Tag Archives | sukkot

New Ushpizin/ot: legendary, if unconventional, biblical heroes visit your sukkah

Ushpizin: It’s not just a movie about crooks and Chareidim in Jerusalem.

Ushpizin (guests in Aramaic) is also a quirky little ritual for metaphysically welcoming heroes from the bible into your sukkah. Much to my delight, modern versions that add women to the list of heroes abound! And now, Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute (JOI, the organization I work for) has put forth a delightfully subversive new version that includes some heroes of the Jewish spirit of being welcoming of diversity (including — gasp! — intermarried families). More on all of that below the picture….

More on Ushpizin from MyJewishLearning.com:

In addition to extending personal invitations to the needy (in former times it was customary to have at least one poor person at a Sukkot meal; today donation of funds often is a substitute), we open our homes symbolically.

With a formula established by the kabbalists in the 16th century, based on the earlier Zohar, on each night of Sukkot we invite one of seven exalted men of Israel to take up residence in the sukkah with us.

All seven traditional guests are men, of course: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David.

Though a number of Ushpizot versions (seven women instead of men) and combined ushpizin/ot versions (seven pairs of women and men) are now in circulation, the ritual has sadly fallen off the radar and out of common use in the left-of-Orthodox community — probably because of its bizarrely woo-woo character and its unabashedly patriarchal content. Though every version I’ve seen includes Sarah, fewer versions include all four matriarchs than you’d think. The lists I’ve seen have included any of the following:

  • Sarah
  • Rebecca
  • Rachel
  • Leah
  • Miriam
  • Deborah
  • Abigail
  • Huldah
  • Hannah
  • Esther
  • Ruth
  • Tamar
  • Dinah

Neohasid has a fascinating piece that puts forth a combined version, which pays close attention to the important role wacky kabbalistic stuff (which characters go well with which sefirot and so forth) plays in Ushpizin. Ritualwell, of course, has like a bajillion ushpizot things. Inevitably, there’s also ushpizot.org.

But what prompted me to write this post is the new version of Ushpizin/ot created by my boss, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky, which you should check out over here. Kerry’s version highlights seven biblical characters we can look to as role models in our efforts to make the Jewish community more actively welcoming toward intermarried families and a diversity of other backgrounds. Since Sukkot, not to mention the whole Ushpizin thing, is all about being welcoming, it makes perfect sense! Here are the seven on Kerry’s list:

  1. Bat Pharaoh
  2. Ezra
  3. Moses’ unnamed second wife
  4. Naomi
  5. Osnat
  6. Ruth
  7. Tzipporah

And you should check out his explanations of each one in full too.

P.S.

As Kerry was writing, he asked around the office for suggestions. I pointed out how interesting it was that everyone on his list so far, purely by chance, were women! Then, thinking about JOI’s Public Space Judaism model, I suggested he include Ezra, the scribe who began the practice of bringing the Torah to the people and reading it in public.

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Occupy Chag: A sukkah pops up in Zuccotti Park

Occupy Judaism pushes forward. After Kol Nidrei services in New York, Philly, DC, Chicago and Boston, Sukkot has come to the Wall Street protests of those cities as well as the protests of Atlanta and LA. Or so I hear. I can only report firsthand on the sukkah that went up at 5pm yesterday at Occupy Wall Street’s downtown Manhattan home base of Zuccotti Park.

A quick summary: There was a lot of press (probably more press than actual Jews celebrating Sukkot), the sukkah was a Pop-Up Sukkah (which you can see in the middle of popping up in the picture above) and music was provided by a klezmer band that just happened to be at the park. And the wind was blowing on a biblical scale.

I’ve got some thoughts about the alliance of Occupy Wall Street and DIY Judaism at New Voices.

I’ve also got a boatload of photos. I wanted to embed a Picasa slideshow of them like I did for Occupy Kol Nidrei, but Picasa isn’t playing nice with me right now. So instead, for my play-by-play of the whole, go check out my Facebook album, which is totally accessible to the public.

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I didn’t really like Sukkah City

As far as I can tell, the only relatively negative coverage so far of Sukkah City has been at New Voices. Our slideshow, embedded below, has a few comments from me thrown in. Overall, I disliked Sukkah City because it made Judaism a conceptual abstraction. No one can enter or try to use the sukkot on display, which shows a basic failure to grasp the concept of the sukkah on the part of the exhibition itself.

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ArtScroll+Jesus=WTF?

A great post from prolific lefty open Orthodox blogger DovBear:

According to the Artscroll commentary, the poem claims that the lulav and esrog are held up as a sign of our victory over Satan. If it were actually in the poem, this would be astounding as it seems like a clear reference to the cross, what it symbolizes, and how its used. But as I say, I don’t think the text supports this reading. So it wasn’t the mideival Jewish poet who l tried to connect his lulav and esrog to the artifacts of the surrounding culture.  It was Artscroll — which is astounding enough, I suppose.

Read the whole post here.

[Edited later on the same day it was posted, to change my description of DovBear, following comments below.]

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How is a portable sukah an innovation?

Crossposted to Jewschool.

So the sukah is a remembrance of wandering in the desert and living in portable structures, right?

Tablet suggested on Tuesday a remarkable invention–a portable sukah. Either this is the biggest “no duh” invention in Jewish history, or it’s truly innovative. Think about it. We build these structures to commemorate a nomadic existence, but then leave them in one place for the duration of sukot.

Tablet has this to say about their dubiously-innovative innovation:

In advance of Sukkot, we reached out to architects and designers and asked for contemporary reimaginings of the sukkah. Charles and Julian Boxenbaum, the father-and-son duo behind BUZstudios … [have] delighted us yet again—this time with their portable SukkahSeat.

I’ll admit. It’s pretty cool. I kind of want one. Full story here.

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The Reformim in the Conservative shul

I went to Kane Street Synagogue on Brooklyn for erev Sukot/Shabat services last night. It’s a Conservative shul, but they have a Friday night minyan that has the feel of being an indie minyan, though it is far from indie.  Rather, it is the Friday night service of this affiliated, mid-size Brooklyn shul. I’ve previously written about KSS here, during my month of NYC shul-hopping last winter.

While there, I ran into to other Reformim. One is a URJ employee and the other was an HUC student. Hm.

I ask the following without wishing to insinuating that there is some crisis where none exists. What does it mean for URJ Jews when Reform Jews, who, unlike me, continue to associate with the Union go to services regularly, but don’t go to URJ synagogues regularly?

Of course, it was just a good as I remembered it, though the crowd seemed a little smaller. Last time I went, I arrived a little late and was confounded by the cluster of people who all seemed to be kind of leading the service. This time, I was there early so I got see that at the beginning of the service, Joey, the leader, just invites up anyone who wants to (“Even if you have no idea what you’re doing”) come up and help lead. What a great minhag! It also introduces a low-level buzz of chaos to the service, which I love.

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I put together my own Lulav! (kind of)

This year, intoxicated by the coolness of the videos at this post at Jewlicious, I decided that I wanted to not only get my own Lulav and Etrog, but that I wanted to assemble the Lulav myself. Jonathan Golden, a professor here at Drew and our wonderful Hillel adivsor, had his brother, a Sephardic rabbi, pick up the parts for me in Brooklyn while he was picking up several other peoples’ sets of Sukot magic rain stick wand things.

 

Demonstrating a zealous Lulav-shaking technique.

Demonstrating a zealous Lulav-shaking technique.

 

The Rabbi put it together Sephardic-style. This involved a single-cradle handle thing. The Ashkenazic version that we see most often in the US, has three parts that hold the palm, willow, and myrtle seperately. The Sephardic version has a single-compratment braided handle that all three plants go in together. He’d also put it together with three rings of palm, holding the palm branch together, as it’s supposed to be. The rings, however, were also put together in a different Sephardic way. I, still excited from the video at Jewlicious, decided to do my own Asheknazic rings, as the video instructs.

It was tons of fun. Thanks to Jonathan Golden and his brother for gettin the stuff to me. Thanks also to housemate Chris Damujian (christian) for letting me use his camera and to housemate Mays Zubair (muslim) for taking some of the pictures. Also thanks to Kate Noland (pagan) and Sarah Maple (catholic) for listening to me ramble about the purpose of my big rain stick. Now that’s ecumenical!

For the details on my assembly fun, check out this Facebook photo album. Though it is on Facebook, it is accessible to the public. Chag Sameach!

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