The week-long fall harvest festival of Sukkot is celebrated by building a temporary outdoor hut, the sukkah, and spending as much time as possible living in it. This annual ritual re-enacts the lives of our ancestors as desert wanderers (and later as farmers improvising shade huts as they harvested in their fields, or shelters as they camped out on their pilgrimages to Jerusalem).
Building a sukkah has been interpreted as a way to unsettle ourselves, to remind us of our dependency on God, to affirm that life is really a temporary sojourn. We go outside our solid houses and spend time eating, living, and for some sleeping in a more porous structure that puts us in closer contact with nature and the elements. The roof must be made of natural materials to allow glimpses of the sky. Usually today that means finding a bit of nature in our own backyard, but with the growing opportunities of the Jewish environmental movement, you can consider celebrating at a retreat center or farm.
One of the most meaningful Sukkot experiences that I have had was back in high school, at my Confirmation Class retreat in the Texas Hill Country, when we built a sukkah completely of found natural materials. I have long held that building a sukkah is one of the best ways to build children’s Jewish identity, but it is also a very earthy yet spiritual ritual for adults.
Consider and Comment: Share a favorite Sukkot memory.
Featured image: Wilderness Torah’s “Sukkot on the Farm” – Photo by Darren Miller Photography
Learn how the special plants of Sukkot represent eco-systems in the Holy Land, or return to the Gateway of Wilderness.