Shalom: Building a Sukkah of Peace
By Jessica Rosenblum, Assistant
"As when we plant so when we reap... Help us to see
that no work truly prospers unless it bring blessing to other
lives, and no gain truly enriches if it adds not to the
happiness of others. Grant that we may never seek to
dispossess others of what they have planted, nor build our joy
on the misfortune of our fellows. Help us so to live that
when we shall have gathered our final harvest, many shall rise
up and call us blessed." (Union Prayer Book,
The transition from Yom Kippur
to Sukkot is as pronounced as the first cold snap
following a long summer. As the new year turns, the solemn and
often solitary reckonings of Yom Kippur give way to the
communal celebration of Sukkot, the harvest
holiday. Alternatively known as Chag HaAsif (the
"Festival of Ingathering"), Sukkot marks not only the
ingathering of crops, but of community as well, as Jews
customarily build sukkahs, or booths, where they
welcome family and friends. In many prayers, the sukkah
is a symbol of protection, peace and
Sukkot, which begins this
Wednesday night and lasts for seven days, literally means
"booths" or "The Festival of Booths," as symbolized by the
building of the sukkah. The sukkah
commemorates both the temporary dwellings in which the Children
of Israel lived during the forty years when they wandered in the
desert and the transient structures farmers built during the
harvest to remain closer to their fields. Sukkahs (or
sukkot, Hebrew plural) are intentionally constructed as
temporary dwellings. The roof must be made of natural materials
and be sparse enough to allow for both rain fall and the sight
of stars. The shelter and protection offered by the
sukkah lies in its capacity to reduce our reliance on
promises of permanence, on those partial solutions that would
pose as the whole. Sukkot moves us to turn our eyes to
the stars and ask "Where is the true source of my protection?"
It turns our gaze toward gratitude and hospitality, love, faith
and connection that offer abiding sustenance.
people would like to believe that they can construct physical
structures that will create permanent and complete protection
for themselves and that will shield them from all outside
elements. We see this reflected in the attitudes and actions of
many Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. Let us learn
from the holiday of Sukkot that ultimately we all share
the same sky - the rain that falls into the sukkah and
the stars that shine above it know no national borders. This
holiday is a reminder to us that the only way to create safe
structures is to create open structures - structures that
welcome dialogue and mutual recognition. These structures may
sway in the wind and when sitting within them, we might
experience a sense of vulnerability but ultimately they are the
ones we must choose to live within if we are ever to achieve
true peace and security.
In the words of
the evening prayer Hashkivenu: HaPorais sukkat shalom
alaynu, v'al kol amo Yisrael, v'al Yerushalayim ("May God
stretch out a sukkah of peace over us, over all Israel
and over Jerusalem.")
Suggestions for Sukkot:
1. When you attend
Sukkot activities, tell family, friends and
acquaintances about the Open Letter and ask them to sign it, by
going to http://openletter.btvshalom.org/.
If you would like to gather signatures for the Open Letter on
petitions or fliers, request them by emailing email@example.com.
2. Have a
discussion about how the concepts of security and vulnerability
as they relate to Sukkot pertain to the
decorations for your sukkah that spread the message of
peace and reconciliation.
4. There is a
custom of inviting "guests" into the sukkah. The
traditional guests are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses,
Aaron and David and some also invite Sarah, Miriam, Deborah,
Esther, Hannah, Huldah, Avigail (seven women prophets). Be
creative and come up with seven heroes of Israeli-Palestinian
reconciliation whose spirits you would like to invite into your
sukkah. Even if you don't have a sukkah you
can still chose seven characters - one for every night of
Sukkot - and read something about each one every night
at your dinner table.
If you would like
to add to these ideas, please contact the Brit Tzedek Religious
Affairs Committee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sign the Open
Letter from American Jews to the Next President, click on http://openletter.btvshalom.org/.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
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Phone: (312) 341-1205
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