by Dov Goldflam & Gila Ansell Brauner
Sukkot [Tabernacles] lasts from the 15-22 of Tishrei in Israel [23rd in the Diaspora]. The origins are to be found in Vayikra [Leviticus] Ch.23., v.34, where the people are commanded to sit in booths for seven days as a reminder of the booths in which the People of Israel dwelt in the desert. The explanation is that this is an act of thanksgiving to the Almighty for His miracles and protection in the desert and ever since, as the original sukkot were an act of faith in the desert.
Another name for the festival is "Hag Ha'assif", the harvest festival. Sukkot is rich in symbols, especially the Arba'a Minim [the Four Species], and those of the Ushpizin [hospitality], the traditional seven eminent biblical guests who are said to honour us by visiting our sukkah.
For younger children:
In Israel, it is possible to go to a Four Species market and gain hands-on learning about the species, their meaning and their use - as well as to buy sukkah parts and decorations. In most areas of the Diaspora, this is not possible.
Invite a guest to your class who can demonstrate the Four Species [with a film, too] and talk about their significance. Spend the rest of this - or the next lesson making a Four Species market, with two stalls from each class. Set up in a large hall, with activities, such as making sukkah decorations [or selling commercial ones], hassidic music, special food, etc.
For intermediate and older children:
Getting to know each other better
Prepare name slips, each with the name of one student. Each student receives a slip [not with his or her own name!]: this is the student he or she will invite to their sukkah. Allow students time to talk to each other about how small/large their sukkah is; how it will be decorated; where it is; who else visits them on sukkot etc...
Erev Simhat Bet Hashoeva
Sukkot was the time [16 Tishrei 5730/1949] of "Operation Magic Carpet", when 30,000 Yemenite Jews were flown to the new State of Israel in a massive attempt to save the community.
Make Yemenite Jewry the theme of your special evening in the sukkah, with special stories, songs, costume and food.
Tikkun Leil Hosha'na Rabbah
Hosha'na Rabbah is the last of the intermediate days of Sukkot, falling 10 days after Yom Kippur, and completes the cycle of atonement, as the last opportunity to repent one's ways.
The traditional study programme the evening of Hosha'na Rabbah is to study all of Dvarim [Deuteronomy] and recite all of Tehillim [Psalms], in the same sort of format as is used on the night of Shavuot [Pentecost] - which commemorates the night before the Giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai.
If you cannot make this an all-night activity, try for a session or two as late as students will be allowed, with a guest speaker and light refreshments.
The activities below were adapted and extended from a monthly series on Teaching Israel, produced and edited by Mr. Yitzhak Zucher at the former Pedagogic Center of the Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora.