Tomorrow night yet another Jewish holiday will be upon us. Unlike Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, on Sukkot we will be celebrating outside of our dining rooms and in the Sukkah. Why are we doing this? Actually, the story behind this celebration is quite beautiful.
Thouands of years ago when the Jewish people were wondering the desert, they had absolutely no way of knowing where they going. That was just one of their problems. They didn’t even know what they would have to eat or who would protect them against enemies or tornadoes-not that they had tornadoes in the desert-but last week in Queens we also thought that would never happen. Just saying.
So, the story ehind Sukkot is that the Jewish peoople wandered the desert for forty years before they arrived to Israel. During these years of wandering, the Jewish people were accompianied by a cluster of clouds, also known as “clouds of glory”. These clouds were not just regular clouds, they had staying power.
These clouds watched over the Jews as they traveled through the desert by providing a shield over them during times of danger and uncertainty. This protection was provided by G-d and we recognize this gift to the Jewish people by creating a “temporary” shield over our heads during the 7 days of the Sukkot festival. During these days, we eat all of our meals in the Sukkah and make it our home. Some people even sleep in their Sukkah during these 7 days. Wait, there is more because Sukkot is when observe some other very beautful traditions with our friends and families.
If you have walked around some of the largely populated Jewish areas in Queens lately, you have probably seen people selling what looks like very big lemons and branches from a palm tree. While these items may look like the obvious, they are specifically used to fullfill yet another symbolic observance of Sukkot.
Let me just start out by saying you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate how different we are all from one another. On Sukkot, there is custom to take from four different kinds of species. Not the animal kind, but more of an organic and natural kind. These include an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs).
During Sukkot, all four of these species are all held together in our hands as we recite a very special blessing. If you’ve ever looked at these four items, you would notice how completely different they are in both texture and smell. they are. It is during this very special blessing that we wave them wave them in six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward. This is our way of recognizing the variety of Jewish people around the world today. Can you imagine? Jewish people even have a blessing to appreciate our differences. This is one of my absolute favorite parts of celebrating Sukkot, as I feel that is so important to let people know that it is okay to be different.
If you want to learn more about Sukkot, find recipes, and customs, go to Chabad.org, NJJOP.org, or TorahAnytime.org. Since Sukkot is a time of celebrating, there are many places in the New York area where you can get a taste and shake in a Sukkah.
Sukkot “Hopponings” Around New York and Queens
I’ve compiled a very small list of Sukkot “Hopponings” below, but you can check out your local Jewish community center or synagogue for more options.
If you are out on Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills over Sukkot, check out the many restaurants and dine in their very own Sukkah. We always grab a slice of pizza at Shimon’s Pizza and eat in the Sukkah, the kids just love it.
The Sukkah City Competition-The winning design was named and you can see all 12 on displayed in Union Square until October 2.
Bryant Park Sukkah-The Sukkah in Bryant Park (42nd St. and 6th Ave), NYC. Enough said, how great is this location for a Sukkah.
This Sunday, September 26, from 11:00am – 8:30pm, Tablet Magazine is hosting a FREE event for the whole family, featuring fun Sukkot activities and a live performance by Jewish kid’s rock band The Macaroons. Congregation Beth Elohim, 274 garfield place, Brooklyn, NY
In Manhattan this Sunday, check out what is happening at the Sukkot at the 92nd Street Y, go to 92y.org.
If you know about a Sukkot event in the New York area, please feel free to leave a comment below, or send out a tweet to @primetimeparent. Now, I better get outside and help my husband finish putting up our sukkah.