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Holidays, Holidays, Holidays

by michael September 28 2007
HolidaysThings to do

Judaism can't get enough of them come fall. First we get Rosh Hashana. Then we get Yom Kippur only a week later, which doesn't really count as a holiday because it's not fun and nobody eats. And then just a couple of weeks after that, the week-long Sukkot holiday, a festival that would probably be more exciting if everyone wasn't already suffering from terminal holiday burnout. One might think God could have scheduled all these a little more wisely.

For non-Jewish visitors to Jerusalem during the Sukkot holiday, the trappings of its celebration may seem unfamiliar. Sukkot literally means "booths," which is why you'll see those makeshift structures topped with palm fronds outside most homes and restaurants. The booths commemorate the shanties the Israelites inhabited as they wandered through the desert following Moses, and the laws of Sukkot demand that, at the very least, one takes his meals in the sukkah (and preferably, actually sleeps in it).

Also likely to be seen are the lulav and the etrog. The lulav is a bundle of palm, myrtle and willow branches, and the etrog is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon. Together, these are referred to as the "arbaah minim," or four species. During religious services, they are held together and shaken in all four directions and up and down as a symbol of God's omnipresence.

Sukkot is also an agricultural holiday, celebrating the harvest and the coming of the rainy season (religious Jews begin to pray for rain at this point).  

So get into the spirit of the holiday. Eat in a sukkah. The weather is absolutely perfect for it. And happy holidays, once again, from Jerusalemite.
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