Shalom Parents. First, a few "housekeeping" items: in reviewing the materials I think will work best for this year's 3rd grade, I have rerurned the spiral-bound index cards in favor of a binder. As the year continues, the binder will include print-outs on prayers; holidays; TaNaCh (Torah, Navi and Ketuvim, which together comprise the Jewish BIble. Navi, or Nevi'im in plural, are the Prophets; Ketuvim are Writings, and include, by way of example, Megillat Esther, which we read on Purim and Kohelet, which we read on Sukkot.)
As you may recall, each student will get an SSJS bookbag; I leave it to your discretion whether or not to use this bookbag. As long as your daughter or son has the binder and any textbooks handed out, and a snack, I am all set.
The 3rd housekeeping item is a request to you. To help your children retain the information we cover each week,I would be grateful if you would take 10 to 15 minutes a week to review the handouts I provide each week. This week's handouts, in the binder, cover the current holiday of Sukkot.
Speaking of Sukkot, that was our primary topic on Sunday. As is the case with all Jewish holidays (and Shabbat), Sukkot started at sundown. This year, the holiday started on Sunday evening. Here are some points we covered about the holiday. You may want to play a game with your daughter or son about these points, such as T/F or fill-in-the-blank. Where I have provided information geared toward you, the parents, I have highlighted the key points we discussed in class.
- Sukkot is celebrated for 8 days outside of Israel, and 7 days in Israel.
- The Jewish people used to have a holy Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple, or Beit HaMikdash, was standing, the Jews were supposed to make a pilgrimage to the Temple on three holidays: Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot.
- Although the Temple was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago, there have always been Jewish people living in Jerusalem, and our prayers have included for all these years a plea to G-d (aka, HaShem) to allow us to return to our most sacred city, Jeruslaem. Jews still visit and pray at the one remaining wall of the Holy Temple. This wall is known as the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall and also the Kotel.
- So, what is Sukkot anyway, besides a pilgrimage festival? It is celebrated for two reasons. First, it is a harvest holiday, celebrating the fall harvest (Shavuot celebrates the spring harvest). When harvesting food from the far reaches of his land, the farmer and his helpers would build temporary dwellings in the area they were harvesting. These dwellings are called Sukkot; singular is sukkah. The pilgrimage aspect involved bringing an offering to the Temple. Today, personally, I commemerate this by making a donation to an organization involved in feeding those who are unable to buy food for themselves. (And I taught my daughter to do the same. We would actually go shopping, and then put back items on the shelves as a reminder that we needed to donate that money to those who have less than we do. Not easy as a single mom, but she is now 21 and does seem to understand the difference between wants and needs, which was my goal.) Okay, so Sukkot is a harvest holiday. The second reason it is celebrated is to commemorate the 40 years the Jews wandered in the desert, after leaving Egypt (celebrated at Passover) and before arriving in the land of Israel. During those 40 years, when the Jews encamped in an area, they lived in temporary dwellings called Sukkot.
So fast forward to 5779, the Jewish year, and we still have a tradition of building a sukkah in our yard. It should be big enough to hold a table and chairs for your family; guests should be invited to meals in your sukkah, if you are able to build one; and the ceiling must be made of plant material, and serve as protection from the sun, but the stars must be visible through this ceiling. Growing up in Phoenix, we used palm fronds. My grandparents in CT used a bamboo roof, which had the advantage of being reuseable. And many of my New England cousins use branches from local trees. Sukkot is a festive holiday, and touches on some beautiful, key Jewish values, such as hospitality and being grateful for the food we are blessed to have in our homes. Some people actually sleep in their sukkah, but most families just eat their meals in the Sukkah. And if it is too hot, or too cold, or the weather is otherwise inclement, many families will say the blessings over wine (kiddush) and challah (ha'motzei) in the sukkah, as well as the blessing for sitting in a sukkah, on the first two days; Shabbat; and the last two days. Then they will eat the meal indoors. (I once tried to eat a meal in sukkah while it was snowing, but when my soup became cold, I gave up and went inside. We are not supposed to be uncomfortable in the sukkah.)
- On Sukkot, we use a lulav and etrog, which are made of 4 different species. More on this in the handouts!
This coming Sunday, we will talk about the holiday attached to the end of Sukkot, which is called Simchat Torah. A simcha is a happy occasion, or celebration. So this holiday has to do with a celebration around the Torah - specifically, finishing the last of the 5 Books and then immediately starting over... why do we begin the annual cycle of reading the Torah as soon as we end the cycle of reading?
Thank you to Eliana's grandparents for visiting our class! It is always wonderful to see multiple generations learning together and being a family!
Wishing you a Shabbat shalom - a peaceful Shabbat -