Why Sukkot is my favorite Jewish holiday

Why Sukkot is my favorite Jewish holiday
Rabbi Daniel Lehmann

At a Hausner board meeting last month we gathered in small groups and discussed our favorite Jewish holidays. I shared that my favorite, though I love all of them, is Sukkot. Here are a few reasons why Sukkot tops the list for me.

Sukkot is an immersive holiday. When you walk into a sukkah and sit down for a meal or conversation, you are literally surrounded by the mitzvah, the commandment. No other holiday provides you with as extensive a 360° experience in the way sukkot does. The entire environment within the sukkah creates a spiritual setting every day of the festival. In addition, sights and smells of the holiday including the sukkah decorations, the schach (the thatched roof of the sukkah), the smells of the lulav and etrog, the feel of four species we hold and shake throughout the holiday, all involve our various senses in the joyful celebration that marks the end of the holiday season. 

The sukkah is a space that allows us to create an intimate environment for family, friends, and guests to focus on each other. But at the same time, the thatched roof and thin, often partial walls, invite us to look outward toward the outside world, to be open to the elements, both natural and human, that surround us. The relationship to nature that Sukkot generates is particularly compelling to me and encourages us to reflect on how we can reconnect to aspects of our beautiful, complex world that often go unnoticed as we go through our busy, daily lives.

Our sages teach that when we take the four species (palm, willow, myrtle, and citron) in our hands to shake, it represents the diversity of the Jewish people coming together in joy and praise. Each of the four represents a different kind of Jew and we bring them together to symbolize that our diversity is a strength, that we can be both a diverse and unified community at the same time.

These qualities of Sukkot are also attributes of Jewish day school education in general, and Hausner in particular. Our school is an immersive environment in which learning, both Jewish and general, takes place organically through stimulating all of the senses. Living and learning are intentionally intertwined in ways that few other Jewish institutions can match. Hausner also forms a community of learning that is intimate and rooted in Jewish culture while also outward-facing, engaging the broader world. At Hausner, we dive into the Jewish tradition in ways that provide rich resources for how to contribute to our secular society. Finally, Hausner is a pluralistic institution that brings together diverse individuals from our community with different backgrounds, customs, and commitments. Together, we build a community that can learn with and from each other, celebrate as a unified collective while respecting and admiring the differences that make up the beautiful mosaic that is our school.

I want to wish all of you a Chag Sukkot Sameach, a meaningful and joyful Sukkot Holiday. May our school continue to be a Sukkkat Shalom, a Sukkah of peace, wholeness, and growth.

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