On Sukkot, there are many ways to dwell in the spirit of the holiday even if you can't build a hut.
Adapted courtesy of My Jewish Learning article by Sara Shapiro-Plevan
The central mitzvah of Sukkot is found in Leviticus 23:42, where Jews are commanded to dwell in a sukkah, a temporary hut, for seven days and nights. We do this in order to remember the experiences of our ancestors, both on the journey from Egypt to the land of Israel and in a later era, when farmers brought offerings to the ancient Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the harvest.
While many people live in places where it is difficult, or they are physically, financially, or otherwise unable to fulfill the commandment, everyone can turn to creative interpretations of “dwelling” and focus on other Sukkot rituals and customs to enrich the holiday experience.
A Temporary Dwelling
One alternative for families with children is to build a sukkah-like structure indoors similar to a play fort or tent with stars decorating "the sky." Enjoy the temporary shelter as a place to read a PJ Library book about Sukkot or share a snack there as a way to experience the feeling of transience.
For a more adult take on the theme, instead of constructing your own temporary space, you can help someone who is vulnerable live securely in a permanent home. The Jewish community has organizations whose programs, services, and aid make this possible — several supported by Jewish Federation. Contact us for information.
In the Bible, Sukkot marked the time of harvest. It is also harvest time in North America. Visit a farm or farmer’s market to buy or help harvest seasonal fruits and vegetables. Go apple picking or visit a park to collect fallen leaves and twigs to create centerpieces for your table made with fruits and vegetables. Look for produce imported from Israel.
The Four Species
It is a mitzvah to wave the lulav and etrog to gather and enjoy the plants of the land. Shake a lulav at home or wherever you find yourself, even outdoors. A lulav and etrog can be found online or in a local Judaica store.
PJ Library Fun
Ushpizin refers to the seven supernal guests, “founding fathers” of the Jewish people, who come to visit us in the sukkah — one each of the seven days, but welcoming guests is always a Jewish value and mitzvah (hachnasat orhim). Invite guests to your home for a Sukkot party or meal and serve harvest-themed treats, or host a picnic in the park.
Foods Symbolizing the Bounty of Harvest
"Filled foods" are commonly enjoyed on Sukkot, such as stuffed vegetables and pastries. They symbolize the bounty G-d gives us at a time when we dwell in Sukkahs reflecting on our reliance upon Him,” writes chef Rabbi Gil Marks in his cookbook, The World of Jewish Entertaining. Celebrated kosher chef and food blogger, Jamie Geller, presents recipes for 30 stuffed foods for Sukkot.
More Local Celebrations
A few of the many local synagogue happenings are listed here.
The Time of Our Joy
In Jewish liturgy, Sukkot is referred to as “the time of our joy,” z’man simchateinu. Take time to spend with family or friends, consider visiting elderly neighbors or volunteering at a senior residence to bring joy to others, or make lots of phone calls to wish a chag sameach, a happy holiday, to loved ones who are too far to visit. Learn about volunteer opportunities by clicking here.
Wherever you find yourself this Sukkot, may you embrace all the joy and meaning of the festival in good company and good health. Chag sameach!