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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Sukkot is Here! Time to Dwell Joyfully in A Sukkah!

In Israel it sometimes feels like the last quarter of the year is a series of holidays! We first celebrate Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), followed by Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and now we are about to enter into the eight days of Sukkot (Feast of Booths)

After the Shofar is sounded, and we break our fast at the end of Yom Kippur, there is a flurry of activity as people begin building thier Sukkahs. These small, fragile, temporary domiciles are a remnant from the days the Jews were brought out of Egypt and traversed the Sinai desert before entering the Holy Land. 

Here are a few hinto to build your own Sukkah. (*Please Note* These are only general tips~anyone interested in Halakic rules should consult an appropriate rabbi or kosher internet site)

Your Sukkah must be outdoors, with easy access to your house. There should not be anything between the schach on the roof and the sky~no trees, roofs, umbrellas, etc. The walls can me made of anything from wood to plastic as long as they are tied down and will not blow away. Some people use a wall of the house, as when building on an open balcony. There is no specific size, but the idea is to be able to sit on a chair in the Sukkah and eat your meal. 
Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

For the roof you must use schach~raw, unfinished "vegetable matter". In Israel, many people use palm fronds, but you could also use evergreen branches, corn stalks bamboo or special schach mats.
It is important that you do not use an overhead trellis or any live branches attached to a tree or plant. Many people use thin strips of wood to make a lattice then lay the branches over top.

When laying the branches, don't make them too thick~you should be able to look up and see bits of the sky.

Once the dwelling is up you can decorate with lights, pictures, shiny balls or anything that you like. Add a table and chairs and you are ready to dwell! At night you can remove the table and chairs and lay down a sleeping bag or mattress, or if you have the space, curtain off the back of the Sukkah.

It is great fun to walk through the religious areas of Jerusalem and see the Sukkot hanging from balconies, on stilts and leaning against apartments. At night you hear the giggling of children as they "sleep under the sky" for the week.

It is said that one should make every attempt to be joyful for the full eight days. Think about it~if everyone in the world would focus only on joy and peace for those eight days~who knows what it could lead to!

...But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei),
when you gather in the produce of the land,
you shall celebrate the festival of the Lord for a seven day period;
the first day shall be a rest day, and the eighth day shall be a rest day.

And you shall take for yourselves on the first day,
the fruit of the hadar tree, date palm fronds, a branch of a braided tree, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for a seven day period.

And you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord for seven days in the year.
[It is] an eternal statute throughout your generations [that] you celebrate it in the seventh month.

For a seven day period you shall live in booths.
Every resident among the Israelites shall live in booths, order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel
live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt.
I am the Lord, your God...Leviticus 23:39~43  

 Chag Sameach to Everyone!  

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