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It is a mitzbah to build a sukkah and to observe Sukkot in a sukkah. The Torah (Leviticus 23:42-43) tells us that we are to live in a booth for seven days. Of course, it is not always possible to build a sukkah of one's own. Those who live in apartments may not have the outdoor space necessary for a sukkah. We are also instructed (Deuteronomy 16:14-15) to celebrate in the sukkah. We do this by eating our meals in a sukkah. Synagogues and Jewish community centers often have sukkot (plural of sukkah) that are open to the public, where one can eat a meal. Even if we dine outdoors often, eating a meal in a sukkah is a wonderful reminder of the fall harvest and our connection to the world around us.
As Africans, we are joining African cultures around the world who take time to say Thank You to the Creator for their final harvest of the agricultural year. This is a time when our final seeds are planted in preparation for a new harvest. These seeds will go under the earth to transform into what we pray to be a great Spring Harvest, the first Harvest of our biblical New Year. Truth be told this is when Kwanzaa should truly be shared not in December when there is no harvesting or planting of crops. Even in the American tradition of Thanksgiving, Sukkot is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for all that sustains us.
So if there is no sukkah near you for the next seven days, what can you do to keep this Mitzbah? Rabbi Appell suggest that you consider ways to celebrate the change of seasons and how the bounty of the harvest can be shared with others. A donation to a food pantry or to a shelter for the homeless is a wonderful way of celebrating Sukkot. My suggestion is that you find your way to Abba's creation. Spend time in a nearby park to meditate upon the goodness of our Eternal. At minimal have signs of the harvest season within your home. Branches from trees near by, Pumpkins and apples and even adding remaining summer fruits of corn and grapes to create your own cornucopia or harvest basket. Set it near a window, if you do not have any outdoor space. However, if you have a yard, please take time to set your table up outdoors. Some simply use a tent or their porch or patio for their first Sukkah but if there are outdoor options, set your special tribute to the Eternal near a window. Turn on an online Sukkot Celebration and share with others even though you cannot get there. If you are doing this with you and your family, consider a special Psalm for each evening. I love to use the Ascent Psalms at this time but also consider using a Jewish Siddur (Prayer Book) and your family will be reciting the same prayers being recited across the world on each night of Sukkot. There is power in corporate prayer I surely believe. Here is a link to one but others are free online. Google Siddur for Sukkot.
Now, if you live near a kenesset, that has built a Sukkah, be sure to visit and bring with you fruit to share with others and eat in the Sukkah. I will post some online options for observing Sukkah below as well.
Here are other ideas from Rabbi Appell: "One of the mitzvot of Sukkot is to rejoice during the holiday. Another tradition, ushpizin, involves inviting symbolic guests to the sukkah. Plan a festive meal, inviting family and friends, featuring food common to the fall harvest. Another important mitzvah of Sukkot is the gathering of the four species represented by the lulav (palm branches) and the etrog (a citron). There are many lovely stories associated with these symbols, which help to emphasize the agricultural basis of this holiday."
I am not sure why Jewish Culture use the Palm Branch but I do know that the Palm branch is a very blessed item in many African cultures. Some cultures refer to it as the hand palm of our Creator. Palm trees are very resilient and weathers all seasons and citrus fruit I assume represents the bittersweetness of life. Well, below is a link where Jews share why they use these two symbols. Where ever or however you decide, just do not allow these next seven days to go by without giving our Eternal Elohim your time upon each evening of the next eight days. Chag Sameach!
Special links below: