Global Awareness

Harvest Feast: Sukkot

Written by Heidi Blythe (Class of 2022)

Photos by Dr. Patterson (Teacher of World Religions)

Sunlight streamed through the branches and leaves covering the roof of the makeshift tent, illuminating the girls gathered below as they watched, for the first time in their lives, the waving of the Four Species (a bundle consisting of a lulav, willow, myrtle and etrog, a kind of citric fruit) during the Jewish celebration of Sukkot. The Sukkah tent had been painstakingly constructed from leaves, twine and branches scavenged from forest floors and flanked on two sides by billowing fabrics. Decorating the booth were colorful handmade crafts, vibrant flowers and joyful chatter as students from the senior and junior classes of DVGS ate lunch beneath its shady canopy.

Starting five days after Yom Kippur (a solemn Jewish holy day of atonement and repentance), the Sukkot is a joyous festival celebrated as a sign of gratitude to God for the bounties given unto humanity by earth. On this week-long event, the Jewish community around the world rejoice and thank Adonai, their God, for life and sustenance, and dwell in flimsy booths representative of the huts that farmers would live in during the last autumn harvest before the coming of the winter rains.

The Hebrew Torah commemorates this festival by linking it to the wanderings of the Israelites in the desert after escaping Egypt, with the huts representing the temporary shelters that the Israelites lived in during those 40 years. To honor their ancestors, it is tradition for Jews to spend as much time in the sukkah as possible; meals are eaten there and some Jews also decide to sleep in the hut under the stars throughout the whole week.

This year, DVGS celebrated Sukkot on Tuesday, September 21, 2021. The simplicity of eating in a temporary shelter surrounded by nature allowed the students’ minds to focus on the important things in life and separated them from the material worries of the modern world that dominate so much of our lives.

We might all be different types of people, with different backgrounds, different positions, and different perspectives. But on this holiday, we celebrate together despite and because of our differences. Sukkot is often referred to as Z’man Simchateinu, the “season of our joy”, and it is not hard to see why when smiles graced the faces of all the girls gathered in the sukkah.