Friday, October 5, 2007


I admit it- Sukkot is my favorite holiday. It might seem a bit strange for a white, very Anglo Episcopal priest to love Sukkot but it's true. It is a festival that is marked by joy and is part of the final ingathering of the harvest before winter. There are several customs to observe during the 7 day festival. My favorite part of Sukkot is the sukkah - a temporary structure that we live in for seven days. People eat, study, play, and some people even sleep, in the sukkah. It is meant to remind us of our vulnerability and that our true shelter can only be found in God. The sukkah is a temporary structure to remind us of the type of shelter that the Israelites had as they wandered in the desert for 40 years. It reminds us of the impermanence of our lives.

The walls of the sukkah can be made with anything - canvas, comforters, hung from bamboo poles, - but the roof is supposed to be made of a natural product like tree branches. It is supposed to be cut though - an overhanging tree would not make a kosher roof. You are supposed to be able to see the heavens and stars through the roof. It is to be place that reflects beauty an can be decorated in any way way you can imagine.

There is a custom of inviting seven symbolic guests each day to join us in the sukkah- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. I also invite their respective wives to join us. Tonight Isaac and Rebecca will be our guests.

The roof of my sukkah is not kosher - it has a canvas top, but there's a hole in it so you can see the sky - if you squint a lot. Last night my 9 year old daughter and I slept in the sukkah. I didn't get much sleep, but as I laid there, outside in the old, listening sounds that only come out in the stillness of night and watched the glow of the full moon wind its way across the sky, I felt a connection to the women who walked through the desert so many, many years before. I imagined their lives, snuggling with their children to keep them warm at night, their feelings of impermanence and gratitude for whatever harvest they might gather.

I didn't quite make it all night though. At at 3:24 am Maria woke up and asked me in a quiet, pathetic sort of voice, "Mom, can we quit being Jewish now and go inside where it's warm?" And we did.

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