The LEGO Sukkot Movie: Jewish Holidays 101

The LEGO Sukkot Movie: Jewish Holidays 101


I call Sukkot the Jewish “picnic holiday”
– because you get to eat your meals outside. And you build a hut to provide shade for you, your family and your guests. And you do it for a week. Oh, and you wave around a trident made out of plants. And a weird lemon thing. Wait, stop – back up: (needle scratch) How did we end up with a holiday like this? God tells Moses to tell the Israelites about the three awesome parties – aka harvest festivals – they will
have once they reach the Promised Land: Passover, Shavuot and the fall harvest, the Festival
of Booths, Sukkot. Why? Because, as God tells Moses, the people of Israel shall dwell in booths. Now, here, a booth doesn’t mean a phone booth or a photo booth. it means a festival picnic hut. And we’re supposed to live and eat in our
festival picnic huts, our “sukkot.” You’re encouraged to sleep in it. Study Torah in it. Hang out in it…all day long. In some places, you can sukkah hop, enjoying
food and l’chayims all night long. The sukkah is a symbol not only of the harvest
(when ancient crop harvesters spent nights in field-huts)…but also of the clouds of
glory God created to protect the Israelites wandering the desert. So we make our Sukkot today comfy, magical
places. Some families hang gourds, strings of popcorn,
paper chains, drawings, disco balls… The one thing that ties them all together
is schach, the plant matter on top. And there’s more: God said on the first day
of this festival, take the fruit of good trees, branches of palm-trees, boughs of leafy trees,
and willows of the brook, and party it up before God. That’s all the Torah has to say on the subject
of the Harvest Holiday]. Fortunately, the Talmud explains what to do
with these 4 species. The 3 green species, we bind together — Meanwhile,
the “fruit of the good tree,” is identified as an Etrog. An etrog has an amazing, fresh citrus smell,
but if you chop it open, there’s – like – ZERO fruit inside. Don’t bother trying to eat it, you’ll just
be “pithed” off. You hold the etrog to the hilt of the Lulav,
you shake it around and boom: you’ve fulfilled a mitzvah. Some Mitzvahs are so easy! The Kabbalist Arizal said we shake it in 6
directions to draw energy to the heart; each direction symbolizing a mystical sphere. Lulav. So cool but what’s the meaning? Well, like so many Jewish traditions, there
are multiple answers. Some say the 4 species symbolize parts of
the body. Others say different types of people. Me, I just enjoy the feeling, the sound and
the smell. Sukkot has a special synagogue service with
extra prayers, songs, and a lulav parade..and no Jewish holiday would be complete without
a festive meal…in this case, in a sukkah. There are loads of religious technicalities
about building sukkahs, but no creative limits. I’ve seen Sukkahs on balconies. I have seen a skylight covered with schach,
and a clever Sukkah-mobile. In Detroit, there’s a shipping crate sukkah. In venice, there was a boat sukkah. In Portland, a sukkah on a bike trailer (of
course). And others have gone waaay out the box. But they all have schach on the roof – from
palm fronds to pine needles – the schach has some deep, deep symbolism to it. It must be sparse enough to allow rain in
and to let you see the stars. And yet it must be thick enough to provide
more shade than sun. One way to understand it: God’s light pours
into this world filling it with life . But we can’t look straight at the light. It’s blinding. It takes clouds, or schach, to filter this
light into a form we can appreciate, understand and handle. Maybe the idea is that in our world, we can’t
see God…but we can see God’s shadow. In acts of kindness. In acts of justice. In each other’s faces.

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