What is Sukkot?

This is a happy time of the year, when booths that were built to house the Jews during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, from the time when they were brought out of Egypt until they entered the Land of Canaan. These days, the Festival is spent partially in prayer and partially in the Sukkah, which is primarily used for meals. The palm branch and the esrog are shaken every day except for the Sabbath.

CC-BY 3.0: Wannapik Studio

G-d Almighty wanted to keep the Jews for one more day, much as a father would when the children have visited and are going home, and with that, the Festival ends. The next day is called Simchat Torah, which is when we finish the reading of the Old Testament and then start all over again reading the weekly portions over the next year.

Moadim L’simcha!

This post was contributed by Edward Schabes, Library Assistant, Midtown

Resources for the High Holidays on the Touro College LibGuides

The Touro Libraries research guides provide High Holiday resources, not only in the library guide known as parasha ha-shavua (the weekly torah reading) and Hagim (festivals), but also through additional guides on various topics, including links to online resources for archival research and education. In 2020, Rosh Hashanah falls on evening of September 18th.

The High Holidays within the context of all the Jewish holidays in the organization of the Jewish calendar are represented throughout Touro College Library Guide resources.

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay 

For example, one sketch raises the question of whether the symbolic foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah is merely symbolic for the rational contemplation vs. theurgic supernatural mystical act championed by the Hasidim, which the Rambam as a deontological ethicist might warn risks being a form of delusional theurgic magic.

A second link examines the metaphor of the book on the High Holidays particularly in the Unetanneh Tokef (a Hebrew prayer by Rabbi Amram of Mainz) sung in the synagogues, that states to the effect, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written, on Yom Kippur sealed and implies based on a Talmudic text, on hoshanah rabbah the angels deliver the blueprint to Hashem’s heavenly Temple archive” and the importance of the reverence and cherishing of text in general in general for Judaism.

A third link explores both in Powerpoint form related to the guide on the Jewish arts as the last slides are fine art representations of this event in Genesis 22, and a written sketch of the akedat yitchak known as the “Binding of Isaac” which is chanted on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, raises the question of Providence (hashgahah pratit) vs. free will (behira) and G-d’s foreknowledge (yediah) and is the topic of midrashim found in the Cairo Geniza.

A fourth link of a Powerpoint considers the afternoon reading known as maftir yonah on the day of Yom Kippur, from the perspective of Biblical archeology excavations of ancient Ninevah, cartography, and close textual analysis, among other topics. Ethics is a theme of the book of Jonah in that the Ninevites must repent. On Yom Kippur, we repent our ethical failings in the communal Al chet prayer where one gives a din ve-heshbon (accounting) before the heavenly court in business ethics and in general Jewish ethics, ethical monotheism that Avraham revealed when he left Ur of Chaldea. Up until today in online ethics by applying the laws of forbidden gossip (Hilchot issurei loshon ha-ra) by the Chofetz Chaim and applied in case law to social media.

Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash

The fifth set of resources relate to the book of Koheleth chanted on the festival of Sukkot, which raises the important question of the nature of time in all its dimensions. One link shows that striving to dwell poetically in time is the essence of being in the sukkah, whose construction requires that the roof (sakh) allow one to see the stars causing wonder, expressed in King David’s Psalm eight. Other links examine Koheleth themes in the afterlife, and further ideas of Nachmanides knowledge of shemitah ha-olamot.

This post was contributed by David Levy, Chief Librarian, Lander College for Women

Celebrating Sukkot

A sukkah from inside. (From Wikimedia user Muu-karhu)
A sukkah from inside (via Wikimedia user Muu-karhu)

After the solemnity and introspection of the High Holy Days, Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, is always a treat. Like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, I look forward to Sukkot every year because this holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is an unaltered celebration.  After the Exodus from Egypt, the ancient Jews traveled the wilderness for forty years before reaching the land of Israel. They lived in small huts called “sukkot” during this time. The holiday of Sukkot commemorates those temporary dwellings: Orthodox Jewish families build a small hut, or Sukkah, outside the house where they eat all meals for the seven days of the holiday. Many Orthodox Jews also sleep outdoors in the Sukkah. A typical Sukkah would look something like this:

(source)
(source)

Continue reading

Celebrating Sukkot

A sukkah from inside. (From Wikimedia user Muu-karhu)
A sukkah from inside (via Wikimedia user Muu-karhu)

After the solemnity and introspection of the High Holy Days, Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, is always a treat. Like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, I look forward to Sukkot every year because this holiday, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is an unaltered celebration.  After the Exodus from Egypt, the ancient Jews traveled the wilderness for forty years before reaching the land of Israel. They lived in small huts called “sukkot” during this time. The holiday of Sukkot commemorates those temporary dwellings: Orthodox Jewish families build a small hut, or Sukkah, outside the house where they eat all meals for the seven days of the holiday. Many Orthodox Jews also sleep outdoors in the Sukkah. A typical Sukkah would look something like this:

(source)
(source)

The holiday of Sukkot is also called “Chag ha-Asif,” or the festival of the harvest. It is a festival of thanksgiving for the bounty that was just harvested in time for winter. As a child I always enjoyed helping my father build our Sukkah on the back porch, and decorating it with posters, flags, and ceiling decorations suspended from the bamboo poles that made up our s’chach (the roof of the sukkah, which must be made from some form of plant).

I love to visit other people’s sukkahs because no two sukkahs are exactly alike. Every family builds and decorates theirs in their own unique style. The requirements to build a sukkah are pretty simple, according to Wikipedia: “A sukkah design must be a temporary structure.[4] The roof must be made of non-edible plant material.[4] The roofing must be thick enough to shade those sitting inside in daytime, and thin enough so that stars are visible through the roof at night.[4] The walls must be at least 10 handsbreadths tall but can be made of any material. Did you know that the body of a dead whale can serve as a wall? [4][7][10] The sukkah can also be built atop a live camel.[3][4][7]

 Fortunately, these days we do not need to use dead whales for walls, but I came across some pretty interesting sukkah designs when I did a quick Google image search. In the fall of 2010, an architectural design competition called Sukkah City was held in partnership with the Union Square Partnership for New York City’s Union Square Park. All entrants can be seen here on Sukkah City’s website. The winning designs were constructed at Brooklyn’s Gowanus Studio Space, and set up in Union Square Park for the duration of the holiday. Below are some of the more eye-catching designs.

(All images from http://www.sukkahcity.com)

For more information on the holiday, take a look at the Encyclopedia Judaica page here.

Or check out these titles in our collection:

Sukkot began at sundown on Sunday, October 16 2016 and will end at sundown on Tuesday, October 25 2016. Happy holidays!

Contributed by: Toby Krausz, Librarian, Midtown