Sukkot | סוכות

Time to Weep, Time to Dance: Sukkot 5780

Enough with all this happiness! The Torah commands, and we dutifully sing, “rejoice on your festival… and be entirely happy” (Deut. 16: 14, 15). The Rabbis explain the original form of rejoicing to be the consumption of the “happy sacrifice” (קרבן שמחה) during Temple times; thereafter everyone should rejoice in their own way—by drinking wine,…

Sin Past the Point of Return: Sukkot 5779

Each of our three pilgrimage festivals is associated with one of the Megillot. On Passover we read the magnificent poetry of the Song of Songs; on Shavuot the moving story of Ruth, and then there is Sukkot. Ecclesiastes is an important book, but it isn’t such a joy to read. First, it is very long,…

Speaking of Joy: Sukkot 5778

The Sefat Emet (R. Judah Aryeh Leib of Gur,1847-1905) offers many gems for deepening our understanding of the festival of Sukkot. He opens one drashah with reference to the “joy of water-drawing” ritual (simhat beit hasho’eivah) which was conducted in the Temple on these days. Mishnah Sukkah (5:1) states that, “one who has not witnessed…

Building it is Better than Being Inside: Sukkot 5777

Sunday was a day of frenzied construction for my friends and me on a farm in upstate NY. Thirty-two of us were gathering to celebrate the first days of Sukkot together, but that meant intense activity among the early arrivals to build and decorate our Sukkah. Ours is a rustic project—no metal, plastic or even…

Do You Wear Tefillin on Hol HaMo’ed? Sukkot 5777

  Given the great quantity and complexity of halakhot leading up to the festivals of Pesah and Sukkot, we seldom focus on the question of whether to wear Tefillin during the middle days of hol hamo’ed until it is actually upon us. The observant Jewish community is literally all over the map on this subject,…

Are You Hungry for Leviathan? Sukkot 5774

After the heavy themes of sin and atonement that have occupied us so far in Tishrei, it is a relief to turn our attention to Sukkot, the time of our rejoicing. I love being outside, even when it gets chilly and wet, and the tastes, fragrances, sounds and touch of the four species and the…