Who are your Ushpizin?
As we wind down from the intensity of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur the Jewish people are blessed to celebrate the seven day holiday of Sukkot. There are some very special traditions associated with this holiday.
We are encouraged not only to spend time outside with family and friends eating, reading, even sleeping in temporary dwellings called a sukkah but also to symbolically invite the great leaders of Israel into our dwellings, one leader per night, to join us as we discuss their teachings and honor their contributions to our people. These leaders of the Jewish people, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and King David are the usual focus and that has served us well as a people for over two thousand years.
In this modern era of Israel’s rebirth, it seems appropriate to grow the invite list to reflect the Israel of today. Maybe we could pair a biblical leader with a modern one each night. To that end, I would invite:
- Former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin
I have loved this man since I was a little girl. He always reminded me of a loving grandfather but as I grew older I read more and more about his life and with every article and book my respect for him only grew. It was Prime Minister Begin who said, “Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever.” This is more than a powerful quote, this is the very tenet of belief that the Jewish people have held onto during all of the Anti-Semitic pogroms, the Holocaust, and through each of Israel’s wars. It is the very essence of hope that I pass onto my children.
- Former Prime Minister Golda Meir
Any explanation needed here? It’s Golda. I would want to ask her a million questions but I would also want to let her know that the Israel Forever team is made up of almost all women. I have a feeling she would get a kick out of that.
- Major General Amos Yadlin
He is not only a former Israeli Air Force General but he also co-authored the Military Ethics of Fighting Terror Article in 2005. This crucial article recognized that the usual rules of the “battlefield” do not necessarily apply to fighting terror. As Israel is literally battling terrorists EVERY SINGLE DAY of her existence Yadlin’s contribution was necessary and important. I would want to hear how and why he formulated his approach and if a decade later he would want to change anything.
- An Israeli taxi driver
Pretty much ANY Israeli taxi driver will do. I have taken countless taxi rides over many visits to Israel over the years and one of my favorite aspects of every trip are the conversations I have had while traveling around. When people say, “everybody has a story”, truly every taxi driver has a story. Whether they grew up on a kibbutz, served in the IDF during a war, or their adult child is running a Start-Up in Tel Aviv, the conversations never disappoint.
- A graduate student from the Weizmann Institute or the Technion
Pretty much every graduate student at the Weizmann Institute or the Technion is involved in some type of creative research project that has the potential to change lives everywhere for the better. Speaking with people who know how to use chemistry, physics, immunology, biology, and mathematics to fight cancer, brain disorders, and various other maladies demonstrates the power of the human mind and it’s limitless capabilities.
- Simcha Blass
A Polish immigrant to Israel, Blass was the inventor of the drip irrigation system. As water is a precious commodity in this tiny Middle Eastern country, drip irrigation literally revolutionized throughout the world the ability of farmers to grow food, trees, and flowers throughout the land. If you have ever had an Israeli tomato or cucumber, if you have ever inhaled the fragrance of Israeli flowers you can recognize this incredible contribution. Israel produces about ninety-five percent of the produce that her citizens consume. Fruits and vegetables are among my favorite foods and I love the salads that I get to eat when I am there. With every bite we owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Blass.
- The man or woman from the local coffee shop who draws pictures in the foam of my coffee when I am visiting.
I am always amused by this gesture because as an American I am bombarded by mainstream media depictions of constant violence in my beloved Israel. For those of us who have traveled there, we know the truth, Israel is a thriving, beautiful country made up of intelligent, passionate people. When the barista takes a moment to draw a flower in my coffee foam it proves to me that life will happily continue despite those who wish to cause harm to the Jewish homeland.
SUGGESTIONS FOR TEACHERS
Sukkot is an excellent teaching tool!
Beyond teaching the traditions of building and dwelling in a sukkah and why we do this, teachers can help students explore history and values. Encourage your students to consider who they would want to invite. I did this exercise with my students over many years and their responses were beautiful and provided important insight into who they were as people. This was one of my favorite aspects of teaching, getting to know my students thoughts and feelings beyond the usual learning. For younger students you can have them name their guest(s) and draw a picture of the guest(s) in their sukkah. For older students they can write about who they are inviting and why. I had students name a wide variety of invitees ranging from top athletes and celebrities to a beloved grandparent to Anne Frank.
Teachers can also explore the many agricultural and medical advances as well as the landscape of Israel.
In my personal sukkah our family hangs many pictures from Israel, places, prayers, IDF soldiers, and the beautiful fruits of the land. Ask your students how they would bring Israel into their sukkah and help them see that wherever they live, we can bring Israel into our lives and our hearts.
Most of all, have fun. This is a joyous holiday and a great opportunity to instill pride and a connection with our Jewish homeland.
Heidi Krizer Daroff enjoys sharing her passion for Israel with others as North America Director of The Israel Forever Foundation. While her passport indicates that she does not reside in Israel, her heart definitely does. Through her storytelling, Heidi invites you to grow your involvement and add more Israel Forever into your daily life.