Sukkot is a holiday that focuses on hospitality. During Sukkot, we build temporary outdoor shelters where we eat, relax, and some even sleep. It’s a mitzvah both to eat in the sukkah and to invite others in to share a meal.
We welcome guests in spirit and in person. Symbolically, we invite in Uzhpizin, a list of patriarchs (and some invite the matriarchs known as Ushpizot). Often, we discuss who we would invite if time, death, and distance weren’t obstacles. We also invite real living people.
Inviting the Ushpizin/Ushpizot connects us to our Judaism. Inviting others we admire connects us to our love, our passions, and often our family history. Inviting friends, family, and sometimes even strangers connects us to our community.
When asked who they would invite to our sukkah over the years, the answers from our family members have ranged from J.K. Rowling, to the Tenth Doctor, to Luna Lovegood, to Elizabeth Bennet, to Great Grandmothers (of Blessed Memory), to far away friends, to neighbors, to local librarians.
I’d like to pose the question to readers. Although I realize most of our SpokaneFāVS’ readers aren’t Jewish and don’t have temporary shelters in their backyards, I propose you spend some time thinking about it. Who would you invite?
If you have a sukkah and you think of someone you know in real life, reach out to them and invite them. If they’re local, pull up a chair for them. If they’re far away, write or call to let them know you wish they could be there with you.
If you don’t have a sukkah, invite the living people you think of out for coffee. Invite them over for dinner. For someone who passed away, spend some time thinking of them. Maybe look through pictures or show others those pictures. You could share that person’s stories. You could donate to a cause they supported or one that makes you think of them. For fictional characters, you could always revisit the worlds where you met them.You could take a look around and see if there are brand new ways to enjoy those characters (for instance, in the many years since she endeared herself to many in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennet has fought zombies, cataloged her life as a grad student in vlog form, and starred in a card game). Do you write fan fiction? Well, this could serve as a great writing prompt starring your favorite fictional character. For anyone you don’t know in person, one idea is to send them a letter thanking them for whatever they’ve given you. When you think over the question, you can identify those who are meaningful to you. With so many negative stories happening all around us, it’s nice to be able to connect (actually or symbolically) with those we care about.
You may not have a sukkah, but we have homes, and hearts, and lives. Who would you invite and why?
Dorothy-Ann Parent (better known as Hyphen) is a writer, a traditional Jew, a seeker of justice, a lover of stories, the self-proclaimed Jewish Molly Weasley, hobbit-sized, and best not left unattended in a bookshop or animal shelter.
Although it’s uncomfortable, I face these stories because I worry that if I don’t I’ll become insensate to them.
If I truly believe we all exist in relation to each other, then I need to remain tender, not calloused.