By Josh Traulsen, MHWOW Program Manager
Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a chance to gather friends, eat good food, put my handyman skills to work and enjoy nature. Sukkot is a 7 day holiday so there are lots of opportunities to celebrate!
Growing up, I never had a sukkah at my house but some of my fondest memories as a kid are going to the synagogue to celebrate Sukkot under the stars with my family’s traditional meal of KFC followed by Dairy Queen on the way home.
As I got older and learned more about the holiday, I got interested in learning how to construct my own sukkah and had the opportunity as a Moishe House resident to construct the largest sukkah in my home state!
There are many ways to celebrate Sukkot and there are lots of opportunities to experiment and try new things or re-imagine how you celebrate this harvest festival. Below are some key points about Sukkot including some ideas for activities. As an MHWOW Host, we want you to celebrate this holiday in a way that is meaningful to you.
- Sukkot is September 23–30
- Beginning on the evening of September 23
- The first two nights of Sukkot are considered yom tov which means that you are forbidden to work or create on these days, much like Shabbat
- The last two nights of Sukkot are Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, which commemorate the gift of the torah to the Jewish people
- The main mitzvot of Sukkot are to construct and live in a sukkah and to shake the Lulav
Here are some tools to help you create your own MHWOW program around Sukkot.
- Construct your own sukkah
- Shake a Lulav
- Hold a festive meal containing lots of plant material and light candles
- Create your own personal Lulav
- Gather your friends and create a lulav on a piece of paper by cutting photos from magazines that represent different parts of their personal Jewish communities. Take turns sharing and discussing your lulavim and work together to identify things that you feel are missing in your Jewish community, use this time at the event to make some plans for how to complete your community. You can reach out to a Moishe House staff person for assistance if you want!
- Alternatively, you could encourage guests to bring objects that are important for a show and tell style or storytelling event instead of creating a lulav on paper
- Invite your friends over to create your own personal version of the lulav by incorporating objects or symbols that represent your own personal community
- Do something in your sukkah
- Eat a meal or snack, maybe even do some cooking!
- Sleep in your sukkah! Use this as an excuse to do some backyard camping (or even real camping) and sleep out in “nature”
- Create something in the sukkah by gathering art supplies to do harvest themed art projects like leaf prints, painting, or tie dye!
- Gather some art supplies and do a wine and paint night in a sukkah or out in nature or at a park
- Host an inclusive Sukkot (from Melanie Weiss)
Discussion & Resources:
- What does the Lulav represent?
- Each part of the lulav represents one of the four personalities of the Israelites in the desert
- The etrog has both a taste and an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have both Torah learning and good deeds. The date (the fruit of the lulav) has a taste but does not have an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have Torah but do not have good deeds. The hadas (Myrtle) has an aroma but not a taste; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have good deeds but do not have Torah. The aravah (Willow) has no taste and no aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who do not have Torah and do not have good deeds…. Says G‑d: “Let them all bond together in one bundle and atone for each other.” Combined the Lulav and Etrog represents the entire Jewish community (from Chabad)
- How does your own personal Jewish community reflect the lessons of the Lulav?
- How can you create a more well-rounded community for yourself?
- Here are some more resources on the Rich Symbolism of Sukkot By Rabbi Andrew Sacks
- The sukkah is a sign to open one’s hearts at this season. Just as its roof opens to the sky, so too may those celebrating Sukkot be open to the stranger, the other, and the guest who they do not see everyday in their synagogues, in their JCCs, and in their homes. On the High Holidays, many synagogues may require tickets to enter the building. But all are welcome into the sukkah.
- The sukkah invites the Jewish community to effect change in the way it treats all people. This may include those to whom Jewish institutions may be blind — singles, LGBTQ+ people, the unengaged, the elderly, newcomers, and the marginalized (as well as a whole host of other community members with special needs). On Sukkot, those on the outside are invited inside and welcomed to join the community in sisterhood and fellowship…
- Here is more from Rabbi Sacks
These are just a few options but we’d love to see you get creative! I challenge you to think of a way to celebrate Sukkot in your own way with your personal Jewish community!