavod (clouds of glory) — clouds of Divine protection that sheltered the Israelities in the desert wilderness.
When the Israelites saw billowy clouds moving along with them, providing shade from the sun, they believed GD was with them on their arduous journey.
When we find ourselves lost and dispirited, we can look to the clouds for inspiration. Like the ancient Israelites, we each see different imagery in cloud formations that bring us joy and ignite our imagination.
Make your own “Lulav and Etrog” from locally sourced materials, say the blessing over it and shake it in the six directions — left, right, up, down, forward and backward — to draw from all corners of the Earth. Unless you live in Israel, imported Lulavim and Etrogim (plural) are expensive and leave a large carbon footprint.
The Four Species from the Torah — “the fruit of the hadar tree, date palm fronds, branch of a braided tree and willows of the brook” — were not packaged in plastic and imported on jet fueled airplanes, they were local to the region.
Eco-conscious Jews are making their own green versions from locally sourced materials, such as maple leaves, oak tree branches, squash, apples, palm fronds and citrus fruits. Anything edible is eaten after Sukkot.
I LOVE the idea of DIY Four Species from locally sourced materials in keeping with the mitzvah of bal tashchit — the commandment to not waste or destroy anything from the natural world. The Talmudic rabbis interpreted this to mean needless destruction of fruit and the earth’s resources, including wasteful burning of oil or fuel.
This year make Sukkot your own. Bless yourself with time in nature under the clouds of glory, while blessing our planet with good stewardship.
DIY Four Species!
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