Last night was the 7th day of Sukot- but it has a special name- Hoshana Raba. Kind of like a mini-Yom Kipur. During services, we destroy the willow branches that are part of the Lulav and Etrog (see the picture below) we’ve employed during this seven day festival. We either do this because it was part of the rain-bringing rituals that existed centuries ago- or to remind us of repentance. (The origin of the practice is simply not clear to us today.)
Yes, it’s another holiday. Among my favorites. For the past two days, I’ve been cleaning my backyard, moving all the furniture around, and building a hut. Because Sunday night starts Sukot- the full moon holiday of Tishrei. (By the way- don’t miss the Orionid meteor showers on Saturday night/Sunday morning.) After finishing our 40 days of introspection, which culminated in the most solemn, full day of fasting for Yom Kipur, we now have the holiday of joy. (Sukot has another name- the Time of Celebration.) Sukot is one of the three “festivals” delineated in the Tora, the Bible.
We’ve been counting since the Pesach (Passover) Seder. 50 days after we were freed from Egypt (Mitzrayim- a place of narrow straits), we were waiting by Mount Sinai (sorry- NOT in the “Sinai Peninsula”, more likely in Saudi Arabia, near an active volcano), to receive the 10 Commandments. Where the words were seen- yes, seen. I admit, until I saw the effects of a rocket plant explosion in Henderson, Nevada, I had no idea you really could see “sound”. Not surprising that those in attendance were totally awed…
Whether we truly believe that our sukot (the plural of suka) are to remind us that we traveled for 40 years in the desert- or we needed to preempt the pagan harvest festival that occurred this time of year three millennia ago- is truly immaterial. Because we have found meaning in the suka- to remind us that our lives are transient, our lives are fragile, and our lives require our efforts along with Hashem’s help.