Julie Goldstein looked forward each year to the time she and her family built their sukkah, a temporary hut in their backyard.
“Can I invite Sharon to help us?” she asked her mother one year.” Her family never builds a sukkah, and I know she would love it.”
“Of course,” her mother said.
Sharon and Julie worked hard to build the sukkah with Julie’s parents. They carried boards from the garage, and they helped hammer the nails. Then they drove into the country where Julie’s mother had arranged with her friends, Mr. and Mrs. O‘Brien, to pick some of their corn left standing. They cut down sheaves of corn and loaded them into the trunk of the family car. They drove back and used the stalks for Scach, the roof of the sukkah and to help decorate the sides. Then they decorated the sukkah with pumpkins, gourds and all sort of other vegetables. When they finished, they set up a table in the sukkah and sat down.
Julie’s father brought out a plate of cookies and juice. “You girls worked so hard to build the sukkah,” he said. “You deserve some refreshments!” He left he cookies and juice on the table and went inside.
The two girls sat in the newly built sukkah and enjoyed the warm breeze flowing through it.
“That was fun,” Sharon said, “but why do you build the sukkah in the first place?”
“Well,” said Julie, “lots of reasons. First of all it says in the Torah that God wants us to build it to remind us of the temporary huts our people lived in when we left slavery in Egypt and wandered toward the Promised Land.”
“But don’t we celebrate that at Passover,” Sharon asked.
“Yes, but then we think about what it is like to be slaves. On Sukkot we think about how hard it is to move from place to place and have very little. There are lots of people who live like that, and Sukkot reminds us how we can help them.”
“Last week,” Sharon said, “my family and I helped build a house for a family that was living in a shelter. That sounds like one of the reasons we build the sukkah.”
“It sure does,” Julie agreed. “The sukkah doesn’t really offer protection from cold, heat or rain. It reminds us that so many people don’t have safe, warm houses like we do. You must have felt great when you helped build that house for people who did not have one.”
“It was wonderful,” Sharon answered!
“The family was so happy when they moved in. I can still see the expression on the children’s faces. Are there any other reasons to build the sukkah?”
“Sure,” said Julie.
“Sukkot celebrates the harvest. It reminds us that there are so many people who do not have a harvest—who do not have enough to eat.”
“Didn’t we think of them at our food drive just a few days ago at Yom Kippur?”
“Of course,” answered Julie, “but we could have a food drive everyday, and people would still be hungry. Sukkot reminds us how lucky we are.”
As the day turned to night Julie and Sharon noticed how beautiful the almost full moon looked. “The moon will be completely full on the first night of Sukkot tomorrow,” Julie said.
“When I sit in the sukkah,” she continued, “and look up at the stars I feel closer to God. It makes me feel like a partner with God in trying to make the world a better place.
I think that is really the point of all our Holy Days and festivals,” Julie added. “Each one with its individual customs reminds us that God wants us to use our talents to make the world better.”
“Wow! I never thought of it like that,” Sharon answered. “I’m going to ask my parents if we can build a sukkah next year too!”