During the festival of Sukkot, the sukkah is intended to be our second home. For example, since one would normally dine in the house, on Sukkot one dines in the sukkah. Because the sukkah is temporary, however, moving into the sukkah requires leaving behind some of our material comforts, settling for rather basic necessities, thus creating a more spiritual environment.
In our spiritually enhanced “mini-homes,” the Jewish tradition of hospitality and inviting guests takes on an entirely new dimension! Not only do we invite friends and neighbors to join us, but there is also the custom of inviting the great historic Jewish personages who shaped our people.
This custom is known as Ushpeezin (the Aramaic word for guests).
According to the kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, the Divine Presence (Shechina) accompanies every Jew into the sukkah. The Shechina is accompanied by the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David.
Each evening, the host welcomes the seven ushpeezin (guests) into the sukkah by saying: “I invite to my meal the exalted guests: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. May it please you, Abraham, my exalted guest, that all the other exalted guests dwell here with me and with you – Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David.*”
Each night, another one of the ushpeezin is welcomed, in a specific order. Thus on the second night, one says: “May it please you, Isaac, my exalted…” On the third night: “May it please you, Jacob, my exalted…” and so on throughout the week.
*The order of the Ushpeezin may vary depending on community.
This Treat was originally published on September 22, 2010.
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