What is the meaning of Sukkot?
Fall is chock full of Jewish holidays, some familiar and some that challenge my Hebrew School education circa 1982. One of the more joyous is Sukkot. Lasting one week but celebrated primarily on the first day, Sukkot (along with Passover and Shavuot) is a “pilgrimage holiday.” It marks the Jews’ 40 years of wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt. Sukkot is an acknowledgement of this journey as well as a time of harvest and thanksgiving. Most of us are constantly on the way to something (typically in our mid-size crossover SUVs). Sukkot allows us to remember that the destination is often secondary to the journey itself.
Rabbi Aaron Brusso of Bet Torah in Mount Kisco says, “In our lives we are always trying to get from point A to point B, but the wandering is where the real personal and intellectual growth happens.”
To celebrate Sukkot (the Hebrew word for “shelter”) family members work together to build their “sukkah,” a simple, temporary outdoor structure with three walls and a roof of branches and leaves. The sukkah causes us to think about the concept of shelter and security, and reminds us of how our ancestors lived during their time in the wilderness. It’s decorated with a variety of homemade pictures, artwork, and garlands that hang down into the space. A table and chairs are placed inside because families eat there during the holiday (some even sleep in it). In one of the more interesting Jewish rituals, the lulav (a bound collection of specific branches) and etrog (an Israeli citrus fruit) are waved while prayers are recited to demonstrate thanks for this time of harvest.
Says Jennifer Saine-Griff of Bedford Corners, “Sukkot is a chance to connect with our friends and neighbors in a unique way while staying reminded of our heritage.”