Joyful temporary dwelling

Here I am, past midnight, looking up on the palm-branches, decorations and lights that make up the roof of our Sukkah. We have been living out here for the past week. Really, – we have slept out here, eaten our meals out here and hosted several parties of guests out here.

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Such good times. A whole week of it! Before actually entering this time, you live in the illusion of it being a long time, but once it actually starts, it sort of flies by! Now it is the last night already. And I find myself sitting here trying to stop the time, or at least really hold on to the moment.

sleeping in the sukkah

The children have a friend over for a sleepover party in the Sukkah, and are still talking in the sleeping-bags next to me here. They LOVE Sukkot. All of us together all the time! What could possibly be better?? It’s like camping, just that you have all your comforts right there.

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One of the main commandments concerning Sukkot, is to be joyful! And to tell you the truth, it comes naturally. We have prepared for it. We have just come through the period of Rosh Hashanah, the ten solemn days, and Yom Kippur. Hearing the Shofar-blows marking the end of Yom Kippur is always such a relief. And after having something to eat, the first thing we do that very evening, is to start building our Sukkot. And the joy just becomes part of it. The relief, the thankfulness, the happiness, the playfulness of the whole idea of a Sukkah, hearing the neighbors building their sukkot next to us, the light atmosphere surrounding it all.

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Looking back at this past week, there are many wonderful moments coming to mind. Sitting around the holiday tables together with dear friends and family (in our sukkah or in theirs), eating tasty food, seeing the candles flickering, enjoying good conversation. Being at the synagogue and seeing all the lulavim (palm-branches) being shaken while hearing and joining in the hallel (worship). Very special experiences indeed.

Samaria

We have also made some short trips during chol hamoed. Today we went out to Shomron, which really can be called the heartland of Israel. Such views! Such a place! It is the like stones start talking and telling the stories of all they have seen over thousands of years!

Jerusalem

And just being downtown Jerusalem is a great experience at such a time as this. There are so many people out and about! So much fun stuff going on, so much to see! Look at this old map with Jerusalem at its center:

map of Jerusalem

And here we are at the Sukkah outside of City Hall:

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Tomorrow afternoon we are moving inside again, and tomorrow night we will sleep in our beds again. My princess just begged me for another night outside, – just one more, since we are enjoying it so much! But I am of the opinion that there is a time for everything, and tomorrow will probably be the time to go in the direction of normal again, and at least start sleeping in our beds. We still have one more holiday, – Simchat Torah, but that means Sukkot will already be over.

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It is kind of strange how both Sukkot and Pesach remove something very basic from our lives, – Pesach takes our bread, and Sukkot takes our homes. So then, once the holiday is over, and you get back what was removed, – you have gained a new appreciation for it! All of a sudden we don’t take our regular homes and beds for granted any more! We start noticing them and being thankful for them. Pretty genious, don’t you think?

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The Last Night in the Sukkah.

The children are in their sleeping bags next to me. They are looking up at the palm branches that make up the roof, and saying they will try to really sleep in tomorrow, so as to make the most of their last night in the Sukkah for this year.

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I am also trying to hold on to the moment. The feeling of sitting in a Sukkah, living in a Sukkah. It sure is a fragile dwelling! We felt that very much when the rain came right through on us already on the first night! But in spite of its lack of permanence and strength, I always feel very safe in the Sukkah. Somehow I feel the Presence of the Almighty in a very special way right here. Everything about a Sukkah reminds us that we are not able to really protect ourselves, – and it helps us focus on the One who are more than able to take care of us on every level!

I am holding on to the children’s prayers along with the Shma as they go to bed. They also feel that we are quite open to the elements in every way, and so they remind themselves of their protectors as they thank God for His Angels and also for His Presence right here with us. How can anyone be any better off, really??

We have enjoyed a restful Shabbat, with guests in the Sukkah last night, and just the family today. This evening we played Monopoly and ordered Pizza, so it became a really fun last night in the Sukkah.

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Tomorrow we will move back inside, and remind ourselves again that there is a time for everything. For now, though, we are treasuring every moment in the Sukkah.

Shavua Tov,

-Te’ena.

Special Sukkah Guests

Hospitality is a central part of the Sukkot-celebration. We have been blessed to visit the Sukkot of many friends this Sukkot, and also to host a lot of our friends in our Sukkah. Yesterday evening, for example, we had about fifty people, including the very little ones, at a Sukkah party here in our Sukkah. *They weren’t actually all in the Sukkah at the very same moment, but people were in and out, and we are thankful for lots of play-areas for the younger ones.

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We did a barbecue, *perfect thing for large gatherings like these, + you get the husband involved in the cooking! I think *and hope, that everyone enjoyed their evening. I sure had a good time celebrating with all those dear friends, – from building a tall lego tower with a super cute three year old, to enjoying a glass of wine and good conversation with friends in the Sukkah.

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And as we enjoy being guests and hosting in our Sukkot, we also think of some very special guests that tradition holds visit our Sukkot every evening; Abraham the first night, then Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David on the following nights. These seven men are called the “Ushpizin“, guests, of Sukkot. Abraham, being the first one, is himself a symbol of hospitality, – his tent, or his “Sukkah”, was always open for guests! Abraham is such an encouragement for hospitality, and the blessing of it for everyone involved! And who knows, without knowing it, we could host angels in our homes, *or our Sukkot!

Every night we focus on a different Biblical “Ushpizin”, giving every night a different focus, until we end up with King David, being a picture of the Messiah! We look forward to all the promises that are tied to this, and that we already see have started to be fulfilled around us! What an exciting time to be alive!!

Shabbat shalom!

-Te’ena.

A Fun Family Outing

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Jerusalem is literally FULL of people who celebrate Sukkot, and there are fun activities offered at just about every corner! Yesterday we visited the local fire-station where we saw an exciting show, before we went to The Bible Land´s Museum and had a fun and interesting guided tour that finished with a great craft.

A few days ago I happened to notice a little add about renting a bike that the whole family could ride on together, and ever since I mentioned that, the children have basically not stopped asking if we could go do that. So it seemed the best for everyone to at least look into it… And it turned out it was really easy; the location was a twenty minute walk from our home, the price was good, and when we came there this morning there was not even a line *which is quite a miracle in Jerusalem during Sukkot!

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So off we went; – only two of us could reach the pedals, our eight year old ended up with the steering wheel that worked and our princess decided to sit in the front basket! And the whole family had fun together!

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We were far from alone at the Haas promenade, where we kept biking back and forth. The one with the steering wheel kept encouraging us to go faster, faster, and the one in the back seat kept wanting the driver to look forward… And we did well, – we didn’t hit anyone, not even the old lady who was standing in the middle just enjoying the view, totally oblivious to the fact that we were trying to get past her! *It was helpfu Continue reading

Life in the Sukkah, and the waving of the Four Species.

Well, good morning, everyone!

I must say it is a very special and quite unique feeling to wake up in a Sukkah. The festive table is pushed over a little bit, to make room for mattresses and sleeping bags. I look around and see my dear family members right there, close to me, and I feel so rich!

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One by one we all wake up, and as we lie there and look through the palm-branches at the sky above us, a conversation develops about God´s faithfulness to the Israelites in the wilderness and also to us in our days. We may even sing some songs, and just enjoy the moments, creating memories as we go along.

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Soon enough it´s time for breakfast, and we get to benefit from the fact that this “camping” is taking place on our balcony, with our refrigerator and coffee maker just a few meters away. *How convenient! =)

Then comes the time to wave the four species. As we are commanded in Leviticus 23,40:

And you shall take for yourselves the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook…

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So, we take the Etrog, the Lulav, the Hadas and the Aravahand we wave them three times in every direction, as we rejoice in this very special festival. And these species symbolizes a whole list of things.

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They have different characteristics: The Lulav, the top ot the Palmtree, has beauty and the fruit of it, the date, has wonderful sweet flavor. The Hadas, the myrtle-branch with leaves, has a very good smell. The Aravah, the branch from the Willow-tree, has neither flavor nor smell. And the Etrog, this special Citron-like fruit, has both beauty, smell and flavor!

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Then to the symbolism: The Lulav symbolizes someone who studies a lot of Torah, but lacks in kindness, or mitzvot. The Hadas symbolizes a someone with great kindness and lot of mitzvot, but not very learned. The Aravah again symbolizes someone who does not really have either, while the Etrog is someone who excels in both kindness and learning. So together this makes a group of different Jews. And the way we use them, we would never use them separately; – they have to stay together to be complete and able to be used. Now, talk about symbolism! We are all dependent on each other to really be what God meant for us to be!!

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The four species also symbolizes different body parts, based a lot on the way they look. The Lulav is the spine, the Hadas the eyes, the Aravah the lips and the Etrog is the heart itself. Again, they complement each other because of their differences, and only when each takes his place are they able to function.

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There are also those who say that the Etrog is the forbidden fruit that Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. And it could seem like this is the first fruit that was brought into Eretz Yisrael, as this is referred to in very old sources (for instance Josephus).

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After the waving of the Arba Minim. The Four Species, we move on with our day. Later we’ll have friends over in our Sukkah or go and visit them in their Sukkah, and very possibly end the day with a nice glass of wine as we watch our children go to sleep on the floor next to us.

Yes, these truly are good times!

-Te’ena.

P.S. Thank you so much to those who have signed up to follow my blog, and to those who take the time to comment on a post. You are really encouraging me! So, thanks again! =)

Chag Sukkot Sameach!

בסכת תשבו שבעת ימים כל האזרח בישראל ישבו בסכת למען ידעו דרתיכם כי בסכת הושבתי את בני ישראל בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים אני ה אל-בני ישראל

“You shall dwell in booths for a seven-day period; every native in Israel shall dwell in booths. So that your generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them from the land of Egypt; I am HASHEM, your God.”

Leviticus 23, 42-43

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Our Sukkah is up.

We have made decorations and hung them.

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We have invited guests to come and celebrate with us, to sit in our sukkah, to dwell in our booth with us.

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We have cleaned, shopped, cooked and baked. Chicken soup with matza balls, home-made challot, beef brisket marinated in red wine, crisp potato-vedges with rosemary, green salad with pomegranates, apple honey cake, hot apple cider. No, I don’t think we will lack anything tonight either. We are so blessed!

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We have set the table and decorated it, *one of my very favorite parts!

And we are ready for Chag Sukkot to start. We are ready to start dwelling in booths for seven days, along with the rest of the Jewish people, in Israel and around the world. So that our generations will remember that when our almighty God brought us out of Egypt, He caused us to dwell in booths…

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Tonight we move out to our Sukkah and we’ll live there for the coming week. Yes, eat there, sleep there, entertain there, hang out there. It is a very happy time.

We have been looking forward to this for a long time, – since Sukkot ended last year just about!

Chag Sukkot Sameach, everyone! Have a very happy holiday!

-Te’ena.

Successful Sukkah-craft.

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We are enjoying vacation days from school. Aahhh…wonderful! No rushed mornings! No homework in the afternoon! Instead, we have nice long days that we get to fill however we find fit! What a gift! Today we decided to make miniature sukkot. You know, the little lego-men and princesses also need sukkot!

ImageWe stayed busy with this just about all day! First we made the sukkot themselves from old shoe-boxes that we decorated with colored and patterned paper, cut out drawings and stickers. Then we made furniture from matchboxes, that became beds, chairs, tables etc.

One of the funnest parts was going to get the “zrach”, the branches that make up the roof of the sukkah. We went up the street and picked some wonderful smelling rosemary, that really do look like miniature palm branches!

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We used hot glue to connect the bbq-sticks that support the branches, but I am sure you can do without as well.

And then, when we were done with the crafting-part, they sat in our sukkah and played with their miniature sukkot, literally for hours! It was really nice to just listen from the side to all the happy chit-chat that went on between the lego-men and the princesses who were visiting each other in their sukkot!

ImageI am looking forward to more days like this one! Tomorrow I think we will make some decorations for the real sukkah.

Shalom for now,

-Te´ena.