In Jewish Communities around the World, Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles begins on October 8th. It is a time of rejoicing in the harvest. Temporary shelters or tents are erected and food prepared to joyfully welcome family, friends and strangers to partake in the harvest. Stories are shared of God’s protection of the Israelites during the 40 years they wandered in the desert between their release from Egyptian slavery andd their entrance into the Promised Land. During this time, God dwelt intimately with His people and appeared in pillar of fire and cloud. It was a time of necessary reliance on God’s protection and nourishment. I wanted to share here today one student’s experience of the Hospitality of Sukkot today:
Jo-El writes: Sukkot, for me, has been a very meaningful experience in the classroom as well as in the synagogue. Before I worked in the synagogue, the children in 4th Grade had a song in the SBG (Silver Burdett & Ginn) music book which was entitled: “Ha’ Sukkah” meaning Harvest Time. I would have the children gather in a circle, I would turn off the lights and we would form the Sukkoth Tent and sing this song: Ha sukkah, ma ya fa, u-mah tov la-she-vet-bah! (Repeated)
The translation is:
Cut the wheat, golden wheat, O how beautiful the harvest; Cut the wheat, golden wheat, O how beautiful it is.Pluck the grapes, purple grapes, O how beautiful theharvest;
Pluck the grapes, purple grapes, O how beautiful they are!
We sang it in Hebrew and English. It is a simple song but easy to grasp; the Hebrew was catchy enough that the children would remember it for a long time.
When I went to work in the Synagogue for twelve and a half years, I was enmeshed into their liturgical rhythm of the year.
S’Lichot came first after Labor Day when the everything in the shul was changed to white…in the Ark, the Torah covers of color were removed and changed to white…everything is white to prepare for the High Holidays.
This September 24th, Rosh Hashanah began ( the New Year). On October 3rd, Yom Kippur begins (Days of Atonement). When all of these special days are over, Sukkoth begins…the harvest time. There are processions with flags around the temple inside on Shabbat evening; children smiling, walking with a lilt in their step. After the procession inside, everyone goes outside and into the Sukkat Tent which is made up of Cornstalks in a circle leaning together in the center to form a roof for the tent. It is a happy night for all.The Sukkat tent welcomes all people just as they do inside the temple. It is the Jewish peoples’ wish that Jews marry Jews but some inter-marry. For me being a Gentile in the temple, I marveled at how the Jewish congregation accepted the inter-faith marriages as well as me. I believe that this is one of the major events of biblical hospitality. Everyone there feels the joy and has knowledge of what this holiday means to the Jewish people .Having the Sukkat tent outside transports the “ingathering” to a biblical time and space 6000 yrs ago. God is truly there.