Sukkot Zack Dubit '17
The leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping, and at Hillel, we're building. Fall is here and Sukkot is arriving once more. Outside the Hillel House stands the Sukkah. Supported by a rickety foundation of wooden beams and decorated with an exotic variety of gourds, it seems to have simply sprung out of the ground overnight. Alas, this fantastical hut is not the product of supernatural nocturnal beings, but in fact just the collaboration of a tightly-knit community, Jewish and non-Jewish alike.
For those with little knowledge of Sukkot, this week-long festival is a time for celebration. Historically, the holiday memorializes the forty days and nights the people of Israel walked through the desert. It is also a harvest festival, promoting a hearty yield of fruits and vegetables so everyone is well nourished throughout the year. Meaning "booths," Sukkot involves building the Sukkah, which is the singular form for "booth." The Sukkah represents the huts that the people of Israel built while in the desert. It is decorated with gourds, encouraging the prosperous harvest, and has a canopy of branches and leaves. Traditionally, all meals are to be eaten under the Sukkah, and at night it is a common tradition to sleep underneath and watch the stars (except in the case of rain).
On the day before sukkot we began the build. Since Hillel's conception on Washington and Lee's campus, we have been using the same wooden foundations, in respect to the lone wanderers of the desert, who took only what they could find to build their Sukkahs. The wood is warped, much of it is splintered and close to rotting, but it still gets the job done. Using power drills, we managed to fit the earthy puzzle pieces together and securely created the foundation for our harvest. The latticework was then welded in, creating walls. There stood a bare Sukkah with a strong base, but no flavor-a fruitless harvest.
Long sticks were strewn across the top, where we then took mammoth pine branches and heaved them atop the sticks, creating our canopy, which would provide shade and shelter. The seed had been planted. Now it was time to bear fruit. Squashes, pumpkins, and corn, among other gourds, were hung decorously throughout the hut. The Sukkah is now robust with color, ranging from the earthy tones of the antediluvian wood to the verdant shade of the canopy, to the fiery yellows and oranges and reds of thegourds hanging harmoniously from the walls and ceiling. However, this hut was not yet a home. Two tangles of twine later, we placed our banner on the side of the Sukkah- Washington and Lee Hillel.
The harvest has come and gone, but was wonderful as always. The Sukkah was available for anyone interested to look inside, eat their meals, or enjoy an evening of roasting marshmallows. Sleeping was always an option, too, if anyone was up for it.