Tags: sukkot

note to self

A Teaching of the Sukkah

Sukkot is long over now, but I was too busy too post all my thoughts about it. Here they come. Maybe one time I can put them all together for a workshop about Sukkot. 


An interesting feature about the building of the Sukkah is that it must be simple, and it is always simple but there is also the common practice to decorate it. They often look very nice. This is because the Talmud associates the Sukkah with beauty. It is a special kind of beauty which is meant here. 


The etrog tree is used in the Talmud to define what is beautiful. The etrog is used as one of the Four Species during Sukkot. What is so special about the etrog? The etrog grows, blossoms and produces fruit throughout all seasons. It does so in the heat, the cold, the storm and the rain. Thus, beauty to the Talmud means, ‘to persist’ and to ‘to endure’, the determination to live on during difficulties and hardship. You could say it is the belief life has more power than death. 


So this is the thought behind the nice round pumpkins for the door of the primitive Sukkah’s reminding of the journey in the desert, of the flowers on the table and the children-drawings hanging on the walls: they all show that in the end life prevails over death, that in difficult circumstances it is important to cling to life, to beauty. 

These insights give thoughts questions that can be answered by drawing tarot cards, such as: What does beauty mean to me? What is my most valuable instrument in difficult circumstances? What helps me, or how can I apply this special concept of beauty as an instrument to endure in difficult times?
note to self

A Teaching of the Lulav

One of the duties of Sukkot is that one takes four species of plants, called the “lulav” and shake this bundle on each of the seven days of Sukkot. This entry ends with a tarot-activity using the symbols of the lulav.


These species are the lulave, (date palm frond) which is the biggest plant, the hadass (bough of a myrtle tree), the aravah (willow branch), and the etrog (a citron). These plants can be seen as a reflection of four categories of plants that grow in Israël: those with a good taste and nice fragrance (the etrog), those with a good taste and no fragrance (the palm), those with a pleasant fragrance and no taste (the haddasim), and those with neither taste not fragrance (the aravah). You could say that by waving all four, Jews ask for all types of plants and crops to grow.


In another interpretation (there are more than the two I mention here) the four species symbolize the relation people have with the Torah. The etrog with its sweet taste and nice scent symbolizes people who not only study the Torah but also practice it. The Haddasim with its pleasant fragrance, but without taste, symbolizes people who study Torah but do not practice it. The lulave points to people that practice the Torah but do not study it. The aravah symbolizes people who either study nor practice the Torah. All of them are part of the community symbolized by the lulav. But this is not all of the teaching. A community changes and grows, because people grow and change. This means that the etrog can humble itself tomorrow in a hadass, the aravah can get scent suddenly, and the willow can be on its way to become a blossoming fruit tree. The promise that change is possible is the promise of the lulav in this interpretation.

Tarot-activity “The Four Species”
The following is a tarot activity derived from the lulav. In the activity the Four Species are seen as four attitudes in ourselves towards our faith, our spirituality or religion. Two concepts are important in this activity: “study” and “practice”. You need to define what the difference is between the two, but it might become clear what they means to you by doing the activity.

1. Select (do not pull) a card from one of your tarot decks for each of the four species.
Etrog (citron): studying your religion, and practicing it.
Haddasim (myrtle): study your religion but not practicing it.
Lulave: (date palm frond) practicing your religion, but not studying it.
Aravah (willow branch): study nor practice your religion.

2. Mix these four cards and pull a card with the question: “What of these four species am I, what is my attitude towards my faith right now?”

3. Then pick a second card (of the three remaining) for what you are heading for. I mean the attitude you are heading for: for example towards the approach of the etrog, studying and practicing, or the approach of the lulave, practicing your religion but not studying it, or another of the Four Species.

4. If you like your second card and its direction, then draw a third card that tells you how to stimulate your growth. If you do not like the second card, the attitude it represents then pick a third card which tells you how to prevent going in this direction.

Literature: “Een brief aan de lezeressen en lezers van Tenachon over het feest van Soekot”. Tenachon, 4, 1999. 
note to self

A Teaching of the Sukkah

When I was a student and lived in Amsterdam I worked with children in a church during the services on Sunday (the one on this photo). 


Once, at the time of the Jewish festival Sukkot, and reading Exodus in the services, we asked the children what they could not live without, what the most important things were in their homes. The Sukkah with its provisional walls and roof, bringing into mind the temporary boots of the desert, provokes this question. This is an interesting question to ask the tarot as well. 

Tarot questions: (1) the one thing I cannot do without; (2) what I really cannot do without. 
note to self

A Teaching of the Sukkah

At the Jewish festival of Sukkot, temporary huts are build, called a 'sukkah', bringing back the times that the Jewish people travelled through the desert to a promised land without having a permanent house. These huts must be simple. 


A regulation for building is that you must be able to see the heaven through the roof, and another one is that for the roof only organic material must be used that has grown from the ground, but must now be disconnected from it.

One of the wisdoms that building and dwelling in these temporary homes can teach us is that the convictions that we hold and the safety that we work for is not all there is, even if it is a blessing. It is the King of Pentacle part in us that does this, or the Four of Pentacle aspect. The Sukkah can make us aware that our destiny is broader. Each year other parts of our our selves, of the unique human being we are, can be touched upon and developed.

Tarot questions that can be asked are: What makes me feel safe in my life? What if I loose it (and how can I cope with that loss)? What is my most cherished conviction? What can come in place of that conviction (and how do I feel about that, or what does it mean to me to leave the cherished one behind...) What part of me is yet undervalued or undeveloped and yearns or is ready to be developed?

Adapted from: Yehuda Aschkenasy and Eli Whitlau, “Een brief aan de lezeressen en lezers van Tenachon over het feest van Soekot". In: Tenachon, no 4, 1999. 
dancing around a tree by anandi



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. 

"Farewell to the Sukkah"


In the past week I have invited seven foremothers in my blog to celebrate the Jewish festival Sukkot. You can read more about this custom at the entry of October 6th.

I have learned a lot from them each day. They have put me out of my usual ways, and habits, more than other themes have done in this blog. They have confronted me, challenged me and given me new ways to experience situations in my life that are difficult for me. Especially Miriam has done that, and Sarah as well.

I choosed to use the “Tarot of Doors” for the whole week. This past week, the theme of opening and closing was prevalent, which is the most important theme of this deck. This issues of past week circled around setting boundaries, opening my heart, keeping distance, releasing responsibility, and seeking entrance. Funny is that, how the theme of the deck fits in my week. Of course, I make up my own story with the cards, but it felt as a true one.

Today I leave my virtual Sukkah, and I break it down. How sad…, but that is what Sukkah’s are: temporary houses. I leave my Sukkah with a traditional blessing for the last day of Sukkot: “Farewell to the Sukkah”. I pull a card alongside the blessing with a question to the tarot inspired by it. First the blessing: 

May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors 
That just as I have stood up and dwelled in this sukkah 
so may I merit next year to dwell in the sukkah of the hide of the Levitathan. 
Next year in Jerusalem!

This blessing needs a little explaining. Here is the wish is expressed for an eternal Sukkah in Jerusalem. Implicated, not mentioned, is the hope that the Messiah will come in the following year. The Leviathan is a monster, a sort of dragon, and an image of evil. When the Messiah has come all evil (the leviathan) is conquered, and the hide of the Leviathan is used for the wall of the Sukkah. 


My question is alongside this blessing is: “What does it mean for me in to dwell in the Sukkah of the hide of the Leviathan, what do I long for?”

The image I have received is a counter image for the card which I pulled last week at Tifaret, the centre of the Tree. I had pulled the High Priestess there, the teaching of Deborah. She teached me to stay in my centre. 


The card I have pulled here is the Inventor, Man of Crystals, equivalent of the Knight of Swords. This man invents things. But as I see him right now he is worrying his head off, not living out of his centre, nor acting on his instincts and intuition. This man is me. I am worrying my head off at the moment about an issue. I know I must do what my intuition says, more, what my instincts say, but I’d rather not want to do that. I want this worrying to be over. To be honest, I do not want to live in my worries as the walls of the Sukkah, but I do want to conquer them, that is for sure, in order to live in peace in the eternal Sukkah.