Sukkot

Chag’ha Succot, the “Feast of Booths” (or Tabernacles), is named for the huts (sukkah) that Moses and the Israelites lived in as they wandered the desert for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land. Commemorates the Jewish people’s wanderings in the desert. All meals must be eaten in special temporary hut – the “Sukkah” Rituals with four species of plants – Lulav and Etrog – culminating with special services on the seventh day – Hoshana Rabah.

Activities:

Chol Ha-Mo’ed are the four days that follow the first two festival days of Sukkot. During the morning service in synagogue, Hallel prayers are recited and a procession takes place with the lulav and the etrog.
On the first night of Chol HaMo’ed we observe the ceremony of the ‘Water Libation’. This recalls a ceremony performed in the Holy Temple, using water drawn from the pool of Siloam near Jerusalem.

It is believed that the Water Libation ceremony was originally a protest by the masses against those who believed that the more expensive the sacrifice, the more acceptable it would be to God. The ceremony evolved to show that it was the meaning and intention (kavanah) behind any sacrifice which made it valid, not the worth of the actual sacrifice itself.

In ISRAEL – note from my friend Rachel about how they celebrate:

Purim is more of a big deal here in Israel than I would have thought. Of course the little kids in kindergarten and elementary school get dressed up in costume, have parades in the school, and sometimes in town. But a lot of adults  have masquerade parties in their homes, sometimes with themes.
Somewhere in our box of 8mm movie films I have a movie of a Purim costume party we had in our old apartment – Dick went as a sailor, I went as a toned-down version of the Playboy bunny, and I remember that our Argentinian neighbor (a doctor) and his wife, dressed colorfully as Argentinian farmers, burst into our apartment to the accompaniment of loud folk music (Los something or other), danced in wild circles around our living room with a covered basket over his arm, at the end of the music they uncovered the basket with a flourish and a live chicken jumped out and ran squawking all over our living room. They got first prize for best costume! Everyone absolutely shrieked with delight and amazement!

I think Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have stopped having the Adloyada Parade which is a big parade on the main street with floats and all sorts of outrageous figures, political caricatures, cartoons, whatever.  I will know more after the holiday by whatever appears in the newspaper. (I think they stopped it for financial reasons, but it used to have quite a turnout).

The supermarkets and bakeries go in for a huge variety of Hamentaschen, with lots of types of fillings: plum jam, dates, nuts, chocolate, apple, dulce de leche and other more exotic types, although the dough is always a hard cookie dough, not a soft dough (as I have sometimes had in the U.S.). These are already available, and we had some during our last Shabbat dinner for dessert.

Of course our synagogue (locally called “the shul”) has a reading of the megillah, lots of noisy gregar shaking, and interruptions on the name of “Haman”, and intentional disturbing of the reader, almost a comedy, but all planned and part of the program. The kids love it, and the adults plan and cooperate. We have a young and young-spirited Rabbi and Rebbetzin who do their utmost to keep everyone interested.

Seudat Purim is a great tradition, which we practice a lot more now, inviting friends for Purim lunch. (I enjoy that a great deal, not having to deal with the constraints of Friday night and Shabbat).

Over the years we have spent some interesting Purims and heard the Megillah read in some out-of-the-way places- one of them in the Great Synagogue in Budapest, another one in the sand-covered floor synagogue of Curacao, another in Tokyo, another with Habbad in Pushkar, India.

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