Sunday, October 23, 2005


Sukkot is approaching. It is definitely one of the weirder Jewish holidays, primarily because Jews are commanded (and some obey) to build forts (the Sukkah) outside of their homes. If Gentiles scratch their heads wondering why their Jewish neighbors are building flimsy forts with roofs intentionally designed to allow the occupants to view the stars, I can’t blame them. It is weird… but then again, so is dragging a dead pine tree into your home during winter and decorating it with lights and whatnot.

Jews celebrate Sukkot to commemorate the time when our ancestors wondered around the Sinai desert after escaping from Pharaoh in Egypt, but before the Heebs were allowed to enter the Land of Israel. A lot of Jewish holidays follow the seasons, so Sukkot is also a harvest festival of sorts. The wondering Jews had originally erected Sukkot as simple, makeshift, temporary dwellings. I call Sukkot “The Fort-Building Holiday.”

My memories of Sukkot are not fond. Generally, Sukkot makes me think of shivering in a flimsy structure while a rabbi leads us in Hebrew prayers. Maybe if I was really unlucky I had to eat something inside the Sukkah, because eating or sleeping in the Sukkah is considered to be a mitzvah (good deed).

It wasn’t until I celebrated Sukkot in Israel that the holiday actually made more sense to me, and was somewhat enjoyable. That’s because at this time of year in Israel the weather is still warm, and the winter rains have yet to begin. I have a particular fond memory of chillin’ out in a Sukkah at Ulpan Etzion in Baka’a, Jerusalem and eating dinner and drinking wine with friends. The evening was warm and a gentle breeze blew through the Sukkah, rustling the palm fronds and decorations hanging from the “roof.”

So, when you notice bizarre little forts going up next to peoples’ homes in the next coming weeks, now you’ll know what it’s all about.

Sukkot: The Fort-Building Holiday.


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