Posts Tagged ‘sukkah’

Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays.  To me, it represents finding the gifts in life as well as valuing the simplicity of what is.  While we can say that Sukkot סֻכּוֹת is a biblical harvest holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei and is also known as the Festival of Booths.  Sukkot is also the holiday of profound symbols that remind us of  how important is is to walk through the world consciously.

As a both a Youth Education Director of Temple Emanu-El Kurn’s Religious School in Tucson and as a mother, I thrive on the symbolisms of Sukkot; in recent years I refer to each symbolism as life’s metaphors.  While each symbolism has a name and concept associated with it, they can also be an awareness for what’s most important in life.  This reality was brought home to me this week by one of my third grade students Selina Feldman who drew a picture for her parents showing what she learned about Sukkot during Religious School.

What does a lulav and etrog really represent?

The irony of this picture is that Selina did not refer to these symbols as the four species, she responded more to the explanation of the methaphors.  For more info see the  below link.


The four specifies remind us how we can walk through life:

  • Stand tall like the palm; each of us have a spine.
  • Remember to look at the world through open eyes; the myrtle might look plain, but it smells divine and is shaped like our eyes.
  • We have lips to speak; may we use our words wisely.  The willow appears to be a simple shape, we have the responsibility to talk gently and honestly; watching not only our words, but how we use our words makes a difference to those that experience them.
  • Each of us are blessed with a heart.  The etrog reminds us to move forward with an open heart and to be kind to others as we walk in the world.

I find it fascinating that Selina only noted the symbolism and not what the symbolism was called.  As an educator it made my eyebrows rise; as a human being I am profoundly proud that she understood the metaphors.

The second major symbol that touches me is the sukkah.  A sukkah (shown below) reminds me of my love of voluntary simplicity; living consciously within both my values.  In fact, I will be giving a workshop on that in mid-November and early December as part of our Adult Education offerings at Temple Emanu-El.

‘Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shlomecha ופרש עלינו סכת שלומך — Spread over us Your shelter of peace’ is a verse from the Hashkiveinu prayer which Jews say during their evening prayers.  It also a song that is sung again and again throughout the holiday of Sukkat.  When when I think about the sukkah and this song, I find myself reflecting on my desire to create both a positive Religious School environment and loving home.  This happens when a community and a family come together as a team.  Together we can co-create a sukkah, a structure that feels complete and peaceful too.

May each of Sukkot’s symbols make us more thoughtful of our roles in the world.   In most every way, we make a difference when we realize that how we walk in the world can make a difference for good!

Chag Sameach, Happy Holiday!

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I really thought our sukkah was missing; it wasn’t.  When I couldn’t find the sukkah last week it triggered a deep sadness that wouldn’t stop flowing.  Somehow it looks like I needed to release some intense pain, the kind that sits in you kishkas (guts) and feels like it will never ease up.  The good news is that the painful trigger has allowed me to process some unresolved pain and my sukkah was found too!

I drew this during my teen years, it always represented deep sadness and renewal too. Each time I look at it, I see pain as well as the perseverance. Life is.

Sometimes dreams turn into reality; sometimes reality becomes a nightmare.  We don’t always have a choice how we walk through life experiences. Life happens and we expect ourselves to navigate the turbulent waters and find balance during the storms. The route we take during the challenging times often makes it possible ‘to keep our head above water’, but at some point in time, we have to crumble.  In many situations, this happens way after the crisis has passed.

Last week I crumbled;  I succumbed to pain that had sliced open my heart for so many years.  The trigger was an event that should have been  nothing more than a troubling moment, but instead the moment temporarily shattered my heart and devastated me.  We don’t always face pain when we are in the midst of it; often we have to maintain our cool until the crisis is over.  Good? No.  But reality it is.

The pain of losing my sukkah in the move from Maryland to Arizona made no sense until I realized that the pain had more to do with unshed tears and the nightmares that life brought to my son Aryeh and our family.  (You can read more about the reality at http://wp.me/pthnB-ha).

While the sukkah has been found and the deep sadness released, there is an awareness of my own fragility.  My heart is still tender; I still find my eyes welling up with tears, but at least the sobs have finally been realized and I am now on the mend.

I am looking forward to building my sukkah this week as I pray and chant the following words.

פרש עלינו סכת שלומך Ufros Aleinu Sukkat Shlomecha
Spread over us the shelter or sukkah of your peace,

May these words resonate true for each of us.  May we all feel safe in the cocoon of life.

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Being in Tucson has been great for my spirit.  I notice the sunrises and the sunsets; the moon calls to me each and every evening; the mountains bring tears to my eyes.  I am home.  And reality still beckons me; I am in a new place with amazing people and still I feel alone.  It takes time to build relationships and to feel safe when you work for a community with people that are also becoming your friends.

Fortunately, I am blessed with a spirit that makes friends wherever I stand.  So I am never completely alone, but sometimes I feel that way.  How can someone who doesn’t know me understand my heart?  How can people understand the pain of my past or even the beauty that exists inside of me nearly at every moment?  I am unknown.  No one really knows my soul in Tucson, but they will if they watch me long enough.

Well yesterday, I became crushed and that pain stayed with me for over 24 hours with lingering pain that has absorbed me throughout the day.  Rational I am not, pain surrounds me on an cell level. I am in mourning and it goes against every grain of my being.  The good news is that in this moment the darkness is NOT penetrating me in this moment.

For those of you that know my loving and happy demeanor, I am sure you are wondering what caused my meltdown, what  caused my heart to feel like it is shattering.

Yesterday, I realized that my sukkah was gone.  To many of you , you might be wondering what’s the big deal.  I am so not materialistic; simplistic living is a practice I hold so dear.  But our sukkah, that was a sign of hope for our entire family when we were struggling with Aryeh’s life.

Five years ago, Aryeh needed to have his second brain surgery and we really weren’t certain that life exist beyond the corner.  We had hope, but only because we had no alternative.  No one wants to face the loss of a child and yet it was a possibility for us.  My son was faced with a life and death struggle that was crippling for our family.

We had little money, yet we decided to splurge for a beautiful new sukkah for all of us.  Our hope was that Aryeh would live, but in all honesty if this was his last Sukkot holiday, we would give him the most precious Sukkot holiday we could.  Shortly after the first days of the holiday, I traveled across the country with him for the surgery that ultimately saved his life.

Losing our sukkah in the move has devastated me.  And yet, it makes no sense to me because I now have my son and I am not materialist, but life doesn’t always make sense and  that has to be OK for now.

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