Thursday, November 26, 2009

Here's to the Harvest

Sukkah Collage Numbered
Sukkot in Washington Heights (#1-3) & Washington Sq. Park (#4)

Back in early October, I took myself on a field trip to see some sukkot, Hebrew for 'booths' or 'tabernacles.' These are structures that observant Jews build during the holiday of Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles (you can read more about that here).

Sukkot occurs around harvest-time and it is, in part, a time to give thanks for God's provision of crops and food. Another aspect is God's command to the Israelites to celebrate the holiday by living in booths for seven days - an annual remembrance that when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, they lived in booths for many years before arriving in the Promised Land where they could build more permanent structures.

As you can see from the photos above, sukkot vary in form and appearance. Not much detail is given about these booths in the biblical text, so rabbis and scholars had to draw out and extrapolate some guidelines for modern observants to follow. The basic rule of thumb is that a sukkah must have at least three sides. It should also have a roof - something to provide shade from the sun, but one that allows you to see the stars by night (this is interpreted as either a partial roof as you can see in Pictures #1-2, or a loose and hole-y roof made of branches and greenery, as seen in Pictures #3-4).

Today, rather than actually living in the booth structures, Jews in colder climates observe the holiday by just eating their meals in the sukkot. And there is a communal aspect as well - especially in urban areas where there simply isn't space for every family to have their own sukkah - often a group will arrange to build one large booth, where many can share meals together.

Why am I telling you today about a holiday that happened almost two months ago? The answer is two-fold:

a) I'm lazy. And I just got around to processing my sukkot pictures and posting them.

b) Sukkot is thought to have been the Pilgrims' biblical inspiration for their first Thanksgiving celebration - a time to thank God for the harvest and for leading them to a new Promised Land where they could worship Him freely.

So actually, this post is right on time.

Just like God and His provision.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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