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We're halfway through the Jewish fall holiday marathon. Next in the batting order: Sukkot, sometimes called the Feast of Tabernacles in English. With this, we go from one of the most solemn days of the Hebrew year (Yom Kippur) to one of the most joyous ~ quite a transition in four days ;-)

Below, I'm going to explain the holiday a bit (since these diaries have sometimes attracted people who aren't Jewish, I'm going to start with an introduction) and then provide some more philosophical musings.

Follow me below the Great Orange Doodle for the holiday fun!

First, some basics for background:

Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles, or Chag HaAsif (Festival of the Ingathering = harvest), is one of the Shalosh Regalim (pilgrimage festivals), meaning that ~ when the Temple stood in Jerusalem ~ Israelites would make a pilgrimage to the Temple. The holiday is also sometimes (especially in liturgy) as Z'man Simchatenu (the time of rejoicing), from a passage in Parshat Emor:

And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.
                                                  Leviticus 23:40
The holiday is also referenced in Parshat Re'ei:
The Feast of Tabernacles you shall keep seven days...And you shall rejoice in your feast ... and you shall be extremely joyful.
                                                  Deuteronomy 16:13-15

Outside Israel, Sukkot is two initial days of yontif/yom tov (Yiddish and Hebrew for good day = holiday, with limits on what work is allowed), followed by five days of chol hamoed (intermediate days, with fewer work restrictions). The two days after Sukkot are also holidays (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah), linked to but also separate from Sukkot. In Israel, Sukkot is one day of holiday and five intermediate days, with one day at the end for Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah combined.

The most obvious mitzvah (commandment) of Sukkot is dwelling in a sukkah ~ a temporary dwelling with at least three walls and with a roof made of schach (branches from a living plant). The roof needs to provide more shade than sun during the day, but also allow the stars to be seen at night. Interestingly, the mitzvah is to dwell in the sukkah (more on that shortly), not build one, so using a neighbor's or a synagogue's sukkah is quite acceptable.

Some people build their own sukkah, while others buy kits. If you are traveling, you can buy a little pop-up sukkah for your convenience ;-) Since the stars need to be visible at night, there needs to be open sky above where a sukkah is built ~ no overhanging trees or balconies allowed. So, to accommodate this, apartment building in Israel are often built with staggered balconies so each family can have a sukkah. Picture here and here.

My last year's sukkah, with bonus kitty in the window:

Sukkah with bonus kitty in window

The sukkah is meant to commemorate the era when the Jewish nation journeyed from Egypt to Israel, when they lived in tents and other temporary shelters during their wanderings.

It's also a mitzvah to decorate the sukkah, to add to the joy of the holiday. Families with children often have handmade decorations, which are often joined by fall/harvest fruits and fancy tablecloths.

Pictures of some decorated sukkahs are here, here, and here.

The other miztvah specific to Sukkot is the obligation to take the four species (arba minim), with which various prayers and ritual motions are done. Based on a verse in Parshat Emor (Leviticus 23:40), the four species are
1) lulav ~ palm branch
2) hadassim ~ myrtle
3) aravot ~ willow
4) etrog ~ citron
More on the arba minim below....

The liturgy for Sukkot is very similar to what then davening is for Pesach and for Shavuot, the other pilgrimage festivals, with Hallel said after Shacharit (morning services) each day. Extra prayers, called Hoshanot ('please save') are added during the mussaf prayers. On the last day of Sukkot, all of a synagogue's Torah scrolls are removed from the ark they are kept in, and ~ with the arba minim ~ they are carried around the sanctuary seven times.

One of the traditions of Sukkot is the idea of the Ushpizin (Aramaic for guests). It is claimed that there are unseen visitors every day of the holiday, with each taking a day specially in his honor ~ day 1 is for Avraham, day 2 is for Yitzchok, and so on through Yakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, and David Ha-Melech.

Avraham represents love and kindness
Yitzchok represents restraint and personal strength
Yakov represents beauty and truth
Yosef represents holiness and the spiritual foundation
Moshe represents eternality and dominance through Torah
Aharon represents empathy and receptivity to divine splendor
David represents the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven on Earth

For more on the mystical view of the Ushpiszin, see here and here.

There's also an excellent Israeli movie titled Ushpizin about Sukkot.

Chassidic interlude.....

The story of told of Rabbi Pinhas of Koretz who, known for his wisdom, had Chassidim flock to him for assistance. There were so many who came to him that he felt he was short of time for Torah study, so he decided to to retreat from the world, spending his days and nights in prayer and study, only seeing his followers for worship in the synagogue.
When Sukkot arrived, he invited several people to his sukkah at the last minute, but they declined, as the rabbi's isolation led to them not really feeling welcome in his sukkah.
On the first night of Sukkot, Rabbi Pinhas entered his sukkah and followed the custom of inviting the Ushpizin (holy guests) in. He saw Avraham Avinu outside the sukkah but refusing to enter. When the rabbi asked Avraham Avinu why he wouldn't enter the sukkah, Avraham Avinu replied "I will not enter a place where guest are not welcome."
After that, Rabbi Pinchas re-opened his home to his Chassidim.
(Adapted from a couple different versions, such as the one in Philip Goodman's The Sukkot and Simchat Torah Anthology.)

Following from the emphasis on joy and on guests, sukkah hopping (visits, often unplanned/spontaneous, to the sukkahs of family and friends, frequently several in quick succession for short-ish visits) is quite common, especially in large Jewish communities and in Israel.

The Arba Minim ~ an interpretation:

Needless to say, there are many interpretations of just what the arba minim (four species) mean. One commonly in basic introductions to the holiday is that the four species represent four types of people....

Etrog (citron): pleasant aroma and pleasant taste, so represents those both knowledgeable in Torah and who preform good deeds.
Lulav (palm branch): has a pleasant tasting fruit but no aroma, stands for those who are learned but perform no good deeds
Hadassim (myrtle): has a pleasant fragrance but no fruit, representing those who perform good deeds but who are unlearned in Torah
Aravot (willow): has neither fruit or fragrance, so represents those who are unlearned and who do not perform good deeds.

With this line of interpretation, when the four species are tied together, the combination represents the whole of the Jewish people.

Chassidic interlude.....
The Medizbozer Rabbi said "During the High Holidays of Tishrei [the Hebrew month] a Jew serves God with his whole being: on Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Remembrance, with his brain, since memory enwreathes the mind; on Yom Kippur with his heart, since fasting strains the heart; on Sukkot with his hands, as he grasps the etrog and lulav; and on Simhat Torah with his feet, when he parades in the circuits and dances with the Torah.
(From Philip Goodman's The Sukkot and Simchat Torah Anthology.
To dwell....

The miztvah for Sukkot is to dwell in the sukkah ~ to eat and sleep as much as possible in the sukkah.

With the obligation to dwell and the emphasis on joy, the focus is on just being ~ on focusing on the present. Pesach and Shavuot are very focused on historical events, and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are fairly focused on the future..... Sukkot has a great emphasis on just being ~ and being joyful ~ in the present. While Sukkot does commemorate the years in the wilderness, that isn't the focus of the related mitzvot. There's no equivalent of the seder retelling the Exodus.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks interlude

What exactly is a sukkah? What is it supposed to represent?

The question is essential to the mitzvah itself. The Torah says: “Live in sukkot for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in sukkot so that your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in sukkot when I brought them out of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 23: 42-43). In other words, knowing – reflecting, understanding, being aware – is an integral part of the mitzvah. For that reason, says Rabbah in the Talmud (Sukkah 2a), a sukkah that is taller than twenty cubits (about thirty feet or nine metres high) is invalid because when the sechach, the “roof,” is that far above your head, you are unaware of it.

     **     **     **

Rashbam (Rashi’s grandson) says the sukkah was there to remind the Israelites of their past so that, at the very moment they were feeling the greatest satisfaction at living in Israel – at the time of the ingathering of the produce of the land – they should remember their lowly origins. They were once a group of refugees without a home, living in a favela or a shanty town, never knowing when they would have to move on. Sukkot, says Rashbam, is integrally connected to the warning Moses gave the Israelites at the end of his life about the danger of security and affluence:

Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God ... Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery ... You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” (Deut. 8: 11-17)

Sukkot, according to Rashbam, exists to remind us of our humble origins so that we never fall into the complacency of taking freedom, the land of Israel and the blessings it yields, for granted, thinking that it happened in the normal course of history.

Sukkot, on this reading, becomes a metaphor for the Jewish condition not only during the forty years in the desert but also the almost 2,000 years spent in exile and dispersion. For centuries Jews lived, not knowing whether the place in which they lived would prove to be a mere temporary dwelling. To take just one period as an example: Jews were expelled from England in 1290, and during the next two centuries from almost every country in Europe, culminating in the Spanish Expulsion in 1492, and the Portuguese in 1497. They lived in a state of permanent insecurity. Sukkot is the festival of insecurity.

What is truly remarkable is that it is called, by tradition, zeman simchatenu, “our time of joy.” That to me is the wonder at the heart of the Jewish experience: that Jews throughout the ages were able to experience risk and uncertainty at every level of their existence and yet – while they sat betzila de-mehemnuta, “under the shadow of faith” (this is the Zohar’s description of the sukkah: Zohar, Emor, 103a) – they were able to rejoice. That is spiritual courage of a high order. I have often argued that faith is not certainty: faith is the courage to live with uncertainty.

That last line is why I chose this passage to share: "faith is not certainty: faith is the courage to live with uncertainty."

Originally posted to Elders of Zion on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip jar ;-) (63+ / 0-)


    On a very personal note, one area that I've had to re-focus my thinking has been the meaning of wilderness. My mental image of wilderness is based on my own experience ~ in this case, the Great Northern Woods, as done in Maine and New Hampshire, as well as the Hundred Mile Wilderness (along the Appalachian Trail in Maine; no, I haven't hiked it..... but I have dropped my brother off and picked him up at the end). Cold in the winter is the great danger, rather than heat in the summer, for example.

    The view from my sukkah ~ not what the Israelites would have seen on their journey ;-)

    View from my sukkah

    The worst sin - perhaps the only sin - passion can commit, is to be joyless. (Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers)

    by mayim on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 07:34:06 PM PDT

    •  The'll Never Call Me "Joyless". (4+ / 0-)

      Beautiful diary, mayim♥ I rec'd and tipped it.

      I enjoy these Dvar Torah diaries.

      I'm 1/2 Jewish. My Father was Jewish.

      My Mother was Irish. So I know little about Jewish religious holidays etc. Except that on Hanukkah, you get presents for eight days (money too). I know about Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (and I had to google these to make sure I spelled them correctly). I know a lot about the Old Testament and about Jewish history and some more about Judaism. But would like to know much more.

      Speaking of, Jewish Traditions And Mitzvah Observances

      ♥Adopt A Bubbe And/Or A Zayde♥ A Great Gift Anytime. One they won't want to exchange.

      Have A Joyous Sukkot Everyone

      Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

      by rebel ga on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 08:21:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I love this festival. Any religious festival that (20+ / 0-)

    ties us to seasons and the earth has meaning for me.

    In high school my best friend was the niece of a conservative rabbi. She took several of us to synagogue and taught us about festivals thoughout the year.

    By far this is my favorite. Thnak you for this lovely explanation.

    Science is hell bent on consensus. Dr. Michael Crichton said “Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing to do with consensus... which is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right,”

    by Regina in a Sears Kit House on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 08:30:27 PM PDT

  •  Thank you, mayim. (13+ / 0-)

    My daughter came home from Hebrew school today determined to turn the play structure into a Sukkah. She climbed up the slide, cut branches off the pine tree and dusted the tree house. I guess we'll have a Sukkah there, I'm looking forward to it.

    "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass... it is about learning to dance in the rain." ~ Vivanne Grenne Shop Kos Katalogue!

    by remembrance on Tue Sep 17, 2013 at 10:06:19 PM PDT

  •  Thank you, mayim, (13+ / 0-)

    for the diary, the explanations, and the pictures.

    Yes, I'm one of those non-Jewish readers who simply learns a lot by reading the diaries here, so the extra effort to round out the notions is deeply appreciated.

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    by achronon on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 12:00:25 AM PDT

  •  Fascinating! (14+ / 0-)

    I love the stories that give meaning to the traditions!

    Many years ago I lived in a large city that had a lovely synagogue and I volunteered to help the cast with makeup for their production of Fiddler on the Roof.  The Rabbi and his wife played Tevye and Golda (they were very good in the roles).  I had already seen the play a number of times because it was one of four summer theatre productions the year I was in one of the other plays as an extra doing singing and dancing.  [I still can't listen to Little Bird without tears.  The song reminds me of my father.]

    During the breaks in rehearsal in the weeks leading up to the performances, the Rabbi and several other elders from the congregation told us the reasons behind the traditions for each person in the play.  The fellow who played the butcher told us how knives are sharpened and why and how the blades are tested, and I love the compassion behind the difficult task.  The exuberant joy in other celebrations in the face of adversity is another feature to admire.

    I attended Friday night sabbath services until my schedule at work changed and I had to work the evening shift, but the Rabbi was a wonderful storyteller and I loved the elegant simplicity of the rituals of the service.

    Thank you for sharing some of your life and your traditions with us.  Sukkot sounds like a lot of fun!  :-)

    I'm sick of attempts to steer this nation from principles evolved in The Age of Reason to hallucinations derived from illiterate herdsmen. ~ Crashing Vor

    by NonnyO on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 03:54:58 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary. (11+ / 0-)

    It has the storytelling feel of so much Jewish writing.


    Being attentive to the needs of others might not be the point of life, but it is the work of life. It can be ... almost impossibly difficult. But it is not something we give. It is what we get in exchange for having to die. - Jonathan Safran Foer

    by ramara on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 09:13:26 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for doing this diary mayim (11+ / 0-)

    I am not the most observant Jew in the world as I think you know. While I'm not completely ignorant about the Sukkot, I've learned a great deal from this drash, which, I suppose is really the point of a drash. :)

    Chag Sameach!

  •  beautiful sukkah (and cat) (11+ / 0-)

    at your house. I've never had one (sukkah - I have had a cat), because I would have to build it myself, and don't know how to build anything, plus cost of materials. I didn't know there was such a thing as a  travel sukkah.

    Beautiful diary. Thanks.

    If you  are going to fulfill the mitzvah of "dwelling" in a sukkah, do you have to do that every day during the festival?

  •  My 2.75 hour, $31 dollar sukkah (14+ / 0-)

    My 2.75 hour, $31 dollar sukkah in Maine in 34 easy steps.

    Now, having a sukkah in Maine has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time (like 30+ years….. delayed gratification is a good thing…..). But, I’m also a Scots/Yankee who values frugality and efficiency. So no fancy expensive kit for me.....

    So, here’s how to build a sukkah in Maine for $31 in under 3 hours (not including time to drive to lumber yard a couple towns away, although it does include the time at the lumber yard)..

    1)      Have the good fortune to have been born with a father who bought a place in ME 50 years ago.
    2)      It helps if the aforementioned father was a packrat (lots of stuff to scavenge and tools to use) who taught one the basics of using a hammer.
    3)      Be thankful that one of your kid brother’s best friends (one of the world’s truly wonderful people) spent part of her vacation organizing the tool area – or this whole process would have taken twice as long…..
    4)      Buy $21 of cheap wood at local lumberyard. Helps if sales guy is willing to find what you need even if he’s never heard of a sukkah before.
    5)      Wake up eager to work (hey, I’m a night owl – this is an important step!)
    6)      Scavenge nails and odd bits of board to supplement bought wood.
    7)      Build top frame part.
    8)      Wish father who had foresight to buy place in ME had had the foresight to have genes that would have made me 6 inches taller. Face reality and get stepstool.
    9)      Manage to frame/attach sides.
    10)  Mutter (without using too many bad words….) when hammer falls off deck at a point when getting it would cause problems.
    11)  Realize that one was so eager to work that one hasn’t had breakfast. Stop for that and to brush teeth.
    12)  Return to project with a bit more energy now that caffeine has been ingested.
    13)  Stop again, this time to return phone calls from friends in Philadelphia who have invited one to join them in their sukkahs.  Wish it were possible to be in two places at once.
    14)  Remind oneself that this is meant to be temporary. Not building a mansion here…..
    15)  Mutter that scavenged nails are a bit bendy.
    16)  Listen to loons calling; hope it’s not my hammering that is causing their distress call.
    17)  Notice cats are looking out screen door. Go lock it so they don’t get out (chasing them would put a real damper on proceedings); start using basement door instead.
    18)  Manage to get whole wooden frame right side up. Add a couple more pieces to stabilize a bit more.
    19)  Use shower curtains ($8 at local odd lots store) for wall. Wonder if friends will be surprised that one side is purple (splurged a couple extra dolls for that…).
    20)  Leave side facing lake open for the view. Would be silly to close that off….
    21)  Look for twine to hold up walls. Can’t find any of the 7 rolls of it Dad undoubtedly has here. Contemplate using cheap acrylic yarn (also bought at odd lots shop, for tying good yarn when dyeing) but decide duct tape will work better (do I get an honorary guy card for that?).
    22)  While inside, stop and write note to self about doing eruv tavshilin later (memory is all external these days…..)
    23)  Hope that dark-ish clouds are passing. Ok, they are --- after a five minute mini-drizzle :- (
    24)  Put on shoes to cut schach (choose purple Crocs to match purple toe nail polish). Barefoot on deck ok; in woods not so great.
    25)  Place schach, one again muttering about height genes and one’s lack thereof.
    26)  Decide to cut a bit more schach – there’s plenty. Walk up road to cut back some stuff that needed cutting anyway (that efficient multi-bird killing thing I learned from Mum)
    27)  Look for outside extension cord. Add a string of lights [$2 at odd lots shop] – dark sukkah isn’t fun.
    28)  Go for swim to cool off (and remove the top couple layers of sweat).
    29)  Have a shower to warm up after cool lake. Be very thankful for parents having installed plumbing a few years ago.
    30)  Go look at sukkah to make sure it hasn’t fallen down (it shouldn’t be that temporary….)
    31)  Take pictures to make Yael and Chaviva jealous (I’m such a mean friend….)
    32)  Go inside to cook – what good is a sukkah without lots of food inside?
    33)  Wonder if there are any eligible Jewish men in their 40s who think a woman who can both cook for Sukkot and build a sukkah is interesting.
    34) Realize that best 'Net connection is actually in sukkah. Post from there, avoiding the last few mosquitoes ;-)

    The worst sin - perhaps the only sin - passion can commit, is to be joyless. (Gaudy Night, Dorothy L. Sayers)

    by mayim on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 10:14:16 AM PDT

  •  What a wonderful diary! (6+ / 0-)

    And I'm only referring to the words -- I can't see the pictures (thanks to my corporate overlord's firewall and prohibition against social media sites) so they'll have to wait until I get home.

    I first heard about Sukkot nearly thirty years ago when I worked with a couple of fellow programmers who hailed from Israel.  I always loved camping so it sounded like the Best Holiday Ever ... and this from an Episcopalian born on Christmas Eve!

    Now most of my knowledge of All Things Jewish comes from a Jewish woman who attends the same Quaker meeting I do.  She has been talking about the Jewish "fall holiday marathon" a lot lately (of course).  She also attends the Episcopal service which follows the Quaker meeting, and she obliged us last week with a lecture/demonstration on shofars.

    Your diary adds so much to what I've been learning here and there over the years.  I especially appreciate the rabbinic stories!

  •  I was wondering where you would build it (5+ / 0-)

    That's a great spot!   HUGS!

  •  Hag Sameah + some teeny Corrections: (5+ / 0-)

    In Israel, Sukot is one initial full holiday, 6 intervening semi-holiday days (not 5 as you write) - and then Shemini Atzeret/Simhat Torah.  "Shemini" means 8th, so it figures.

    Technically, the 8th day is not part of Sukot which is the 1st 7 days - so e.g. Orthodox Jews don't have to sit in the Sukah during the 8th day (obviously b/c they're busy dancing in the synagogue with Torah scrolls) - but that's a bit of splitting hairs. In everyday life they are considered a single 8-day unit. And Israeli schoolkids have something like 10-12 days off rather than 8! Go figure.

    Despite being not Orthodox at all, we've built our Sukah on each of our 11 years here in Seattle (tonight will be the 12th; skeleton is ready, to be completed after work). My wife just read that formally, if there are strong rains one is exempt. That would have exempted us from some 3-4 of the previous 11 years - but it has become a positive challenge to make a point and build it regardless of the weather, so I'm not sorry we did it.

    Anyway, today and tomorrow are nice and clear here. Rains to resume Friday night...

    Thanks for posting and Hag Sameah again.

  •  Awesome diary Mayim - Todah Rabah (3+ / 0-)

    The best investment I ever made when we moved into the city in 2004 was to ditch our old heavy wooden sukkah which weighed a ton and took days to install, and the wood had warped and it was leaning dangerously, and buy a prefab model that takes only 20 minutes to put up.  We "borrowed" some bamboo from our neighbor's bamboo jungle so we have some nice greenery to go with the old wooden slabs.

    I love hiking and I love the AT.  During my adult life at one time or another I have hiked every foot of the AT from the Virginia - North Carolina line into southern Pennsylvania.  After the holidays I'll take my annual pilgrimage to camp in Shenandoah to say goodnight to the black bears before they hibernate.

    "We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals, now we know that it is bad economics." Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jan. 20, 1937

    by Navy Vet Terp on Wed Sep 18, 2013 at 02:55:14 PM PDT

    •  watch out for those bears (0+ / 0-)

      I'll never forget the day I was hiking in Yosemite and saw a bear walk up behind another hiker not 200 yards from me and grab his backpack. The startled hiker slipped out of the pack and scampered off while the bear tore into it looking for food.

  •  Thank you, mayim! (3+ / 0-)

    I learned so much from this diary.

    I married into a Jewish family, but they are the equivalent of "Holly and Lily" Christians. I knew about Sukkot, but only a little and not from my in-laws :)

    This was fascinating. Thanks again!

  •  FYI.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mettle fatigue

    Apparently these structures have been built on city sidewalks in Brooklyn obstructing pedestrian traffic, built without permits and violating city codes. FFRF has contacted the city government about it last year (in response to complaints) and again this year.

    From the FFRF bulletin....

    "The Bureau of Legal Affairs had responded to FFRF's 2012 complaint on Jan. 8, 2013, stating: "The above mentioned sukkahs were not issued permits authorizing their construction by the City. When a permit is issued for such construction, permittees are instructed that such construction must allow for the free flow of pedestrian traffic. Based on the pictures you enclosed, it appears that the structures impeded the flow of pedestrian traffic and would therefore constitute a sidewalk obstruction."

    FFRF stated in its follow-up letter: "The Department has not done enough to address this problem."

    Elliott added, "FFRF urges the Department to inform all staff about this issue so that the violations do not continue to evade enforcement. The Department must also take prompt enforcement action when violations are reported so that one religious group does not continue to receive preferential treatment."

    FFRF contends that the structures public sidewalks disregard city codes, and that non-enforcement of current policies regarding the sukkahs give the appearance of government endorsement of religion and religious favoritism."

    Lesson here... this is fine on your own property or in your back yard, but not on public walkways.  It might be helpful to pass the word on this.

  •  many memories brought back by your diary, fotos, (2+ / 0-)

    34-step construction project, and the many commenters.  the resemblences are remarkabe.  My family used square wooden trellises from a garden supply/lumberyard for the walls and ceiling, with added lenths of stripmolding to support the roof, all lashed to each other at meet-lines with cotton twine in good scouting fashion (in early years on a 2x4 frame, and later when we had a patio i lashed U-irons at each top corner of the trellises so they could just be hung from the patio framework).  we reinforced with synthetic yarn each x where the verticals and horizontals of the trellises met, so when it was time to take the sukka down, the trellises would each scissor into a fairly tidy bundle to store up on the rafters of the garage until next year.  being in california, we had 3 date palms and fan palms and other trees we pruned for branches for the top.   All my parents' colleagues, relatives, students, acquaintances, and volunteerism/organizational associates, and all our friends and neighbors were invited in our "shana tova" mail to come by for sukkah "open-house" all day long and into the evening of whatever Sunday was part of the week, and most years we had upwards of 200, very ecumenical, with a lot of guitars and other instruments brought and impromptu sing-alongs starting and stopping thru'out the day.  knowing my mother kept kosher by conservative standards, guests brought fruit and vegetable and grain and cheese potluck (also decorations to add to the sukkah, and paper plates, paper napkins, & plastic utensils, and one guest was famous for bring paper coffee-cups with "ears" and a fistful of marker pens so everyone could write their name on their cup to find it again if set down and forgotten, so there'd be no unnecessary waste).  A cardtable by the garden gate was reserved for the plethora of serving trays and bowls left behind each year, for guests to check for what they'd forgotten the year before.  My father being involved with the United Farm Workers and with hunger relief, the open-house was a fundraiser (no speeches, just coffee cans for donations, and it's still very moving to remember seeing parents and older siblings explaining to the little ones those cans are where to put the nickels and dimes they had been given to hold in their pockets until arriving at the sukkah) in support of farmworkers by whose labor the harvest comes to American homes.  in my mind's eye and ear, the discussions and music and decorated sukkah and clergy and friends of many faiths filling our backyard are intertwined with the overwhelming sense of being greatly blessed with enough food to eat and with the privilege of giving tzedaka/chaluka for the continuing struggle for labor justice and food justice.  As a child, i thought that's what it meant to everyone celebrating sukkot.  as a teen, i realized it didn't.  for all the setbacks progressivism has seen in more recent decades, it seems as if there is wider understanding now than back then, and reason to keep hoping we'll keep moving forward.  this diary and comments are all the celebration i have this year, so thank you to all, and chag sukkot sa'me'ach.

    •  sounds fantastic (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JDsg, mettle fatigue

      I want to go to that one!

      For "spiritual" content, the explanation I have heard is that while Rosh Hashanah affirms the eternal, and Yom Kippur is an encounter with mortality, Sukkot is an encounter with the transient nature of belongings - sort of an acknowledgment of impermanence in the sense that "you can't take it with you." All of which seems like an exercise in letting go.

  •  i was hoping to see a diary about this! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluebird of happiness

    i learned a lot, and admire you for building your own sukkah and for living in it in Maine, definitely not a desert environment :-D

    beautiful writing, mayim.  you capture the essential holiness of the joyful festival ♥

    Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
    Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

    by TrueBlueMajority on Thu Sep 19, 2013 at 06:02:47 AM PDT

  •  Rec'd and will be back to read, absorb (0+ / 0-)

    Want very much for my dearest friend to read. Can you
    help me email it to her? I've told her about you. I think
    you would find much to like in each other.

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