Two Jewish campus groups are hosting Sukkot, more commonly known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, from Sept. 23 to Sept. 30.
The SHALOM Club will lead the event, assisted by the Hillsdale Chavarah, which is a faith group. Sukkot is a major Jewish festival following Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of Jewish New Year and Yom-Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
The holiday begins on the 15th day of the month of Tishri and occurs for seven days. During this time, Jewish people remember their ancestors’ 40-year desert wandering, the faith they placed in God, and the agricultural significance of the holiday.
“For us, this holiday is as important as Christmas is for Christians,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Joshua Fincher said. “This is our big holiday for the year. Jewish people make an effort to be home every night to celebrate it and invite lots of people over.”
Central to the holiday is the construction and use of the sukkah, a temporary three-walled booth and shelter. The Israelites did not have permanent dwelling places and used sukkahs as temporary homes during the time of the harvest. Jews today are commanded by the Torah to dwell in these temporary booths to remember the trials of early Jews.
The SHALOM Club purchased a sukkah for the festival this year and set it up next to the Grewcock Student Union atop the senior sidewalk. Bamboo mats make up the roof of the sukkah and are supported with bamboo poles. The spaces between the mats allow for stargazing. A large interior allows for groups to congregate inside.
Rain was significant to the Israelites because it gave life to the crops and allowed for a fruitful harvest. Rabbis forbid praying for rain until the last two days of the holiday.
Hillsdale received a decent amount of rainfall this week, which thwarted some of the sukkah traditions. If there is rain during Sukkot, Jews are forbidden to dwell in the sukkah.
“In Judaism, there is a high emphasis on pleasant feelings associated with religious things and taking care of necessities so you can optimize how joyful you are,” Fincher said.
Over the course of this week several groups have come to the sukkah. Assistant Professor of Religion Don Westblade and other professors have held classes inside of the sukkah. On Wednesday afternoon, there was a study of Old Testament women. On Wednesday, the German honorary read German-Jewish texts. On Friday evening, the Shalom club will be hosting a Shabbat dinner to honor the Jewish Sabbath.
“Anyone is invited to come and partake in the celebration, and learn more about it,” said SHALOM Club President Avalon McKinney, a junior.
During Sukkot, gentiles are invited to come alongside Jews in the sukkah and engage in discussion.
“Judaism emphasizes discussion and learning through a community,” Chavarah President junior Sara Garfinkle said.
Both SHALOM and Chavarah want students to feel welcome to join in Sukkot celebrations and engage in friendly discourse to learn more about Judaism.