D'var Torah for Sukkot
2002Each year, after the intensity of the High Holydays, we are exhausted physically and emotionally. We face the holiday of Sukkot, during which we are commanded to be joyful, and to experience the holiday with family, friends and guests.
My Sukkah, Your Sukkah
There is a custom of inviting ushpizin, (Aramaic for guests) each night to join us in the sukkah. This custom was introduced by the kabbalists in Sfat in the Middle Ages. The guests are as follows: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. Some people have also invited the matriarchs and other women into the sukkah. One list goes like this: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther.
This invitation to welcome the guests is in Aramaic and was reportedly said by Rabbi Isaac Luria:
U-lu ush-pi-zin i-la-in ka-di-shin!
U-lu a va-han i-la-in ka-di-shin!
Te-vu ush-pi-zin i-la-in, te-vu!
Te-vu ush-pi-zin m'hem-nu-ta, te-vu!
(Enter, exalted, sacred guests!
Enter, exalted, sacred ancestors!
Be seated, exalted guests!
Be seated, faithful guests!)
We read in the Zohar (Zohar Emor, 103b):"When you sit in the sukkah, on the shade of faithfulness,' the Shechina spreads Her wings over you and Abraham, five other righteous ones, and King David, make their dwelling with you...Thus you should rejoice with a shining countenance each and every day of the festival together with these guests who lodge with you..."
Your Zohar Navigator:
1. What is the purpose of inviting guests into the sukkah?
2. How can we, as modern Jews, find meaning in this ancient custom?
Inviting ushpizin into your sukkah can be a way to modernize your time in the sukkah and actually help you and others find meaning in your dwelling in booths. Each of these guests represents to us a wanderer, one who was able to think outside of the narrow-mindedness of their own community and take action. Each night, by candlelight, invoke this ancient formula, and invite a guest into the sukkah. Set a chair for him/her. Ask someone to "introduce" this biblical guest. Who was he/she? What did he/she achieve? What was it about this person's life that we wish to remember? And each night, take action. Allow the invitation of these honorable guests to spur you to perform acts of tzedek. Collect canned food for a shelter or food pantry. Choose an organization in your area and collect tzedakah to benefit the organization. Invite participants to join in a day of service to benefit an organization in your community. Work for social justice! May we allow these days of sukkot to be a time of great joy for us. And may we use that joy for tikkun olam - improvement of our world.
Chag Sukkot Sameach!
Prepared by Rabbi Andrea Lerner, Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.