September 29, 2004


Tonight is Sukot. Sukot is the first real holiday of the season – holiday in the sense of a time of celebration, and holiday in the sense of the Hebrew word hag. Originally, the term referred only to the three pilgrimage holidays: Sukot, Pesah, and Shavu`ot, though now the word is usually used generically. The word is a cognate to Arabic: hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca, and hug, in Hebrew, means circle. In any case, now that we’re spiritually cleansed, it’s time to party!

Well, maybe celebrate is a better word. For a lot of people (not me), Sukot is their favorite holiday. It involves the most paraphernalia, and the outdoors. First you have to build a suka (singular of sukot) – a temporary dwelling. Mine is in my backyard, but city-dwellers usually build them on their balconies. Most Israeli apartments have a suka-balcony – you can’t build a suka on just any balcony, for a suka must be open to the sky. I tried to find some good pictures of sukot on the net, without much success (maybe I’ll take some myself during the holiday – no promises), anyway here are three.

On Sukot we leave our sturdy, permanent homes, and dwell in flimsy sukot – for seven days. What does it mean, to dwell? Most of all, it means to eat. Traditional Jews are not allowed to eat anything of significance outside of a suka, meaning bread or other products made from flour. And, of course, sleeping. Fortunately, hamista`er basuka patur mehasuka – one who is sorry in the suka is exempt from the suka. This is important in northern climates, which are often quite cold on sukot. But in Israel, many people do sleep in their suka. In fact, in Israel it’s usually a delightful time of year.

For six months we have had no rain. The summer is long, hot, and dry. But now the seasons are turning. The days are rapidly shortening. It is becoming cooler. Soon, it will rain. It is a delightful time to be outside. Israelis can take it for granted, during the summer, that they can plan outdoor events without fear rain. But that freedom is coming to an end. But it is not a sad time, we celebrate the coming of the rains, for without water there is no life. Hebrew even has a word for the first rain: yore.

וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר-אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ

V’natati m’tar-ars’khem b`ito yore umalqosh v’asafta d’ganekha v’tiroshkah v’yisharekha

And I have given the rain of your land in its time, the first rain and the last rain and you have gathered your grain and your grapes and your oil

Deuteronomy 11:14

On Sukot, more than any other holiday, we are obligated to be happy.

Hag Sameah – Happy Holiday!

UPDATE: More here.

UPDATE: My suka (under construction) here.

Posted by David Boxenhorn at September 29, 2004 09:07 AM
Comments & Trackbacks

Is there a reason that you pointed your Deuteronomy quote this time?

Posted by: Amritas at September 29, 2004 11:52 AM Permalink

Amritas: I'm glad you asked. I had meant to comment on it.

I try to make my blog as accessible as possible to readers. Now, I realize that some of you don't have Hebrew fonts, so the Hebrew sections probably appear as little boxes. No big loss, my posts never (I think) depend on being able to read the Hebrew letters.

Now I have a question that I'd like to get feedback on:

How many of you can read the Hebrew letters but can not read the points?

Those who are in this situation are effectively deprived of Hebrew when I include points - I don't want to have to balance their loss against others' gain. So speak up if you're one of them, I want to know if you exist at all!

Even if nobody objects to the points, don't expect them too often. It so happens that this time I was able to copy the text from a pointed, on-line source (see link). I won't be pointing when I have to type the Hebrew myself - it's too much work.

Posted by: David Boxenhorn at September 29, 2004 01:16 PM Permalink

× Network: