We have been invited to celebrate Sukkot! Twice over! I didn’t come by the invitations honestly, I bribed, on facebook, with gifts. I am sure the invitations had nothing to do with my bribe, but I wanted to be sure we would have a place in a Sukkah. Tina and I are lucky; wonderful friends surround us! We are blessed with a culturally diverse group of friends that bring tremendous ritual into our lives. Our friends Mara and Miryam have taken us into their circle of feisty, smart, observant lesbian Jews, sharing one Jewish holiday after another with us. Sukkot is one of the more festive holidays! If you know me, you know I love fall, I love the season of harvesting, and putting food by, canning and preserving the season, the cooler weather, and bonfires . . . the list is endless. So the idea of a holiday that celebrates the fall, that has its roots in agriculture, a thanksgiving of sorts, pleases me to no end.
I am riveted by the Jewish faith, especially the rituals that surround the holidays. We were invited to our first Passover this past year. I studied for days before hand so I could follow the prayers and understand the symbols and even offer some ideas of my own about the Seder plate. I found a kosher wine expert in Illinois and arrived with two really nice bottles of kosher for Passover wine for our hosts and a bottle of kosher grape juice for myself. I didn’t want to be left out of any part of the evening. So of course I am preparing for my first Sukkot during which I will be invited to spend an evening in a sukkah.
During the seven days of Sukkot, Jewish households leave their solid dwellings and spend time in porous, fragile huts, a physical reminder of their vulnerability and dependence on God for gifts of shelter, food, warmth and protections. The sukkah’s religious function is to commemorate the temporary structures that the Israelites dwelled in during their exodus from Egypt, but it is also about the universal ideas of transience and permanence as expressed in archatecture. The sukkah is a means of ceremonially practicing homelessness, while at the same time remaining deeply rooted. It calls on us to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, to reconnect with an agricultural past and to take a moment to dwell on and dwell in impermanence. Most Jews, who put up a Sukkah, will spend as much time as possible in the temporary dwelling, taking their meals and even sleeping in the Sukkah if they choose.
In celebration of the holiday, in keeping with the spirit of harvesting and thanksgiving I have put together gifts of my own harvest for my hosts, tomatoes that I have canned, roasted and stewed, fire roasted red peppers, homemade applesauce, fig chutney and Tina’s famous caramel sauce. I am looking forward to spending Thursday morning at a local synagogue, participating in the prayers and service of the first day of Sukkot and then spending the second evening with our friends Mara and Miryam having dinner in their sukkah. Later next week, toward the end of the seven-day holiday we will spend another evening celebrating with our friends Sam and Darla. It is pure joy for me to participate in these intimate, spiritual and family gatherings and celebrations.