Thursday, August 13, 2009

Festival

Although the summer days are long and hot, my thoughts have turned to the Jewish holiday cycle that will soon be upon us.  Beginning with Rosh ha-Shanah, we spend a week and a half turning inward to sometimes difficult self-reflection,  chanting our ancient, quiet prayers, and finally, fasting in somber repentance on Yom Kippur.   The Days of Awe are radically unlike any other part of my year.  Jews during this time exist in a sacred space that is part of the world, but also apart from it; it is always a challenging time for me, a Reform Jew in the modern world, a communal and personal moment of reckoning.  

Immediately after Yom Kippur, though, we begin to reenter the regular world with an eye toward the practical, as we celebrate the Jewish harvest holiday in the festival of Sukkot.  Preparation for Sukkot (which means "booths" or tabernacles in Hebrew, representing the little huts set up alongside the fields during harvest in ancient times) involves the quite literally grounding act of building a sukkah, whether in our own backyard or with our synagogue.  During the Days of Awe we engaged in quiet reflection; at Sukkot, we are busy giving thanks to God with hammer and nails!

Once built, the sukkot are decorated with photos of the ancestors, and all manner of colorful paper chains, tissue paper flowers, and magic marker drawings hanging from yarn--the provenance of the children of the family, who are thrilled to be included in the creation of what is, after all, really just a wonderful playhouse.

Sometimes prayer is an intangible, words that roar or whisper symbolically; but during Sukkot, our prayer is a solid little structure, a very real shelter built with our own hands. 


ופרוש עלינו  סכת שלומך

spread over us the shelter of Your peace




The permanent structure for the temporary sukkah we build upstate; the upper beams will be covered with pine branches, creating a roof that will allow us to see the stars, to feel the rain.


29 comments:

Poetikat said...

Thank you for sharing these elements of your rituals, Leah. As someone whose knowledge of the Jewish faith stems from "Fiddler on the Roof" and Woody Allen movies, it's really nice to read about these lovely traditions. The sukkah is a beautiful structure and its symbolism must be powerful for you.

I think no matter what faith we practice, there is always an element of doubt or difficulty and self-reflection is vital.

Kat

Brian Miller said...

this sounds like a sweet time of reflection on the things that are most important and remembering to give thanks. thank you for sharing them with us...warm smiles.

Ronda Laveen said...

Thank so much for sharing the beauty and meaning of your rituals. The simplicity of the sukkah is powerful. I truly understand the part of being of this world but not part of it during reflection. Peace.

nick said...

I didn't know about the Days of Awe. The idea of a sacred space that is both worldly and other-worldly seems to be an important element of so many religions, a very inspiring way of getting off the materialistic treadmill for a while and discovering something deeper and more spiritual.

otin said...

You really let us into your world, this was great to see how some people reflect on things, and anything that involves looking at the stars is ok in my book!

underOvr (aka The U) said...

Hi Leah,

The Hebrew language and Torah are both enlightening and inspiring. There is a rich history that fully encompasses the Jewish people. I admire, respect and appreciate the history and spiritual expression of the Jewish people; their relationship with God.

U

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Do you know what I like most about the Jewish faith? They don’t proselytize. The maniac fringe of the Christians and Muslims claim that you’ll burn in hell if you don’t convert to their faith. Not only is it difficult to convert to Judaism, some Orthodox Jews want to throw some Jews out because they’re not Jewish enough! It’s the same thing with the Buddhists. Do you know that if you want to learn about Buddhism, you have to find a teacher and ask to be taught? Beautiful.

savannah said...

thank you for such a straight forward explanation of your holidays. too often, we forget how much muslims, jews and christians all have in common...belief in God and the wonder that is this world we share.

and in true southern fashion, sugar, bless your heart!

squeaky carts said...

Interesting blog!

The Clever Pup said...

Sounds like a super tradition to remember one's ancestors. Have a wonderful celebration.

Megan said...

Wow that's pretty darned cool. Thanks Leah!

Baino said...

I do like ritual and learning about it. The Christian rituals have lost meaning and all look like silly men dressing up but I remember being allowed to attend a passover supper years ago and it was quite beautiful . .thanks for the insite and your sukkah looks like the bones of something quite wonderful.

Baino said...

I do like ritual and learning about it. The Christian rituals have lost meaning and all look like silly men dressing up but I remember being allowed to attend a passover supper years ago and it was quite beautiful . .thanks for the insite and your sukkah looks like the bones of something quite wonderful.

Kris said...

I like the look of that.

Scarlet-Blue said...

Will we get pics when the pine branches are on?
Sometimes I regret not having rituals and not having the feeling of belonging that goes with them.
Sx

Suzanne said...

Hi baby. You know me by now and know I'm looking at that structure!!! That's just pretty honey!!! I want one. When I move home can you please stop by and help build one. Thanks.

The Jewish faith. You know I have so many Jewish friends, so know some things, but not all. This was a wonderful lesson. Happy holidays darling to you and your family.

With tons of love,
Me

Suzanne said...

And yes, I noticed the window. Brilliant!

PI said...

Whatever one's beliefs that is a most lovely place to pray, meditate or whatever we do to be at peace.
I agree with Scarlet but find myself imposing my own rituals.

subtorp77 said...

Leah, hadn't heard of the Sukkot before. I like the ancestral part of it( sounds a bit like the Day of the Dead for remembrance ). I thank you for opening up this part of yourself and the prayer, yes!

Marianna said...

This is why I love blogging...so many things to learn and discover. Thank you for this post!

xoxo

Candie Bracci said...

That was beautiful Leah!Thank you.
I really love that last sentence in hebrew and that roof to see the stars and feel the rain.

Hebrew is a beautiful language,I chose it as an option back in college,but I've done it just a year and I was having already 3 languages,so I didn't study it properly,but I love to hear it.I just know how to write Shalom,that's all and to sing "Yerushalaim Shel Zahav",but I don't know the whole words and traduction.What the chorus says is beautiful.

Enjoy the last moments of the festival and have a nice weekend.

kylie said...

it has taken me so long to comment here you have another post up!
i was interested to notice how a time of reflection i sfollowed by a time of physical activity. reflection is a good thing but it's not always terribly pleasantso i'm imagining that the busyness that follows might be quite therapeutic

or i might be way off beam

hope you're doing well
k

Karen ^..^ said...

This was a beautiful post. I love that you shared and explained this for us. It is obvious the amount of love and respect you have for these sacred holidays.

You tell it so well, and I think the Jewish religion is a beautiful one.

Your shelter is beautiful too.

bindhiya said...

Dear Leah,
I cannot leave a comment on the new post.. so here am.
I have a friend just look like that :) her name was Minnu and she recognize her name, when i call her she will come to me.
Enjoy the celebrations
have a great weekend.
love & ((hugs))
bindi

Cinnamon said...

Interesting to read about this festival Leah. Thought you may be interested to know that my post is up on the VBC re 'Fugitive Pieces'. BTW tried to comment on your cute duck- but 'comments disabled a blog administrator'???

Abi said...

Wow, it sounds magical... good luck with it all Leah! I agree with Karen it sounds so beautiful :)

I love your ducky friend too!

otin said...

I can't comment on the duck in the latest post??

muralimanohar said...

Very cool. I always love to get a glimpse of the meaning behind symbols and rituals of another path.

lettuce said...

I love the image of prayer as a solid little self-built shelter