A retro repost from last year.
Yea! It’s time for Sukkot, or “The Feast Of Booths” or “Tabernacles”.
What the heck does that mean? It means “Go Camping!”
Seriously though, Sukkot is the holiday where we remember when we were traveling in the desert after fleeing Mitzrayim (Egypt), and we had to live in portable, fragile huts, or booths. In the time of the Temple it was one of the biggest pilgrimage holidays where Jews would come from all over to celebrate together as a people.
So why huts? What do they symbolize?
The sukkah, or booth, is a reminder of the booths that our ancestors lived in. We take this time to remember that we left Egypt with almost nothing and with nowhere to live, and we depended on G-d to provide and protect us.
They are also a symbol of the protective clouds, the Clouds of Glory, that hovered over our ancestors after we left Egypt and protected them through the wanderings. The Sages tell us about how the Clouds of Glory disappeared after the first Yom Kippur, and one of the things we celebrate is that the clouds returned on the 15th of Tishrei, symbolizing that G-d had truly forgiven us.
Observing Sukkot is usually done by building a sukkah following some specific Halachic rules, and spending the night and eating your meals there. Here is a fantastic link from a great resource for building a sukkah. While this is a great thing to do, and a really great experience for families, it may not be practical. So I would suggest some alternatives that, while maybe not Halachically “correct”, will allow you to explore and appreciate this wonderful Holy time:
- Take a walk outside with your family.
- Look at nature.
- Reflect on your connection to the Earth and to G-d.
- Go camping.
- Get out of the house and feel the reality of the world around you.
Sukkot is a time when we take a look at what usually makes us happy. We’ve just asked for and (presumably) been forgiven for our transgressions from the past year. Sukkot is one of the agricultural holidays; it takes place during the reaping time where the Israelites would fill their storehouses with their produce grown during the summer. So we sit, forgiven and happy that we have so much. But what is the real source of happiness? Our connection to the Infinite. On Sukkot we take the opportunity to celebrate what was only days before a somber event. We now move outside and leave behind those things that may make us happy on the materialistic level, and bask in the connection to the Essence that was formed over the High Holidays. Seeing how fragile the physical world is, spending time out of doors in nature, and appreciating the basis of our reality is a gift that we are given as Jews, and one that I invite you to partake in.
(Originally posted here by our friend Ketzirah)
In the traditional morning prayer service, it is a common practice to gather the fringes (tzitzit) of the prayer shawl into your left hand while saying the Shema — the central statement of faith. This practice came to mind after I read what I felt to be a poorly informed, fear-based blog post about Kohenet on Jewschool. If you read this site, you know that Kohenet is my one of my spiritual homes and I spent 3.5 years in that program earning the right to call myself a Kohenet. Actually, if you read this site you probably know a lot more about the program than the author of that blog post. But, I honestly don’ t wish to put any more energy there.
What I want to do is remind everyone that fringes are sacred in Judaism.
“Speak to the children of Israel and say to them that they should make fringes on the wings of their garments throughout their generations, and they should put upon the fringe of the wing a thread of blue. They will be fringes for you, and you will look at them and remember the desires of the Eternal your God, and you will not turn aside after your hearts or your eyes that you seek to feed. Thus shall your remember my desires and be holy to the Infinite. I, Adonai, am the Infinite who led you out of Egypt to be infinite to you. I, the Infinite, am your God.” (Num 15:38-41, as found in the Kohenet Siddur)
Fringes remind us of what is important in life. What is the fringe also depends on your perspective. To me, someone who is Orthodox is on the fringe. The majority of Jews are not Orthodox. When I see someone who is Orthodox, I feel as though they are my tzitzit. I felt the same when I once attended Yom Kippur services at a Secular Humanist synagogue. They are fringes on the other side. There, I just wanted to feel a little more G!d(dess) in the experience and I was reminded of how much I treasure my own sense of spiritual connection.
Every religion has its fringes. Every movement has its fringes. Every art form has its fringes. Jews don’t, or shouldn’t, cut of their fringes. They are sacred. We gather them in with our left hand (the receptive hand) while we recite our most sacred statement of faith. We gather them in with love because they are us, and they are there to teach us something. They are there to offer us an opportunity. They are there to remind us what is sacred in life.
As we enter the Days of Awe, I invite you to look more kindly on the fringes you encounter. See them as the “thread of blue.” Bless them for being the tzitzit of life and helping you connect more fully to the Infinite — however you experience it.
I met Russell Gottschalk at the Limmud Southeast Festival last year. One of the few indie dudes at the family fun fest, I was instantly impressed by his love of the Jewish people, his taste in music, and the fact that I had a wing-man to help me with the ladies that weekend.
Russell told me he wanted to start an Atlanta Jewish Music Festival and I was totally into it. I have been watching the progress of the festival (of which I have not been nearly involved as I wish I would have been) and was really excited that Russell wanted to talk with me about the festival. What I learned is that the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival is not just a music festival, it’s a mission.
“I think it’s important to celebrate Judaism culturally. I’ve worked for the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival for the past four years [and] unfortunately it hasn’t done the best job of engaging the younger demographic.”
It made me wonder: why hasn’t Atlanta had a Jewish music festival, when cities like Houston, which aren’t exactly Jewish hot spots, are having them? The answer to Russell is not about Jews, but about Southern history:
“The South has a history of delayed social change…it takes chutzpah (courage) to get something started. It’s difficult to start something new, particularly in the South [and] people are going to wonder what this is about.”
This education of the masses is something Russell is engaged in all the time, not just about the festival itself, but the idea of Jewish music all together.
“The biggest issue we’ve had is ‘what does a contemporary Jewish music festival look like’? It’s not what your accustomed to hearing. There are Jewish musicians who are creating music….. that people should know about.”
Russell and the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival have approached this question of “what is Jewish music” by taking a very open policy. “We define Jewish music as artistic expressions that come out of someone’s Jewish identity. [Your music is Jewish] if you’re artistic expression is an extension of your Jewish identity.”
Russell represents the cultural Jew…the Jew-ish person. And in that way, he also represents an entire generation of Jewish youth. “Our identities are very complex…other generations didn’t have that option. That Jewish piece of the pie has gotten a lot smaller. Our peers don’t need to promote [their jewishness].”
This makes the need for things like the Jewish music festival so important. “This is going to be a cool Jewish event and we don’t have enough cool Jewish events in our community. Our demographic … wants to have cool Jewish programming”.
The music festival is going to highlight some awesome artists including Moshav, Deleon, Girls In Trouble and Atlanta’s own Atlanta Afro Klezmer Orchestra. The Jewish south shall rise again, June 5th at the Apache Cafe.
Come taste what’s been improving for over five thousand years…
PunkTorah invites you to Nibble and NoshFest at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta, GA, Sunday, May 30th and Monday May 31st.
Local restaurants will be serving amazing tapas style snacks ranging from $1.00 – $3.00 including your favorite Middle Eastern and Jewish deli treats. And we’re thrilled to hear that HeBrew Beer will have some liquid courage on-tap.
There’s also going to be a ton of great vendors selling Jewish themed gifts and art, some awesome music including local celebs Shabbat Rocks and an open-mic for anyone who wants to show off their talent.
The great thing about this event (other than the awesome PunkTorah booth) is the spirit. This isn’t just a “Jewish” event…it’s a community event. As our friend Lesley Litt (the fundraising VP for Temple Kol Emeth told us), “This event will put Judaism out there [into the community]. We sent out letters to all the churches in Cobb county with a letter from our rabbi saying ‘Hello, we want you to be our guest…and to experience our culture.'”
For more info check out www.noshfest.com
Located in the Temple Kol Emeth parking lot at the corner of Old Canton and Sewell Mill Rd. Marietta, GA 30062