Five days after Yom Kippur, the most solemn Jewish holiday comes Sukkot, the season of our rejoicing. What are we rejoicing on Sukkot? The first event is the forty-year period in which the children of Israel wandered the desert and lived in temporary shelters. The second aspect is an agricultural celebration sometimes referred to as the Festival of Ingathering.
The Jewish holiday of Sukkot runs for seven days, in which (good news!) no work is permitted on the first two. Over the seven days of Sukkot, Jews are to build temporary dwellings called sukkahs, representing the temporary shelters the Israelites built during their days wandering in the desert. To celebrate the harvest, Jews are also instructed to bind together The Four Species into a lulav (strong palm branch, willow branches and myrtle branches) and each day recite a special Jewish holiday blessing while waving the lulav in all six directions (north, south east, west, up and down) to signify that G-d is everywhere.
Tips for building a sukkah:
1. 1st question: How big? Size wise, your sukkah can be as small as four-man tent, as long as it is a comfortable dwelling and large enough for you and your fellow Jewish holiday celebrants to enjoy all of your meals within its walls.
2. The sukkah must have at least two and a half walls and be made of a material that can withstand the wind. In the North America the preferred covering tends to be canvass, which is nailed to support poles around the sukkah.
3. The roof of your sukkah must be made from something that grew from the ground. Think tree branches, corn stalks, sticks, bamboo…any solid organic material. According to law:
a) The roof material cannot be bound together
b) Roofing must be placed sparsely enough that stars can be seen
c) There should be more light than shade inside the sukkah
d) No rain can get inside the sukkah
e) There are no more than 10 inches of space between roof coverings
4. Decorate it! Jews with Christmas tree envy have something really cool to work with here. Small tables, things to sit on, the requisite hay floor, children’s art for the walls. Go nuts! Have fun and make your sukkah as inviting as possible for your friends’ and family’s celebration of the Jewish holiday.
Here’s a great Sukkot story from JDater Bebe9090:
About 10 years ago I was invited to spend the Jewish holiday Sukkot with some friends and all I expected was to sit in my friend’s sukkah and eat some delicious honey and challah. Boy was I wrong! I have always loved adventure, and being outdoors was one way of expressing that side of me. Even so, if I were honest with myself, a stroll through the MET is probably more in line with my nature than fighting backyard critters or camping in the Amazon.
In traditional Judaism, eating is a form of uplifting the holiness of any Jewish holiday. This by far surpasses anything that the heartiest meal during weekdays could possibly portray. Sometime after the entrée I realized in a flash that this Sukkah experience was not an ordinary one. After clearing the tabl , I got up to find out from the hostess to what my next task on the Jewish holiday would be. My friend, her husband, and a fellow guest, swiftly got up from their seats, and proceeded to back away from me. It was a confusing and unnerving moment at best. I asked nervously, “What is it, what happened?” They all stared in horror at my jacket and chest area. “Heather, do not move, there is a red spider on you, and they are almost always poisonous,” my friends exclaimed.
This could not be happening! Finally, someone brave flicked the creature off of me and peace overtook every fiber of my being. Never had I anticipated battles with an unwelcome specimen on Sukkot! My friend’s husband proceeded to trap the creature, and let him out far away in the woods. I will never forget this dramatic near-death experience that happened on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot!