The Jewish festival of Sukkot, which marks a joyous transition from the most solemn holidays of the year, completes its final day at sundown today.
The final day of Sukkot, celebrated today, is known as Hoshana Rabbah. Hoshana Rabbah literally means "great Hoshana" or great supplication," and marks the final sealing of judgment for the Jewish. The holidays before Sukkot include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, both of which focus on repenting and forgiveness of sins.
Sukkot begins on the 15th day of Tishri and lasts for 7 days. This year, Sukkot was celebrated from sunset on October 2 to sundown on October 7.
The word "sukkot" or "sukkah" means "dwelling" or "shelter." Jews are to create an outdoor dwelling during Sukkot and to eat meals within this shelter. Depending on the weather and the person's health, they should also spend as much time as possible in the dwelling, even sleeping within the shelter. Dwelling in the sukkah is a Jewish mitzvah, or obligation.
The sukkah is designed to be a temporary structure, said Sarina Berlow, the secretary of Temple Israel in Lehighton. The roof must be made with materials that were grown from the grown and cut off, such as tree branches or corn stalks, and the roof must be loosely weaved so that the rain can fall in and stars can be seen.
"This is just a temporary structure," she says of the sukkah. "It reminds us of how temporary and fragile our own dwellings are. You realize how fragile life is, and that our dwelling on Earth is just temporary."
For most modern Jews, Sukkot is a celebration of the fall harvest. It is also a traditional pilgrimage festival in which Jews visit the Temple in Jerusalem.
"This is one of my favorite holidays," she adds. "There is something to be said for being outdoors, building a shelter. It's quite an experience."
Many Jewish families choose to build a sukkah in their backyard, inviting friends to visit their sukkah and share meals together. Because the members of Temple Israel are spread throughout the region, they instead will share a shelter on the synagogue's property this year.
"This is a season of hospitality," said Bernie Berlow, the president of Temple Israel. "It is also a season of spiritual hospitality," and a time to study and learn from family patriarchs and matriarchs, he added.
Berlow noted that Sukkot is a very happy holiday, and a time for celebration after seeking forgiveness over the past 60 days.
"Now is a time to relax and enjoy the beauty of life, and to enjoy and recognize the fragility and happiness of life."
Each day during Sukkot, a blessing is said while waving the lulav and etrog. The lulav is made of palm, willow and myrtle branches. Etrog is a citrus fruit. The willow branches are beaten on the floor on the final day of Sukkot until all of its leaves fall off, symbolizing the shedding of sin. Some families also choose to make a marmalade or jelly with the etrog after Sukkot to further celebrate the holiday.
Having completed the holiday season, members of Temple Israel will next gather for their annual meeting and a bagels and lox brunch on October 18 at 10 a.m. Newcomers are welcome, but reservations are requested.