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Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) 2010 – Guide for the Perplexed

Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought”

Based on various Jewish Sages

1. A synonym for the Sukkah – a temporary hut – is “The House of David”, representing Zion: Jews are mandated to construct the Sukkah and to construct in Zion; to enter the Sukkah and to enter Zion. The construction of the Sukkah and the construction in Zion are two of the 248 Jewish Do’s (next to the 365 Don’ts). Both are pro-active commandments. The annual construction of the Sukkah constitutes a reminder to sustain construction in Zion. Sukkot – just like Passover – commemorates Jewish Sovereignty and Jewish Liberty. Construction constitutes a symbol of sovereignty, while refraining from construction represents eroded sovereignty: subordination to a foreign will. Sukkot highlights the collective responsibility of the Jewish Nation (national wholesomeness, unity, sovereignty), complementing Yom Kippur’s and Rosh Hashanah’s individual responsibility. Humility – as a national and personal prerequisite – is underlined by the humble Sukkah and by residing there during the relatively cold month of Tishrey.

2. While Yom Kippur represents God’s forgiveness of the Golden Calf Sin, Sukkot represents the reinstatement of the Divine Providence over the Jewish People. The Sukkah signifies the Chuppah – the Jewish wedding canopy – of the renewed wedding between God and the Jewish People. Hence, Sukkot mandates Jews to be happy (åäééú àê ùîç”"). The three Pilgrimages: Passover is the holiday of Liberty, Shavuot (Pentecost) is the holiday of the Torah and Sukkot is the holiday of Happiness. The Pilgrimages to Jerusalem underline the centrality of Jerusalem in Judaism.

3. Sukkot is celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, commemorating the day of launching the construction of the Holy Sanctuary in the Sinai Desert. The Sukkah was the dwelling of the Jewish People during the 40 year wandering in the desert. Sukkah and Sukkot are named after the first stop of The Exodus – Sukkota.

4. The Hebrew spelling of Sukkah (ñëä) conveys its significance: wholesomeness and totality (ñê), shelter (ñëê), to anoint (ñåê), sizeable branch of tree (ñåëä), divine curtain/shelter (îñê) and attentiveness to history/memory (ñëú).

5. The US covenant with the Jewish State transcends contemporary policy. It precedes the establishment of Israel and the USA. Columbus Day is celebrated around Sukkot. According to “Columbus Then and Now” (Miles Davidson, 1997, p. 268), Columbus arrived to America on Friday afternoon, October 12, 1492, the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, the Jewish year 5235, the 7th day of Sukkot, Hoshaa’na’ Rabah. Hoshaa’na’ Rabah is considered a day of universal deliverance and miracles. Hosha’ äåùò)) is the Hebrew word for rescue/deliverance, and “Na’” (ðà) – the Hebrew word for “please” – is equivalent to 51 in Gimatriya. Thus, Hoshaa’na’ Rabah is observed on the 51st day following Moses’ ascension to Mt. Sinai.

6. Sukkot honors the Torah, as the religious, historical and cultural foundation of the Jewish People. Sukkot reflects the three inter-related and mutually-inclusive pillars of Judaism: The Torah of Israel, the People of Israel and the Land of Israel. The day following Sukkot (Simchat Torah) is dedicated to the conclusion of the annual Torah reading by the “Torah Groom” and to the beginning of next year’s Torah reading by the “Genesis Groom.” On Simchat Torah, the People of the Book are dancing with its most significant book, the Torah.

7. The Seven days duration of Sukkot symbolizes the seven days Jewish week (the Creation), the Seven Crops/Produce which bless the Promised Land (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates), the 7th Jewish month of Tishrei, whose zodiac is the Scale (the 7th zodiac), the 7 divine clouds which sheltered the Jewish People in the desert and it inspired the 7 blessings which are read during a Jewish wedding, the 7 rounds (ä÷ôåú) of dancing with the Torah upon the conclusion of Sukkot, and the 7 readings (òìéåú) of the Torah on the Sabbath Day.

8. The seven days of Sukkot are dedicated to the 7 Ushpizin, distinguished guests (origin of the words Hospes and hospitality): Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David, who had to endure immense odds in their determined pursuit of ground- breaking ideas. Thus, the Ushpizin constitute a role model to contemporary leadership…

9. Sukkah owners are mandated to invite (especially underprivileged) strangers in the best tradition of Abraham the Patriarch, who royally welcomed to his tent three miserably-looking strangers. Thus, the Sukkah must remain unlocked!

10. Sukkot provides “over-time” for genuine repentance, which ends on the day following Sukkot (Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah).

11. Sukkot is the holiday of harvesting and national ingathering (àñéó in Hebrew means harvesting and also ingathering). The four sides of the Sukkah represent the global Jewish community (north, south, west and east), which ingathers under the same roof (the Land of Israel).

12. Sukkot is a universal holiday, inviting all peoples to come to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage (Zechariah 14: 16-19). The Sukkah of Shalom (Shalom means wholesomeness as well as peace) represents the centrality of wholesomeness and principle-driven peace in Judaism.

13. Sukkot’s Four Species (citron, palm, myrtle and willow) – which are bonded together – represent four types of human-beings: Persons who possess positive odor and taste (values and action), positive taste but no odor (action but no values), positive odor but no taste (values but no action) and those who are devoid of taste and odor (no values and no action). However, all are bonded (and depend on each other) by shared roots/history. The Four Species reflect prerequisites for genuine leadership: the palm branch (Lulav in Hebrew) symbolizes the human backbone, the willow (Arava in Hebrew) reflects humility, the citron (Etrog in Hebrew) represents the heart and the myrtle (Hadas in Hebrew) stands for the eyes.

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