The holiday of Sukkot emphasizes the tradition of “Ushpizin,” Aramaic for ‘guests.’ On Sukkot, we invite both Biblical guests – Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca – as well as actual guests into the temporary huts that we build for the occasion. This year, I had the honor of inviting IJC’s conversion students to my sukkah in Leuven and the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy a cozy meal.
Together we learned the special blessing that we say in the sukkah and discussed the traditions that accompany the holiday. During the class we talked about Sukkot’s Biblical and agricultural roots. The sukkah is meant to remind us of the huts that the Israelites lived in during the forty years of desert wandering. The holiday also marks the end of the harvest season, the final gathering of grain, when our ancestors would construct modest huts in order to live close to their fields.
We also talked about one of the central themes of the holiday: impermanence and vulnerability. Although the sturdy brick walls we live in much of the year give off the impression of permanence, Sukkot reminds us that everything in life is ephemeral. We can be grateful for the safety and security that our brick homes offer us during the year, but the holiday is also meant to remind us of those who do not live in the shelter of peace.
Sukkot is called a “z’man simchateinu,” a time of joyfulness. Having just survived the weightiness of the judgement of Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a time of joyful celebration. Teaching IJC’s conversion class is already a source of joy for me, and it was made all the more joyful by coming together to eat, pray and learn together in my sukkah.
IJC Board Member
(L to R): Maria Loose, Abir Lal Mitra, Ilana Sumka, Imke Roebken, Yves Feller