Rabbi Denise L. Eger
This week we celebrate Sukkot the fall harvest festival beginning on Wednesday evening, September 22. Today is the first full day of the holy day.
On the fifteenth of the seventh month (shall be the holiday of Sukkot, seven days for the God . The first day shall be a holy convocation; all manners of work you shall not do; it is an eternal decree in all of your dwelling places for all generations” (Leviticus 23:34-35).
This most holy Festival was for our ancestors the ultimate celebration of the year. Not Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, but the gathering in Jerusalem for the Fall harvest celebration was the highlight. And I think their ancient wisdom was right on the mark.
While the Jewish New Year and solemn spiritual inward journey of the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur are critical and important, the festival of Sukkot really is the culmination of that journey. But all too often we contemporary Jews check out with the close of the Neilah service as the sun sets on Yom Kippur.
The beauty and rejoicing found in the holy days of Sukkot complete the spiritual journey begun on the 1st of Tishrei. By welcoming community and one another to our Sukkah, we can relish in the renewed relationships that we tried to heal over the Ten days of Repentance. We can reflect and give thanks, deep thanks for the inscription in the Book of Life. As we relish the bounty of the earth in the form of the harvest, we have a chance to give thanks for the bounty and abundance in our lives.
Sukkot is really a holiday of entertaining. It is the schmooze and hang out holiday! How sad that most folks just don’t even bother. This is a holy day week of great meals, great recipes and visiting. Even as we wave the lulav and etrog, we are supposed to eat every meal in the Sukkah and here in Southern California that is truly possible! For those of you that are foodies, this is your holiday! The recipes of this holy day also include the seven kinds of native fruits and vegetables of the Land of Israel mentioned in the Torah. These are known as the seven species and help tie us closer to the land of our ancestors. The seven species are:
The Talmud teaches us that it was these seven items that could be brought to the Temple as the first fruits of the harvest.
So I hope you will take some time this week to reflect on the abundance in your life. The gifts you have been given. And if you haven’t built your own sukkah (try it there are many kits available to make it easy!) come eat in the Temple sukkah this week. Dining al fresco makes all the food tastier! Here is a Sukkot recipe you might try that includes ingredients of the seven species.
7 Species Salad (Salat Shivat HaMinim)
Lettuce, (any kind, but baby lettuce is good)
Seeds from 1/2 to 1 ripe pomegranate
6 to 8 figs, quartered
Handful of seedless (or deseeded) grapes, halved or quartered
2 to 4 dates, sliced
Olive oil and balsamic vinegar (this gets the olives in, the Torah specifically mentions oil olives so, in theory this could also count for the grapes)
Barley and wheat croutons
Bee or date honey (to get the eretz zavat chalav u’dvash element)
To make the croutons, bread (preferably sliced) that has both wheat and barley flour and cut in to bite-sized pieces and place on a baking tray or casserole dish.
In a bowl, combine olive oil and some favorite spices, oregano, basil, and/or thyme. Brush the oil and herb mixture over the bread pieces and bake at 400°F to 450°F until the bread feels like croutons.
One can also skip the olive oil and herbs on the croutons and just bake the bread.
Combine everything and enjoy!
If you make a bunch of croutons and buy the supplies, you can put the salad together several times throughout the chag.
This recipe was posted on Janglo, which is the Jerusalem Anglo website and newsletter! I wish you all a very happy Sukkot filled with friends, bounty and rejoicing.