My night was short because of the sounds of hammering and happy voices that went on well past midnight. I imagined fathers and sons realizing that they were running out of time; the sukkah's (booths) needed to get up before sundown on Wednesday. At 7 AM I walked the streets to view the nights work. Sukkah's had sprung up everywhere on balconies and in courtyards, in front yards, in back yards.
The temporary structure needs to have at least three sides with the option of an open fourth side. The roofing must be a natural material such as palm branches or bamboo, still leaving a view of the sky. The interior is decorated with colorful paper chains, glitzy garlands and brilliant artificial apples, oranges and pomegranates. The family will move in table with chairs, enough for the family and a few for friends. They will also move in mattresses for the night. This is where they will dwell for seven days. It will become a place of much singing; eating and visiting will take place here. Ushpizin, the welcoming of guests to share a meal, is a ritual enjoyed by families. Maybe we'll walk the streets tomorrow and hope for an invite for the evening meal.
The holiday, for the Jews is a remembrance back to Egypt before they were a nation. During the course of their wanderings, GOD, in looking after every detail, provided booths for their protection from the heat of the day. He had compassion for their comfort as they moved towards more significant goals.
I like how one Rabbi sees it; the sukkah, with three walls, is like being enclosed in the embrace of GOD. For seven full days and nights, putting aside all concerns of being hated and persecuted, they rejoice!
A task as important as the building of a sukkah is the selection of the four species of the wave offering to be presented at the synagogue and the Kotel. Instructions in Leviticus call for an etrog (fruit of the citron tree),the lulav (palm frond), the hadas (leaves fro the myrtle tree) and aravah (leaves from the willow tree). These four items are arranged into a bouquet to be presented, accompanied by blessing prayers. The selection of the items is meticulous. Each item is scrutinized thoroughly. Perfection is the expectation. Only the best will be offered.
Rick and I entered the large tent set up for the purpose of buying and selling the sought after items. I immediately looked for another female; obviously the place was "a man's world". I relaxed upon spotting another woman.....also with a camera. We both relaxed when it quickly became evident that the buyers were much too busy inspecting product to take note of a woman. I'm convinced that there's nothing we could have done to distract them.
We left the premises without finding the perfect etrog, but we did leave with a few great images that tell the story.