Food For the Soul
This year, the holiday of Sukkot begins at sunset on October 2 and lasts until nightfall October 9. For the first 2 days work is forbidden, candles are lit in the evening, and festive meals are preceded by Kiddush and include challah dipped in honey.
The seven days of Sukkot are celebrated by eating, praying and socializing in a covered hut (sukkah). This commemorates G‑d’s sheltering our ancestors as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land. Being outdoors, with plenty of fresh air, the Sukkah may offer a welcome place to congregate if we follow the Coronavirus safeguards recommended by health authorities. Coming after the solemn High Holidays, Sukkot is a time of joy and happiness. It is followed by another happy holiday: Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.
The Four Kinds
Every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat) we take the arba minim, a.k.a. “Four Kinds.” These are a palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), a minimum of three myrtles (hadassim) and one citron (etrog). The four kinds symbolize four types of Jews, with differing levels of Torah knowledge and observance. Bringing them together represents our unity as a nation—despite our external differences. So in this spirit of unity, be sure to share your arba minim with your Jewish friends and neighbors, by Zoom if necessary!
Adapted from information on Chabad.org
Customs and prayers
At least one k’zayit (approx. 1 oz.) of bread should be eaten in the sukkah on the first evening of the festival, between nightfall and midnight. A special blessing, Leishiv BaSukkah, is recited. For the rest of the festival, all meals must be eaten in the sukkah (see the Code of Jewish Law or consult a Halachic authority as to what constitutes a “meal”). Chabad custom is to refrain from eating or drinking anything outside of the sukkah, even a glass of water.
On October 3/15 Tishrei, we light candles after 7:14 pm.
The Torah readings for this day (conducted in the Sukkah) are:
Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44
Zachariah 14: 1-21
Mind Over Matter
The ultimate progression?
When the Torah commands us to live in temporary huts to commemorate our experience in the wilderness, it seems to suggest that we recreate that existence. Yet dwelling in those huts was not a destination, but merely a temporary situation, on our way to the Holy Land. So why re-enact it? Perhaps the holiday of Sukkot is not about returning to “simpler, more primitive times.” Maybe Sukkot is in fact the ultimate progression, a leap forward to somewhere one otherwise would never have reached. When we stay right where we are, in the groove of a (healthy) routine we face the danger of stagnation. The Sukkah compels us to move on, to get off the hammock and onto the journey of making this world a more G‑dly place. Bereft of the security of our homes we are faced with our responsibility to accomplish more.
From an article by Rabbi Baruch Epstein
Fulfillment of the prophesies
The four species [effects] the fulfillment of the prophecies that “all shall call upon the Name of G‑d to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9), and “G‑d shall be King over the entire earth: in that day G‑d shall be One and His Name One” (Zechariah 14:9), which shall come about with the speedy redemption by Moshiach.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I got a Story
Hitting the streets on Sukkot
What makes Sukkot memorable for me is something I have loved to do ever since I first got my own set of the Four Kinds. We are commanded to shake the Four Kinds every morning of the seven-day holiday (excluding Shabbat), and the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, taught us to take our lulav and etrog and pass it around to whomever else would be willing to recite the blessing and do a “shake.”
The four species are often correlated with particular body parts. The etrog (citron) is likened to the human heart, the lulav (palm frond) is related to the spine, the aravot (willows) represent the mouth, and the hadasim (myrtles) are likened to the eyes.
So, as I approached my twenties, I was determined to overcome my shyness and have the chutpah and backbone (lulav) to approach people heart to heart (etrog), address them with my speech (aravot) and look them straight in the eye (hadasim) to ask if they would like to say a blessing on the Four Kinds, which the sages say bring unity to the Jewish people.
At first, the outright “no”s intimidated me, as did those who explained that they were too busy, or too lacking in knowledge to say a blessing in Hebrew. My favorite haunts used to be hospitals and nursing homes, before they got so strict that they would not let a stranger walk into a room or even read the name on the door to see if the resident might be Jewish.
At first I limited my visits to people I knew, or people who were recommended by others. Then I gradually began to include neighbors and residents of adjacent rooms. After a while, I even gathered the courage to approach the doctors and nurses in the elevators. On one occasion I met a doctor in an elevator and followed him to the top floor of the building, because it took a while to convince him to do the blessing and shake!
Then came the miracles. Once I walked into a room where a relative sat with an obviously ill patient. I made my pitch and the woman said, “Don’t bother, he hasn’t spoken for a year.” I responded, “That’s okay, I’ll just place it in his hands.” I placed the lulav and etrog properly in his hands. The man recited the blessing on his own. The jaws of those around him, including mine, dropped wide open and the woman began to sob. I tiptoed out, still in a daze.
Then there were the more humorous moments. In one nursing home, I approached an elderly woman sitting in a rocking chair. I gently placed the lulav and etrog in her hands. Her eyes lit up as she brought the etrog closer to them. I thought she wanted to examine it for flaws. Instead, she proceeded to try and take a bite out of the etrog. Fortunately, my hand was quicker than hers! Oh well, win some, lose some.
Actually, from a heavenly perspective, it’s always a win-win situation. The Rebbe told of a discouraged rabbinical student who travelled to bring Judaism to a small city in the Midwest. Upon his return, he told the Rebbe that he hadn’t found even one Jew.
The Rebbe informed the young man that he had received a letter from a woman in the very city he had visited. The letter-writer had been watching the young man from an upper story window. So inspired was she to see the student walking the streets proudly displaying his head covering (kippah) and white ritual fringes (tzitzit) that her soul was awoken at that moment, initiating a process that would eventually lead her back to the path of Judaism.
Perhaps the strange sight of a young woman strolling down a hospital corridor waving a palm branch and a yellow-green citron was enough to activate some Jewish genes. Even if there were no takers on that particular day, my Jewish soul was singing, and the music must have been heard somewhere.
From an article by Yehudis Fishman.