At sunset the Jewish holiday Sukkot starts. The main purpose of this festival is to remind people of Exodus, the forty years that the Israelites have wandered through the desert, after they had escaped from Egypt where held as slaves and before they could enter Israel. It is celebrated in the autumn because the crops are inside, which means there is time for celebration, and it give the opportunity to give thanks for the harvest. So, this holiday is also a feast of the harvest.
Festival huts that are build, form the center of the festival. Such a hut is called a “Sukkah”. During the wanderings through the desert the Israelites lived in simple huts that could be taken down quickly. The Sukka’s in this festival represent these huts. They are meant to be primitive: in the roofs ought to be a gap for instance, so that the Sukkah is exposed to the sky. In this way they remind the Jewish believers that the people in the desert, searching for a safe place to live, trusted in God’s ability to lead them through the desert with all its perils.
Not only flesh-and-blood-guests are invited in the Sukka, but also seven special guests, the so called “ushpizin” (guests), all biblical forefathers: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and David. All these men underwent the experience of wandering. According to ancient kabalistic tradition, each of these men is associated with one of the seven spiritual attributes of God and later on with seven of the Kabala’s sephirot. Pictures of these forefathers are hung on the walls of the Sukka.
Sadly the foremothers are missing out. Today many families and communities honor also biblical foremothers in their Sukkah. This tradition is inspired by the rabbis of the Babylonian Talmud in Megillah 14a-b, who list seven biblical women who were prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Hulda and Esther. And according to an ancient kabalistic tradition, these women are also associated with the same seven attributes and the same sephirot as the forefathers.
This week I invite the seven foremothers in my blog, each on one day, to teach me something which is of relevance in my life.