October 7th, 2012

Hours before Simchat Torah and I am (finally) posting about Sukkot. Figures. 

I would like to dedicate this post, if I may be so bold, to the memory of Rav Haim Lifshitz, z”l. He was my Rav’s father, a great tzaddik, who passed away this past Shabbat. May his family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. 

The truth is that as much as I usually try to prepare in advance, this year my thoughts and feelings on Sukkot came through experiencing it, listening and learning throughout the holiday.

The word that kept coming back to me this year was vulnerability. I was inspired by a dvar Torah given by Sally Mayer at a fantastic simchat beit hashoeva gathering for women here in Neve Daniel. She gave over an idea she had learned from Drisha’s Rabbi Silber comparing the tone of the parasha we read before sukkot (Haazinu), around Yom Kippur, and that of Zot Habracha, the parsha we read on Shabbat during Sukkot. The former has a clear tone of remonstrance and warning, logically connected to a time of our judgement.

Zot Habracha in contrast, has more of a positive note going into our future. This is how we feel during Sukkot. Feeling hopeful that we have been forgiven by Hashem over Yom Kippur, we dwell in a sukkah which has often been mentioned as a move of intimacy with Hashem. We move out of our safe, comfortable homes and into a temporary hut, trusting in Hashem’s protection as was just promised us through our repentance and in the words of that final parsha.

Yet the intimacy, it seems to me, is linked to our increased vulnerability. The people to whom we feel the closest are almost always those to whom we feel the most vulnerable. Or that we can be vulnerable with. Yom Kippur is a time when we are our most open and vulnerable with Hashem. At least in the ideal, we have undergone a process of serious introspection and have opened our hearts, souls and mouths to cry out to G-d.

Following that, we feel closer, more loved, and move ourselves to a place of more physical vulnerability than our homes.  It is through that move that we express our feeling of closeness to G-d and demonstrate that we know that in this time he is also very close to us…..

Why does all of this occur to me this year?

Because I think that people living in Israel feel more vulnerable than Jews living elsewhere. Particularly Jews living where we do, the beautiful Judean Hills that some would like to call “settlements” or “territories” or even “illegal”. I call it Jewish soil that has been loved, worked on, and cried over by Jews for over 2,000 years. But no matter what you call it, Jews here feel vulnerable, and I think it is connected to why it feels easier here to feel close to Hashem. The vulnerability that we choose is a daily reminder of where our trust truly lies, and that there is no “safe” and “unsafe” there is only the will of our Creator.

The increased vulnerability of a sukkah versus your home is a myth. An illusion, of course. A sukkah doesn’t actually make us more vulnerable, it simply reminds us that we don’t get protection from our home, we get it from Hashem. Whatever will become of us will happen no matter where we eat our dinner or sleep tonight. The same is true of Jews and where they live around the world. Jews in this part of the world are no more or less safe than anywhere else. The dangers may have drastically different manifestations, but we all are equally vulnerable to the will of Hashem every moment of our lives.

But I leave this, my first sukkot living in Israel in 12 years, feeling open, a little raw, far more vulnerable to circumstances, people and Hashem’s will than I ever did in the United States. And therefore feeling the heightened intimacy with G-d that I missed so greatly while I was gone.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Simchat Torah holiday, and that you will be here in Neve Daniel with us to celebrate next year!

This is our sukkah decoration craft this year:

I was very pleased with myself for “inventing” this year’s sukkah craft.. only to find that Creative Jewish Mom had beat me to it. My only twist to the idea is that instead of using plastic drinking cups, I have been using Israeli cottage cheese containers, yogurt containers, and even “resek” (tomato paste) containers. I know this will work with American yogurt containers too.  I don’t encourage the use of plastic cups in the house in general, so we don’t really have them lying around. And I used containers I would have otherwise been throwing away.

This project fits my criteria; inexepensive and kid-friendly. Although my 12 year old helped with the spray paint, my kids were able to do this basically without me.

For those with easy access to it, I suggest adding some glitter glue to the mix.

Here are my directions:

Save and wash out as many small plastic containers as you can.

Gather up a piece of cardboard for spray painting on.

If you have a single hole punch, it is great for stringing up your flowers. Gather up some string, too.

1. I started out by cutting off the hard rim on the yogurt cups. (For those of you outside of Israel you may understand from the pictures, but this step is probably irrelevant for you.)









The stiff rim is gone on this one.








2. I cut the cups from the rim to the center, leaving the round center intact. The sizes of the slats don’t seem to matter, but if they are a bit wider it is less work, and easier to round your “petal” edges if you choose.




3. I chose to spray paint my flowers before rounding the edges, mostly because I wanted to see what they would look like. The extra step (of rounding them) is entirely up to you.

I bought two cans of spray, pink and silver (which really looks gray).

 My kids had a lot of fun being allowed to use the spray paint. It was my only expense for this project, and totaled 24 shekels, which is about $6. 

4. I used a mini-single hole punch at the top center of one petal, and just put through a piece of string I had. I used a sharpie on one of them, and as I said, I think glitter glue would look great.


 I will add a photo of our beautiful flowers hanging in the sukkah…but we need a sukkah first! 

What brilliant and inexpensive, kid-friendly decorations can you suggest? We would love some more ideas! 


** Don’t forget to check out my product review of the new Webee, below…..