What is Sukkot? A Jewish Perspective

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Stephen Wise

Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road. He is also the chair of the Interfaith Council of Halton.

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Sukkot, or Tabernacles, is the lesser known, but still most joyous Jewish festival. For a week, we are commanded to leave the security of our houses and live in huts or booths to remind us of the tabernacles in which the Israelites sheltered during the forty years of wandering on their way to the promised land.



For several days beforehand – beginning immediately after the Day of Atonement – Jewish families become teams of builders, putting up the fragile structure, roofing it with leaves, and decorating it so that it becomes a temporary home where we eat and study and welcome guests.

Shaarei-Beth El in Oakville builds the Sukkah each year in our backyards, decorated valiantly by our youth and, weather permitting, we will have many meals there this week.  We celebrate with four species of plant, imported from Israel, that symbolize the bounty of the harvest season that is concluding in Israel right now.

One more mystical aspect of Sukkot is our opportunity to welcome guests to the Sukkah.  We invite people of all faiths and backgrounds to come and join together for a meal.  But we are also spiritually invited to welcome our ancestors from centuries past such as Abraham, Moses, King David, Theodore Herzl, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and more.

What a beautiful opportunity to think back about our past leaders who helped bring us to this day. Sukkot reminds us of the courage to celebrate even in the transitory shelter, which is transformed into the Jewish symbol of hope and home.


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