The Jewish Harvest Festival of Sukkot

Submitted by JessicaW on October 2, 2010

Each fall, four days after Yom Kippur, the Jewish fall harvest festival of Sukkot begins. This week-long celebration, which began this year at sunset on, September 22 and concluded at sunset on Wednesday, September 29, is set apart as a time to rejoice, help those in need, be reminded of the importance and delicacy of life, and strengthen one’s resolve.

In order to achieve the aspirations of this fall harvest, it is traditionally celebrated by making a small hut, the sukkah, where Jews eat and sometimes sleep. Members of KADIMA, Fairfield’s undergraduate Jewish cultural club, worked with students from Professor Ellen Umansky‘s “Introduction to Judaism” class to build the hut In between Canisius and Donnarumma Hall, and then invited the Fairfield community to bring their lunches and learn more about Jewish culture.

Each sukkah is made in whichever way the builder chooses but with some small criteria. The sukkah must be built with a minimum of 2 long walls and a short wall that contains the doorway, and the roofing must be made out of organic materials such as the bamboo used for the sukkah here on campus. Inside the sukkah, and shaken each morning except on the Sabbath, are four species harvested in the land of Israel in the fall: the palm branch (lulav), willow, myrtle and a citrus called an etrog.

One of the most important things to remember while building and staying inside the hut is that it is a temporary dwelling meant to symbolize the 40 years the Jews wandered the desert staying in temporary shelters. This means that the sukkah’s roof must be thin enough to let rain through. Years ago, one of the traditional decorations inside of the hut was fruit that hung from the top and produced a beautiful fragrance. However, today many Jews now replace real fruit with artificial fruit that doesn’t go bad quickly from natural elements like the rain, in consideration of the many homeless people today. The wasting of good fruit seems inconsiderate as giving food to the poor is one of the customs associated with Sukkot.

The festival of Sukkot is one of many experiences on campus that embrace diversity through living and learning experiences for Fairfield’s students and the larger University community.

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