I think Sukkot is my favorite Jewish holiday. I just can’t pin down why. But it’s no secret that it’s referred to as “the time of joy.” And every Sukkot, I definitely feel that.
Okay, so Sukkot’s nowhere near as stressful as Passover where the seder lasts until 3am and you’ve got to get a list of things together for a grand meal that will inevitably be foiled by matzah (utterly undigestable). Yeah, Rosh Hashanah’s cool but half of you is scared out of your mind atoning for all the sins you can remember. On Yom Kippur, you atone even for the sins you can’t remember. So Sukkot has a chill (as in relax) factor that a lot of other Jewish holidays don’t have.
Maybe I just love sukkahs. I think that’s probably it. I adore the miniature versions you see on the terraces of homes in Brooklyn (“sukkah in a box,” anyone?). I love the grand (darn, already used that word in this post) sukkahs in Los Angeles. One of them I said was “the best restaurant I’d ever been to” because the decorations were fierce (fake grapes, anyone?) and the food was divine (if unidentifiable). My engagement party was one big sukkah party where my husband told everyone I was his kind of weird and that’s why he loved me. (Okay, he put it more eloquently than that.) And something about sukkahs takes me back to building fort-like structures in my living room in Washington Heights. Sigh. Oh, Sukkot, how I love thee.
I’ll be spending this Sukkot, as last Sukkot, in Los Angeles where it will be so sunny you need SPF 100 to sit under the sukkah. My first (and I think final) Sukkot in New York was chilly (not the relaxing kind) and rainy and I remember a bunch of us crowding together under the sukkah to munch on something before running inside, our teeths chattering behind us. Okay, so I am not a big fan of Sukkot in New York…except that if you’re in town, you should check out breathtaking sukkah (and downright gorgeous synagogue) at Congregation Edmond J. Safra where I had my first kibbeh and realized it was another name for quipe, a Dominican/Lebanese (talk about cultural fusion?) treat.
I recommend renting “Ushpizin” to get in the Sukkot mood–an endearing movie that focuses on one couple’s adventurous Sukkot in Jerusalem. Maybe this year I’ll even memorize the “you shake your lulav here, you shake your lulav there” (is that how it goes?) song but if not, there’s always next year. If you have no idea what a lulav is, don’t worry because Aish has created four informative (and slightly insanely detailed) videos to help you figure out what the four species are and what to do with them. Now if only I could keep their English names and Hebrew names straight. Not to be outdone, Chabad.org created “Super Sukkah” and proved yet again that the easiest way for me to learn Torah is in cartoons. Ahem, I’m a visual learner!
Chabad.org also reminded me in their helpful “Holiday Guide” that “Jewish unity is one of the central themes of Sukkot. The four kinds you are holding 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.” Does it get more beautiful than that?
Anyway, as far as I know there’s only one way to shake your Sukkot stuff (however my husband tells me to) but the video below will either make you wince or laugh. Have a glorious, wonderful sukkah, rain or shine!
And remember Sukkot is NOT pronounced “suck it,” no matter what your friend tells you. Oy vey. Yeah, I know right now you can’t remember why you come to me for words of wisdom.