For the Jewish nation, there is probably no better time to reflect on one’s place in nature and the health of the environment than during Sukkoth, the Festival of Booths or the Jewish harvest festival. Looking outside our window in Jerusalem, we see small make-shift huts (sukkahs) erected everywhere – each one has at least three walls made from wooden clapboard or cloth with a simple roof made from plant cuttings (skakh).Integral in the building of a sukkah is that it must have an uninterrupted view to the sky and stars. The week’s meals are to be eaten in the hut and some of the more hardcore types sleep in it as well. There is a host of elaborate customs during Sukkoth which involve waving plants and blessings on a strange aromatic fruit (etrog) from the citrus family, as well as a mitvah (commandment) for people to travel and explore the land.
What we like most of all about Sukkoth, is that it is a leveller. Rich or poor, young or old, it is a time when people cast aside their worldly possessions and take life’s speed down a notch or two (inside their hut). It is also about living among nature, not as a conqueror but as an equal to other creatures (especially street cats if you live in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv).
There are many different interpretations about the spiritual meaning behind Sukkoth – and one we like is that it teaches that existence is fleeting and momentary. We think that a little bit of reflection on the environment can go a long way around this time. Hey, and if you build a sukkah and are not storing the skakh for next year, don’t forget to compost it. We also hear that etrog makes a fabulous jam.