Sukkot 5773 – Chag Sameach!

Lulav and Etrog

Lulav and Etrog

The festival of Sukkot, the most joyous festival in the Jewish calendar, begins tonight, lasting for 7 days (8 outside of Israel), running straight into the Simchat Torah festival on the 8th day (9th day outside Israel).

Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavu’ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif Chag Ha-Asif (in Hebrew), the Festival of Ingathering.

On this festival Jewish households build a sukkah (pl. sukkot), a booth-like structure, where all meals are eaten, and people (usually the menfolk but not solely) even sleep there. The flimsy roof consists of leaves or branches, widely enough spaced so that one can see the stars at night, but close enough to provide shade during the day. It is considered “hidur mitzvah” – glorifying the mitzvah – if the sukkah is beautifully decorated, so of course this provides much entertainment, not to mention arts-and-crafts time, for the children to beautify their sukkah.

Our Sukkah in the carpark

View of our sukkah in the car park

The sukkah is a commemoration of the flimsy huts that the Children of Israel dwelt in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, with only the ענן הכבוד, the Cloud of Glory, to protect them by day and the עמוד האש, the Pillar of Fire, by night.

By leaving our safe and warm (or cool) houses just when autumn and the rainy season starts and going to live in a fragile hut for a whole week, it is also meant to remind us how fragile is our existence on this earth, and it is only by the grace and protection of G-d that we survive. And the rainy season in fact started yesterday with scattered showers across the country, with more forecast for the first days of Sukkot.

Tefila on Sukkot in Jerusalem

Tefila (prayers) on Sukkot in Jerusalem
(picture taken by me 35 years ago)

On Sukkot we also bundle together a Lulav (branch of palm), branches of Hadass (myrtle), Aravot (weeping willow) and an Etrog (a citron, related to the citrus family) and during Shacharit (morning prayers)  – see the picture above – and wave them together in all 6 directions to show G-d’s presence everywhere.  The lulav and etrog set is called “arba minim” – Four Species – and between Yom Kippur and Sukkot the streets of Israel are packed with markets and stalls selling the arba minim and sukka decorations. Many people take extra care when buying their lulav and etrog, examining them minutely as if they were buying a precious diamond.

Examining a lulav

Examining a lulav

The weekdays of Sukkot, as on Pesach, are called Chol Hamo’ed (lit. the weekdays of the festival) which are a semi-holiday in Israel. Schools are closed, and many places of work are either closed or work half day, giving families the chance to go on trips, hiking or visiting. On the intermediate Shabbat (Shabbat chol hamo’ed) of Sukkot, Megillat Kohelet (the book of Ecclesiastes) is read in shul. We will have the pleasure of hearing our son reading the megillah in his shul this year.

To learn more about Sukkot, go here: All about Sukkot.

If I get a chance I’ll post some pictures of interesting sukkot, or some of the family sukkot since we’ll be with our daughter for the 1st day of yomtov, and with our son for Shabbat chol hamo’ed.

Wishing you all a chag Sukkot sameach!

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12 Responses to Sukkot 5773 – Chag Sameach!

  1. Pete says:

    Cute sukkah … good job!
    One of the comments on your last article was right on point – maybe you should consider being a journalist Anne :-)
    Pete

  2. annediamond1 says:

    I am going round to my son and Daughter in Law, good yomtov to you all
    Anne Diamond

  3. anneinpt says:

    Thanks Anne, Good Yomtov to you too, and enjoy the family.

  4. peteca1 says:

    OK Anne I need help.
    I am reading through Haaretz today – something I never used to do before I read your blog – and I come across this article.

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/word-of-the-day/word-of-the-day-livloa-tsfardea-1.467798

    What the heck? What kind of language even has words for gulping down a slimy frog??? And what does it all mean? Hahahahaha!
    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      The Haaretz article makes it quite clear what the words mean, Pete. It’s simply a turn of phrase. Like saying something “is stuck in your craw”, or “put that in your pipe and smoke it” – simply aphorisms, not to be taken literally. I’m not sure where the analogy to a frog came from though. Makes it interesting!

    • Andrea says:

      It is Italian as Haaretz reader pointed out ( ingoiare il rospo – a toad effectively ). Meaning is the same as in Annie’s reply but litteraly meanig is gulping down something is not eatable .
      Origin : two different hypotheis 1) Comes from a ritual practice linked to witchery where toad is a devilish animal 2) from corrupted Latin where ruspus means rough and and then not eatable.

      Oh at least for what I know…….

  5. peteca1 says:

    Anne – hope you will take some time to discuss the apparent discord between Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Barak. The issue does not revolve simply around a personal disagreement – because all governments have arguments in their leadership from time to time. That is politics. However, right now this is a very sensitive time for Israel to be experiencing a major spat between the PM and the Defense Minister. I am sure Israeli citizensare well aware of this – and I am interested in your local viewpoint. But there is another more important aspect to this development. Some commentators in the USA have been accusing Bibi of unwanted attempts to influence the American position on Iran with his own agenda. Ironically, we may be seeing the opposite thing actually happening now. Is Washington playing a role in trying to get a more moderate government elected in Israel?? What do you think?
    Pete, USA

    • anneinpt says:

      Hi Pete, you are very correct in all you say in your above comment. There is definitely a resentful feeling in certain quarters in Israel that the US is trying to intervene in our elections rather than the other way around. I guess this is what all countries do to each other, allies or not. By the way, there were similar suspicions when Bill Clinton was in power. He was quite overt in his – eventually successful – efforts to swing the Israeli elections to the left and get Ehud Barak into power. Barak didn’t last long though. The vicious intifada brought him down and brought Ariel Sharon into power.

      Re Netanyahu and Barak, these spats arise occasionally because Barak is much more dovish (I won’t say leftist because that’s not strictly correct) on the “Peace process” than Bibi who seems to be a lot more realistic. And yet Barak can be the biggest hawk when it suits him. I’ve never quite figured him out in that respect. I would say he’s anti-settlements but hawkish on everything else. Bibi is hawkish on everything including the settlements. That’s a very superficial description but it will have to suffice for the moment.

      I would love to blog about the relationship between the 2 men in more depth but I simply don’t have the time at the moment. It’s Sukkot all week which is a semi-holiday, i.e lots of family visits etc, cooking, plus we’re now into the last month before our daughter’s wedding and there is still so much left to do.

      I would recommend you read the Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel for good balanced coverage of Israeli politics, security issues and general “slice of life” in Israel. They are pretty center politically with a good balance of writers. Haaretz is extreme left, so you are likely to get an unbalanced view of the country.

      • annediamond1 says:

        Sent from Samsung mobile Anne’s Opinions wrote: anneinpt commented: “Hi Pete, you are very correct in all you say in your above comment. There is definitely a resentful feeling in certain quarters in Israel that the US is trying to intervene in our elections rather than the other way around. I guess this is what all countr”

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