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You know the joke about two Jews having three opinions? Sukkot is like that. It’s a little bit about remembering the huts we lived in while wandering in the desert after escaping slavery. It’s a little bit about recognizing and getting comfortable with the discomfort of imperma-nence. It’s a little bit about celebrating a bountiful harvest and the start of autumn. Annnndddd it’s a little bit the reason why we celebrate Hanukkah for eight days.
As this month of holidays comes to a close, Sukkot offers a chance to build a structure while at the same time recognizing our own vulnerability. We leave the comforts of our homes and cross the threshold of uncertainty. Our sukkah has at least three sides, with a wide enough door to welcome guests (in-person, metaphorically or on video). It has a roof made of natural materials that provide shade but let in the starlight. We take symbols of the harvest - tradi-tionally a lulav and etrog - and shake them all around as a way of inviting the Divine to sur-round us.
By dwelling in uncertainty, we move from the High Holidays into the rest of the year joyful, reconnected to nature and ready for what comes next.
From Seeker Season Guidebook for the Curious & Courageous https://highholidaysathome.com/haggadah/seeker-season
It’s a Lego® Sukkot stop motion animation and we couldn’t be more geeked out about it! Learn the basics of the Jewish holiday called Sukkot, including festival huts, lulavs, etrogs, foods, prayers and the spiritual meaning of all the unique rituals. This stop motion animation is a great intro to the holiday for Jews and non Jews alike – make it part of your holiday emails and party invitations, or show it to your kids to get them inspired about building their own sukkahs this year!
Each year, the first time we eat a fruit that only grows at a certain time of year, or when we do something for the first time in a while, we say a special blessing, the shehecheyanu, on this new experience.
בָּרוּך אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וקְִיְמָּנוּ והְִגִיּעָנוּ לַזְמַן הַזֶה
Barukh ata adonai elohenu melekh ha-olam, she-hechiyanu, v’kiy'manu, v’higi'anu la-z’man ha-zeh
Blessed are You, the One who has kept us alive and sustained us so that we could reach this moment.
It is a mitzvah, a commandment to celebrate in the sukkah, including eating our meals there. We have several opportunities to bless this moment and make it special.
Blessing for sitting in the sukkah
When eating or reciting kiddush in the sukkah, recite this blessing:
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu leisheiv basukkah.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all: who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to dwell in the sukkah.
Blessings for the Lulav and Etrog
The lulav is a combination of date palm, willow and myrtle branches, held together by a woven palm branch. The etrog, or citron, is a lemon-like fruit with a wonderful citrus smell. When reciting the blessing over the lulav and etrog, shake them in six directions—north, south, east, west, up, and down. This action symbolizes that the Divine Presence can be found in all directions, not just in one particular place.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al n'tilat lulav.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who hallows us with mitzvot, commanding us to take up the lulav.
Shehechiyanu (blessing said when doing something for the first time)
And if it’s the first time you’re waving a lulav or sitting in the sukkah this year, you can recite a shehechiyanu marking this as a special occasion:
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehechehyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all who, has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
Source: Reform Judaism
Art from Seeker Season: 2020 Guide for the Curious and Courageous by Jessica Tamar Deutsch
And G!d says: “After you are all wrung out from that amends making and accountability-having, go out into your backyard and build yourself a fort. And be sure to invite all your friends to join you in your backyard fort for food and merriment because that is how you make the community continue after all that hard work."
And G!d says: “And make your fort enclosed enough to feel cozy, but keep one side open, so that all who pass by know that they are welcome. Even the roof must be thin enough to invite the evening sky to dine with you, the openings in the branches that cover you wide enough for stars to fall through. There are too many among us who are made unwelcome - not just in the inhospitable corners of the world, but in our own towns, our own neighborhoods, on our own blocks. You may even know their names. Invite them.”
Ritual for Sukkot
Find one person with whom you made repairs over the ten days. Invite them to your fort, if you made one - to your house, if you didn’t. Prepare a meal for them, with your own hands, in whatever form that takes - digging the potatoes yourself, or opening the box. Serve your guest. Offer them the best you have. Say: welcome. Say: thank you. Say: this is only the beginning. Celebrate the work of connection and repair.
And G!d says: But nothing holds forever. The branches over your head will wither; grass under your feet will die of thirst and cold; you will unbolt these frames and fold the canvas walls. Even the bedrock beneath you holds molten memories of liquidity. Bottle the warmth of these cooling nights, of friends around the table, of candlelight, of wine, woodsmoke and holy tunes. You will need to drink from it soon enough.
From Dane Kuttler's The G!d Wrestlers, The Social Justice Warrior's Guide to the High Holy Days, Sept. 2015
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, some of us who might have been able to visit or even celebrate Sukkot with a meal in a sukkah in regular circumstances, may not be able to this year. The central symbol of the holiday of Sukkot is the sukkah, a temporary hut that is built outside to remind us of the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness, during which they dwelled in sukkahs.
So what can you do if you want to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot but you don’t have a sukkah to visit?
Have a picnic—in your backyard.
So you can’t have a meal in a sukkah. Your backyard (or deck or local park) is still a great place to bring the family and enjoy a meal al fresco. Yes, it’s a bummer not to be under the sukkah, but isn’t a big part of the holiday cooking seasonal meals and enjoying them outside with loved ones? Even if all the people you’d like to invite to your picnic blanket can’t safely join you, this is the time to love the ones you’re with. And eating outside on a picnic blanket is fun for the kids, period.
While Jewish law teaches that the vegetation covering the top of the sukkah needs to be thick enough so that the shade inside the sukkah is greater than the sunlight, we also learn that ideally we should be able to see the stars through the top of the sukkah. Assuming the weather is cooperating, you still have access to gazing at the stars. If you have kids, do this as a family. It can be as simple as going outside and looking up at the sky, and hopefully you’ll have the pleasure of seeing some stars.
Help feed and shelter others.
In the 19th century the Chasidic Rabbi Hayyim Halberstam of Sandz popularized the practice among his followers of inviting poor people to be guests in their sukkahs. By volunteering at a food bank during Sukkot, we can carry on this wonderful idea of making sure that the less fortunate have food to eat. This year, with the number of unemployed, more people than ever are relying on food banks. Even if they aren’t having volunteers pack food because of coronavirus, many food banks still need volunteers to deliver food. Or you could make a donation to a local or national organization that provides food for those in need.
The sukkah, a temporary structure that isn’t nearly as sturdy as our homes, also reminds us of how fortunate we are to have a place to live with a roof over our head. Unfortunately, not everyone is so lucky. Sukkot is a great time to explain this to your kids and to volunteer (again, options may be limited due to coronavirus) and/or to give money to a homeless shelter.
Make an edible sukkah.
If you can’t visit the real thing, why not make a sukkah out of food? This gingerbread house-like activity is popular with kids and adults alike. We have three events coming up. Couples can join us on October 2 for Edible Sukkot with 18Doors and OneTable, and families can join us for Edible Sukkah Making for Kids on October 4 and again on October 5 with 18Doors and MMJCCM. We hope to see you there!
Harvest. Cook. Eat.
In the Bible, Sukkot is one of three harvest festivals (along with Passover and Shavuot) and it was originally considered a thanksgiving for the fall harvest. If you grow your own fruits and vegetables, get picking and cooking, and if not you can go to a farmer’s market or farm and buy or pick produce. Then use the local harvest to make yourself delicious meals during the holiday. See some of our favorite recipes for inspiration.
One of the names of Sukkot is Zeman Simchateinu or “season of our joy,” so whatever you do to celebrate the holiday, make sure to have fun!
This image is based on an original photograph by Ossie Michelin of Amanda Polchies – a Mi’kmaq land and water defender peacefully standing up to the shale gas company SWN and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police near the Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick, Canada in 2013.
As we ritually wash our hands, we reflect on how vital water is. We think of the Water Protectors who have risked their lives to stand up for the basic right to their natural resources. And we think of all those across our nation - in places like Flint, MI - and around the world who do not have access to clean, safe water.
Sukkot, the Jewish harvest holiday of the “huts,” is a week of celebration that starts five days after Yom Kippur. Rabbinic tradition tells us a Sukkah, or temporary structure with at least three sides and a roof of thatch or branches, represents the dwellings the Israelites built and lived in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert.
At times, we may feel like we’re wandering in the desert, not knowing what will come next. But on Sukkot, we are commanded to find joy and holiness, despite the fear uncertainty brings. This year, many of us won’t have an opportunity to sit in a sukkah, or be able to attend synagogue in a traditional way, but that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the holiday and use the teachings of Sukkot to strengthen our resilience and mental well-being.
Make Your Own Lulav and Etrog
On Sukkot, we shake one fruit and three species (palm, willow and myrtle branches) together, each representing something unique. We often refer to these four species as the lulav and etrog. According to Sefer ha'Chinuch (#285), each of the four relates to a particular body part that we can use to connect with the holy and with a value.
Using the printable pieces below (full sizes as image clip), you can create your own lulav and etrog. You also can simply use construction paper. Write your answers to the questions below on the corresponding pieces of the paper lulav and etrog you create. Feel free to decorate!
In Jewish Tradition:
- Etrog refers to the heart and to both understanding and wisdom.
Take a moment to reflect on when you have acted compassionately this past year. Think of one action you are proud of and write it down. Now think of one time this year another person has treated you with understanding and kindness, and write that down as well.
- Palm symbolizes the backbone and uprightness.
Take a moment to reflect on those moments in our lives when we have had to be steadfast and unbreaking even in the face of adversity. What has challenged you this year? When have you risen to that challenge? Write that down.
- Myrtle corresponds to the eyes and enlightenment.
Take a moment to reflect and look inward. What is one thing you have learned this year, perhaps because of your heart and backbone experiences? Write it down.
- Willow represents the lips and prayer.
Take this moment to set a Kavanah, or intention. Write down a prayer/wish/hope you have for the upcoming months. It can be for you, a loved one, or for the entire world. Say it outloud to yourself, or mouth it silently.
Now that you have your own unique lulav and etrog, let’s shake them!
Waving the lulav and etrog as part of WHOLENESS & PEACEFULNESS - שלימות - shleimut
Shleimut is a state of being in which you feel physically, mentally and spiritually harmonious. Mindfulness and meditation are skills we use to help us enter this peaceful state and learn to be present. In this way, shleimut can strengthen our mental wellness. The focus of both mindfulness and meditation is being present and engaged in what we are feeling in this moment. This year we encourage you to shake your homemade lulav and etrog slowly, deliberately and mindfully.
Shaking the lulav and etrog
DO - Start by facing east. Stand comfortably and take a few deep breaths.
THINK - Try to clear your mind by focusing on what it feels like to have your feet on the ground and to hold what you created. If thoughts enter your mind, that’s okay; acknowledge them, and bring your focus back to what it feels like to be in this moment.
DO - Hold the lulav out to the east (in front of you) and shake it three times. Each time, the motion of shaking should be drawing into you: Reach out and draw in, reach out and draw in, reach out and draw in. You can do this at any pace.
THINK - Consider the kavanah you chose above, the prayer/wish/hope you created. Repeat it to yourself out loud or in your head.
DO - Repeat the same motion of reaching out with the lulav and then drawing it in toward you three times to your right (south), three times behind you over your right shoulder (west), three times to your left (north), raising it upward three times, and lowering it downward three times.
THINK - With each motion, envision yourself bringing in what you most need in order to feel whole and supported.
We hope the teachings of Sukkot bring you Shleumut, wholeness and peacefulness, and that you have a happy and healthy holiday. Moadim L’simcha!
Source: Blue Dove Foundation
By Rachel Kann
I have done it all wrong.
In every way that I hoped not to act,
I have failed.
I love you beyond logic
Where the loudest blossoms shout yellow, pink.
Listen to the fragrance of bloom.
Inhale the whisper of nature.
My lips part for your kiss only.
You know my mouth’s deep intimacy.
This is my long-form farewell tour.
I am but a bank of buttons and knobs
Laid plain for you to press up against.
This is past chest-pounding,
This is specific,
For whispering in symbols while
I watch stars dance between palm fronds.
Welcome to Our Sukkah Sign Making Activity
By ChallahCrumbs.com: Bringing Judaism Home
Activity for Ages 4 - 10
A family photo, some decorations, and a few words are all it takes to welcome friends and family to your sukkah. It's the personal touch that make this craft so adorable! You can also make these to send to friends or family members as a way of celebrating Sukkot together, even when we 're far away.
Strong Background Material - wooden board or strong canvas board
Paint - color of your choice
Photo of your family
Fall-themed decorations (acorns, colorful wheat, leaves)
1. Paint the board a rich fall color (e.g., green, orange, rust).
2. Wait for paint to dry.
3. Glue on a family photo along with your decorative element.
4. Using the glitter pen, add a "Welcome to our Sukkah" or a message of your choice to the board.
5. Display at the entrance to your Sukkah.
if you come close
and pay attention
if you go quietly
to where you have never been
you will hear voices from all directions
shma to listen
shma to hushed mouths
shma to the north
east west and south
evil is in the silences
then again so is g-d
but in the cry of the silenced
what each of us speaking death
must go out now and do!
*the shma is a prayer that exhorts the Jewish People to listen*
This Sukkot, MAZON invites you to engage in the tradition of welcoming ushpizin by symbolically inviting just a few of the millions of Americans struggling with hunger to join you in your sukkah.
The holiday of Sukkot encourages us to welcome guests and celebrate the harvest. The kabbalists developed a ritual wherein each night of Sukkot a different exalted guest is invited to join us in the sukkah. These ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”) were traditionally biblical ancestors such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In more recent years, various ushpizin have been invited into the sukkah as honored guests. These ushpizin remind us of our obligation to the poor and hungry in our community, as it is said that the ushpizin would refuse to enter a sukkah where the poor were not welcome.
Print and display these posters in your congregational or personal sukkah. Each poster highlights a different person, each with a unique story, and features a question to spark meaningful conversation. Sharing these stories is the first step. After your sukkah conversation, we hope you will partner with MAZON to support the nutrition safety net which helps millions feed themselves and their families.Visit our site to download more: https://mazon.org/get-involved/jewish-holidays/sukkot
Together, we can ensure that everyone has access to the bounty of our nation’s harvest.
By Kohenet Bekah Starr
The ark holds all the sacred things. Smoke, representing Shekhinah, Divine presence, escapes to bless the world while surrounding and protecting all that is sacred.
What do you hold sacred?
This year, the autumnal equinox took place the day before, the Feast of Booths (Sukkot) in Judaism. We’re commanded to eat outside in the sukkah for eight days; soaking up the last bit of the golden summer sunshine while dining alfresco. This is a commandment I can easily get behind!
There aren’t many traditional foods eaten over Sukkot, though chicken soup, kugel and challah are mainstays on my Ashkenazi Jewish husband’s family’s holiday table. Other than that, Sukkot menus are designed around harvest-related produce.
To start, I’m making a comforting bowl of chicken kreplach (dumpling) soup. I’ve read that kreplach is a symbolic new year food in some Jewish communities, because the filling is sealed in the noodle like judgement is sealed in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur. But my first thought as a Japanese American Jew was: “It sounds like gyoza soup!”
The word gyoza comes from the Chinese word jiaozi, a kind of stuffed dumpling. In my gyoza kreplach soup, the inside of the dumpling is Japanese in flavor though I’ve swapped the ground pork for ground chicken. The soup on the other hand, is a standard European-style chicken broth.
Kreplach soup has been known to be very time-consuming. My addition of store-bought gyoza wrappers cuts the time more than in half, so you can spend more time outside with your family and friends.
Serves: 8 (2 gyoza/person)
Total Prep Time: 30 minutes (not including broth, if you like to make your own)
Total Cook Time: 10 minutes (not including broth)
- 1 lb ground chicken thigh meat (highly recommend thigh over breast meat for this)
- 1 tablespoon sake
- 2 finely chopped green onions, ends removed
- 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger
- 1 finely minced garlic clove
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3-1/2” diameter round gyoza wrappers
- Small bowl of water for sealing the gyoza
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into Japanese rangiri (chopping technique) pieces
- Dill for garnish
- 6 cups chicken broth
- Mix first seven ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium heat, (while you begin assembling the gyoza) then lower it to a low simmer.
- Place about 1 ounce of the meat filling in the center of a gyoza wrapper. Seal the outside edges with water completely seal into a triangle shape (see below image). Make sure there are no holes in the seal so the filling doesn’t seep out.
- Place carrots in broth, simmer for five minutes.
- Place each gyoza carefully in the broth, making sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Turn up the heat to medium low and allow the dumplings to cook for five minutes, or until the filling feels firm.
- Serve each guest equal amounts of carrots and two gyoza each.
- Garnish with dill and serve immediately.
**Be careful not to let the gyoza sit in the soup too long. The wrappers are quite delicate and can start to break down if they are left too long in the broth.
Moroccan-Inspired Vegetable Couscous
By Tina Wasserman
This Moroccan-inspired dish is a perfect way to reap the bounty of wonderful vegetables available during the Sukkot season. It also makes a beautiful, edible centerpiece for your dinner table in the sukkah.
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium onion, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
2 carrots, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
3/4 cup dark raisins
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock, divided use
1 small (1 pound) eggplant, sliced into 1-inch cubes
2 yellow crookneck squash, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
2 small zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, or 1 cup asparagus cut into 1-inch lengths
4 ounces of mushrooms (any type), caps cut into quarters (portabellas cut into 1-inch cubes)
1 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained
4 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup fine couscous
1 or more Tablespoons of finely minced parsley for garnish
1. Heat a large frying pan or 4-quart saucepan for 30 seconds, add the olive oil, and heat for 15 seconds. Sauté the garlic and onion until lightly golden. Do not allow the garlic to brown.
2. Add the carrots, tomato sauce, raisins, salt, cumin, and 1 cup of the stock. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the carrots are crisp tender--thoroughly cooked but firm and not mushy.
3. Add the zucchini and the eggplant and cook for 10 minutes. Spoon in the crookneck squash or asparagus pieces, mushrooms, and chickpeas and stir to combine. Cook for an additional 10 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
4. In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1 1/2 cups of stock along with the butter or margarine. Add the couscous. Cover, remove from the heat, and allow the pan to sit for 5 minutes.
5. To serve, spoon the couscous into the center of a large rimmed dish, and surround with the cooked vegetables. Pour the sauce evenly over all, and sprinkle with a little parsley for garnish.
- Always heat your sauté pan before adding oil. This prevents the oil from adhering to the pan and the food from sticking to the oil.
- When cooking vegetables, always add in first those that require more cooking time.
- The fins of portabella mushrooms will blacken foods. Before adding a portabella to any recipe, scrape the fins off its underside with a spoon and use only the remaining mushroom cap.
Recipe from Reform Judaism
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