Happy Sukkot!

Today is the first day of Sukkot, one of my favorite Jewish holidays. It's sort of like Thanksgiving in that it celebrates the earth's bounty, but it's also a commemoration of the 40 year period the Jewish people spent wandering in the desert after escaping their lives of slavery in Egypt.

The Hebrew word sukkot is the plural of sukkah, which means "booth" or "tabernacle". The sukkah is a temporary structure with four walls and a roof loosely covered with branches so that the stars are still visible. During the harvest season, farmers would build and live in these structures out in the fields, and during their exodus from Egypt, Jews would live in dwellings such as these.

For several years, I used to build a sukkah of our own in the backyard. My family and I would eat our meals inside, and one year we even slept in it overnight. I stopped building it in recent years because it was a HUGE job, but for the years we did have it, it was a wonderful experience. 

Besides the sukkah structure itself, the holiday includes a ritual which involves shaking the lulav and etrog in all directions (signifying that G-d is everywhere). The etrog is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon, and the lulav is three different plant species all bound together, and named for the largest of the three. Combined, the lulav and etrog are four species, all of which are mentioned in the Torah. There are several explanations as to why these particular species were chosen for the ritual, but my favorite one likens each of the species to a part of the human body. With the etrog as the heart, the willow as the lips, the lulav (or palm) as the spine, and the myrtle as the eyes, it's said that through the use of these body parts we can serve G-d by helping others. 

I don't have a sukkah this year, but if I did, I might use my illustration shown here as one of the decorations. If you'd like to download this image to hang in your sukkah, feel free, you can get it here. Hang as is, or color it in. One suggestion that I have is to laminate it with one of the thicker weight lamination films at your local copy store. This will protect it in the rain, keep it hanging flat, and give you a stiff border through which you can punch some holes to hang it. If you remember, please send me a pic of your sukkah, would love to see it. Chag Sameach!