During the span of the holiday, Jews do things while holding the lulav and etrog that others might consider quaint. Every day while facing east, we say a blessing and shake them in all six directions (including up and down). In synagogue, men parade in a circle with the Torah scrolls, holding their arba minim, reciting verses and asking God to "hosha na" (save, please). These "hoshanas" were basically what followers of Jesus were doing with their palm fronds when he rode on his donkey to Jerusalem just prior to the crucifixion.
Then, there's the succa (also spelled "sukkah"), the holiday's namesake. Jews build not-so-watertight shelters in their backyards, according to very explicit rules. The key is that the "roof" must be of once-living organic material--at our house, fir boughs freshly cut from backyard trees. When we lived in LA, our topping, which has the throat-tickling name "skakh," was 20-foot palm fronds, also from our yard. Those with limited greenery access, no time, or laziness often use bamboo mats; as long as it was once growing and unadulterated, it works--but it must be applied loosely, so the sun and moon can shine through.
Now, constructing all this can be time-consuming, and the finished product to many seems plenty weird. One time my father-in-law set up his succa in the front yard of his Santa Monica apartment building. In his enthusiasm for the mitzvah (commandment) to spend as much time as possible, one night he'd brought his sleeping bag and was snoozing happily when suddenly he was awakened by a hulking form with a foul odor who entered the succa and proceded to take some blankets and pillows and settle in. Startled, my father-in-law asked what was going on. The inebriated, smelly homeless fellow who was making himself at home replied, "Whatsa matter man? There's room in here for another one!"
Perhaps the most memorable succa we've constructed here in the Great Northwest was the one with skakh that an accommodating tree-trimming company spared from their shredder upon our request. As our family and guests, totalling 12, began enjoying our first meal under the fragrant boughs, we started noticing small orange items falling on our table, our hair, and into our soup. The items moved, wriggling in our bowls: The foliage was infested with worms. Group scream.
|"Fractured Bubble," winner at Sukkah City|