By Gili and Uri Hershkovitz
Hello, everyone! We hope you’ve had a chance to rest and enjoy the Holy Days and start the new Jewish year with a smile. We wanted to dedicate this article to the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. It is widely known that during Sukkot we build a temporary structure known as a “sukkah,” and the Holy Day’s mitzvah includes eating and sleeping in it. This is a homage to the temporary homes our forefathers lived in while wandering the desert in search for the land of Israel. In Israel, many people don’t have backyards, so we build sukkahs on balconies, on the porch, or even in the living room! We host friends, family, and sometimes strangers in the sukkah. We also have annual contests to find the most beautiful or most original sukkah, and the bar just gets raised every year!
Surprisingly, there are some sukkah-building regulations that many people don’t know. For example, did you know that (by Jewish Halacha) it can be built on a camel?!
The words “sukkah” or “Sukkot” appear several times throughout the Torah, meaning different things. Sometimes it refers to the structure and/or Holy Day we know of today, but sometimes it’s used to mean “city.” The root word of “sukkah” means to cover something, like a building covering the people inside it. This also references one of the most famous prayers in Judaism: “Spread over us the sukkah of shalom / spread over us the shelter of Your peace.”
So it seems there is some vagueness to the actual meaning of sukkah— is it an actual, physical structure or something more spiritual or metaphysical? On one hand, it’s a mitzvah to decorate the sukkah and treat it as your home in (almost) all regards. On the other hand, we reference the Sukkah as an idea. In our eyes, this is an interesting and non-obvious concept that the physical and spiritual ideas can be two avenues to the same understanding of basic truth.
Sukkot has a theme: Unity. It’s shown the mitzvah of bringing together the lulav (closed frond from a date palm tree) and etrog (citron fruit) to symbolize the unity of the Jewish nation. It also shows in inviting the homeless or needy to your sukkah for a meal (as is demanded of us in the Torah to help the widow, the orphan and the foreigner). Building the “World of Peace” sukkah in Montreal and sharing together visions of peace demonstrates the unity in Sukkot; we are all seeking Kiruv Levavot (The nearing of hearts to one another).
This theme, so pronounced this time of year, makes us proud to be Jewish. Whether we’re helping the victims of the hurricanes, supporting our community through the JFS, funding the “Aharai” project for better futures for Israeli youth, or welcoming new people to our community, we’re all helping spread this sukkah of peace and harmony. We’re engaging in what must be the single most important sentence and demand in our entire religion—The Golden Rule: “Ve’Ahavta Lereacha Kamocha” – “Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:34).
This idea has spread across the entire world, showing up in the American Declaration of Independence, the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and so many more. It is truly an enormous, magnificent "thumbs up" for all of humankind. From the moment we’ve arrived here, we’ve felt as welcomed members of Akron and Canton communities’ sukkahs, and we hope to spread the joy and love to as many as we can together. We hope to see you all in our upcoming programs and have a chance to meet and talk to you about the things you are interested in and find important, and share with you our family’s sukkah and stories. Feel free to contact us in any way! emails, phone calls, texts, or Facebook!
The overarching theme for our shlichim programs this year will be “spheres.” Every two months or so, we’ll be looking at a different sphere regarding Israel and discuss some of the more complex ideas, conflicts and issues that are related to it. We’ll also take a good look at the bright side of things and how it relates to our lives here. Join us for the months of October-November for the first sphere: Israel In & Out, in which we’ll talk about immigration, welfare and technology, and connection to Jewish communities abroad. It’s going to be fascinating!