Sukkot: a look inside the hut


The Weber School’s Sukkah. (Brooke Orenstein/The RamPage)

Brooke Orenstein

This year, the annual Jewish holiday of Sukkot fell on October 5th to the 11th. Sukkot takes place five days after Yom Kippur and is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, known as the Shalosh Regalim, which is found in the Torah. An agricultural festival that originally was considered a thanksgiving for the fall harvest, the word “Sukkot” translates to “booths,” which refers to the temporary dwellings that one lives in during this holiday in observance of the period of wandering.

Freshman Adam Orlow shakes the lulav in Weber’s sukkah. (Rabbi Gottfried/The Weber School)

At Weber, we celebrated the holiday by building and decorating our own sukkah. The interior was decorated with artificial fruits and flowers all over. Faculty who teach Jewish studies and Hebrew, brought their classes outside to the sukkah, to observe the rituals of shaking the lulav and eating in the sukkah. On Monday morning during Sukkot, the minyan met in the sukkah to sing Hallel and enjoy Kiddush. According to Rabbi Harwitz, other celebrations included lunch “in the style of “Jewish New York” […] serving Gus’s Kosher Pickles shipped from the Lower East Side along with chocolate phosphates, all accompanied by Klezmer Music.”

Sukkot, lulavim and etrogim are common items associated with this holiday. When celebrating the harvest, those observing are to bless and wave the lulav and etrog, build and decorate a sukkah, and extend hospitality to friends and family.

Based upon the name of the holiday, a sukkah is a temporary tent or hut-like structure that represents the huts in which the Israelites settled during their forty years of wandering in the desert after escaping from slavery in Egypt. In addition, it represents God protecting the Israelites by providing for their needs and how God still watches over us today.

According to Rabbi Gottfried, Dean of Jewish Studies, when building a sukkah, there are certain guidelines that must be followed:

  1. The Sukkah is required to have three sides. Only one of the walls can be an existing wall, and the walls may be constructed of any material, generally canvas, wood or metal.
  2. The roof must be covered with loose branches from trees or anything that grows out of the ground, but has not been cut off from the ground.
  3. Following tradition, the roof covering should give shade but allow those in the sukkah to see the stars through the roof during nighttime.

Additionally, it is a custom to decorate your sukkah, as many people do with fun and creative homemade decorations.

Freshman Paulina Leibovitz celebrates Sukkot. (Rabbi Gottfried/The Weber School)

During Sukkot, you bless and wave the lulav and etrog. A lulav is a combination of a willow, myrtle branches, and a date palm. The combination is held together by a palm branch that is woven. The etrog is a lemon-like fruit. Because of its shape, the etrog represents a heart, a person who has learning and is kind to others.

  1. First, you stand facing east. You hold the lulav in your right hand, with the spine facing you, the myrtle must be on the right and the willows on the left. Then, place the etrog in your left hand facing downwards. After, bring your hands together so the lulav and etrog are side by side.
  2. Then, you recite this blessing: “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat lulav.”
  3. On the first day of the holiday, you are to add the Shehecheyanu prayer.
  4. Now, you are to turn the etrog right-side up. Put both hands side by side, and shake the lulav three times in each direction. Shake it in the front, right, back, left, up and down. Shaking it in these six directions signifies the surrounding presence of God.

Next year Sukkot falls between September 23rd to the 30th. Weber will certainly have festive celebrations to participate in again next year.