What Exactly Is a Sukkah?

What Exactly Is a Sukkah?

Sep 24, 2021 By David Zev Moster | Commentary | Sukkot

Have you ever asked yourself what defines a sukkah? Not how to build one or what makes it kosher, but why have one in the first place? What is its purpose? Was the sukkah part of daily life in ancient Israel? Did it have a role outside the holiday that bears its name?

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In God’s Image

In God’s Image

Sep 17, 2021 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Ha'azinu | Sukkot

What does it mean to be created in God’s image? Or to act in a God-like way? As I reread Parashat Ha’azinu, I was struck by the ways Moses’s song poetically develops God’s care for the Israelites, and I discovered in the vivid and diverse metaphors the beginnings of an answer. From the opening lines, where God’s words are likened to varieties of rain, sustaining and giving life to all, to God as an eagle “who rouses his nestlings” and “bears them along his pinions” (Deut. 32:11), this God builds up, guides, teaches, and protects. God provides for the Israelites’ physical needs with gifts of abundance, nurturing the people with “honey from the crag” as a mother nurses her child (Deut. 32:13). The Israelites’ lack of gratitude inflames God’s anger, but God bestows mercy and forgiveness, despite there being no mention of teshuva (repentance). God gives.

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We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

We are All Sukkah-Dwellers

Oct 2, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Sukkot

Since the accidental discovery of X-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895 and the subsequent creation of X-ray machines, we have been able to view our bodies through two different lenses. The first is what we see in the mirror—a body of flesh, which takes various forms and distinguishes one individual from another. The second is not visible to the naked eye; it is the skeletal structure that supports the flesh and organs that surround it. Though both are necessary constituent elements of our physical being, we are generally much more conscious of our outer being than our inner one. And yet, our bones are more durable than our flesh. Long after we die and our flesh has wasted away, our skeletal structure continues to exist.

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Human Lives and the Natural World

Human Lives and the Natural World

Oct 18, 2019 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Sukkot

For many of us who live in dense metropolitan areas, spending time in national parks gives us a unique opportunity to experience in more immediate fashion the majesty of our world. Vacationing in the Canadian Rockies this past summer—hiking in the mountains, walking on glaciers, boating in deep blue lakes, cooling off in the spray of gorgeous waterfalls, identifying rare birds and seeing moose, elk, deer, and the occasional bear (thankfully from a distance)—I felt awed and fortunate to behold this.

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Cantillation for Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Ruth

Cantillation for Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Ruth

Oct 23, 2018 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Prayer Recordings | Pesah | Shavuot | Sukkot

Recordings by Cantor Sarah Levine (CS ’17).

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When Buildings Fall

When Buildings Fall

Sep 28, 2018 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Sukkot

From my childhood perspective growing up in an apartment building in suburban Boston, having a sukkah was a symbol of arrival—and our family didn’t have one. Most of our friends lived in private homes, and so, with a mixture of enjoyment and jealousy, we traipsed all around town to have our yom tov meals in other people’s sukkot.

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A Sukkah Remembers

A Sukkah Remembers

Oct 4, 2017 By Ofra Backenroth | Commentary | Sukkot

In his poem “The Jews,” Yehuda Amichai (1924–2000) bestows on us a full typology of the Jewish people—from the standpoints of both Jews themselves and outsiders. Some of those images remain with us: the Jew wearing a Turkish turban in a Rembrandt painting, the Chagall Jew holding a violin as he flies over rooftops, and other vivid images. In the middle of the poem, Amichai mentions a sukkah—his grandfather’s sukkah, in particular. Amichai turns the memory of the Israelites’ wanderings in the desert that the sukkah usually evokes on its head, and describes the sukkah as an object that itself remembers and reflects back to us the history of the Jews.

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Our Very Life

Our Very Life

Oct 4, 2017 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Sukkot

One time it happened that a priest poured the libation on his feet, and all the people pelted him with their etrogim. (M. Sukkah 4:9)

The above Mishnah describes a scandalous episode set on the festival of Sukkot during the Second Temple period. The previous mishnah explains that on each day of the festival there was a ceremony where the priests would fill a golden flask with water from the Shiloah spring and bring it to the Temple to offer as a sacrifice on the altar. The special sacrifice of water was only offered on Sukkot. All other days of the year wine would be poured on the altar.

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Kohelet’s Pursuit of Truth: A New Reading of Ecclesiastes

Kohelet’s Pursuit of Truth: A New Reading of Ecclesiastes

Mar 1, 2017 By The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event audio | Sukkot

In his book Kohelet’s Pursuit of Truth, Rabbi Benjamin J. Segal, former president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, presents an arresting new translation and commentary on Ecclesiastes that unlocks the ancient wisdom of one of the deepest and most controversial books of the Tanakh.

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Face to Face

Face to Face

Oct 21, 2016 By Stephanie Ruskay | Commentary | Sukkot

We’ve lost touch with how to speak with one another. How else can we understand our current political reality?

Seemingly overnight, our national conversation has sunk into a morass of racism, classism, Islamophobia, and misogyny. And yet it didn’t happen overnight. We created—and allowed to be created—a system that encourages each of us to demonize anyone from a different background and with a different perspective. We got used to interacting only with people who agree with us.

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