Halfway through Sukkot? Not sure what to do for Shmeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah? Need some ideas on how to get the community together? Well UJS is here to help with brief introductions to the festivals and different ways to bring the community together on Sukkot. This sneak preview to the next Student Guide to the High Holy Days has introductions to the festivals, activities and as mandated at UJS Conference, a Sukkot Homelessness Appeal.
Including ideas inspired by students across campuses, this is a great educational resource useful for every J-Soc and every Jewish Student on campus.
Made as a great guideline to begin discussion on Sukkot, every J-Soc can tailor it to their own community. It can inspire great discussion surrounding Sukkot and the ideas the Holy Days provoke.
What is Sukkot?
Sukkot is a week long festival that celebrates the gathering of the harvest and the protection that G-d provided when the Jewish people left Egypt. We celebrate by living in a Sukkah, a homemade dwelling outside and by taking the Arab Minim (Four Kinds) that are four different species that represent different parts of the body, more commonly known as the Lulav and Etrog. It is a great time to appreciate the shelter of our homes and our bodies. Sukkot is alternatively known as the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Boothes.
What is Shmeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah?
Shmeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah are the last two days of Sukkot. Shmeni Atzeret occurs around the world, whereas Simchat Torah only tends to take place outside of Israel as in Israel they tend to combine it into one holiday. Shmeni Atzeret translates as the ‘Eighth Day of Assembly’, showing that this is the conclusion of Sukkot. This marks the beginning of the rain season in Israel and when we start praying for rain. Simchat Torah means ‘Rejoicing in Torah’, which celebrates the conclusion of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah, where we begin reading the Torah from the beginning again.
Build your own Sukkah!
For seven days and nights, we are encouraged to eat all our meals in the Sukkah and it is meant to be regarded as home for this period. The Sukkah is made up of at least three walls, and a roof which you can see the sky through, otherwise known as the Sechach. This is typically made out of bamboo, pine boughs or palm branches. You are encouraged to spend as much time in the Sukkah, with some people only eating in the sukkah, some sleep in the sukkah, and others tend to visit when they can.
Sometimes it can be hard to access a sukkah on campus, or maybe you would like an alternative way to celebrate the festival – why don’t you build your own sukkah…out of sweets! This is a great way not only to learn about the different aspects of the sukkah, but also a great way to bring the whole
community together! This can be built using a range of sweets, including gummy bears, laces, wafers, liquorice, icing and anything else you can think of!
Send in your pictures to us as we would love to see them, and maybe they will even make their way to the UJS Instagram!
Dance and Sing!
Approaching Shmeni Atzeret and Simchat Torah, this is a celebration of the Torah, and there are two great ways to do this: Dancing and Singing!
Dancing: A common form of dance on Simchat Torah is Israeli Dancing! This is a great and easy way to get the whole community involved, as it is a style of dance that we can all get involved in and is easy to learn!
Songs: To go with these dances, you need some great songs to put you in the mood! Here, we have created a short playlist of 10 Israeli songs, that can help you get in the mood for Simchat Torah!
1. Tel Aviv - Omer Adam
2. Golden Boy - Nadav Guedj
3. Kos Shel Yain - Moshe Peretz
4. Tudo Bom - Static and Ben El
5. Anisnu Historia - Lior Narkis
6. Mesiba Be Haifa - The Ultras, Itay Levi
7. Terminal 3 - Dudu Aharon
8. Ihiye Beseder - Cafe Shahod Chazak
9. Full Moon - Lior Narkis
10. Kvish Hachof - Static and Ben El
Inside and Out
Sukkot is a mitzvah that affects us both on the inside and the out. On the outside, we are physically walking into the sukkah with our whole body therefore we are completely involved physically in the mitzvahs of Sukkot. By eating, sleeping and spending time in the Sukkah, this is the outside aspect as we are taking care of our physical welfare inside the sukkah. In terms of the inside, the Lulav and Etrog represents part of the body, so that we can also celebrate Sukkot spiritually, and from the inside too. Each part of the Lulav represents a different aspect, and the Lulav is made up of three parts: myrtle branches, willow branches and the palm spine. The myrtle represents the eyes and how we see the world, the willow represented the lips and how we use our voice, and the palm represented the backbone, and how we are standing tall. The Etrog represents the heart and our emotive responses.
Therefore, as we are completely involved in the festival both inside and out, it is important to also focus on our health. Sukkot is a great time to look inwards at your mental health, and looking at ways of self care to improve your mental wellbeing, as well as how to take care of your physical wellbeing. This could be through a range of healthy mechanisms, if they help take care of you.
Helping the Homeless
As the year 5780 begins it’s the perfect time to get involved in a social action project. Part of UJS policy, as passed at our annual conference, is to run a homelessness awareness campaign at Sukkot.
Homelessness and Sukkot
Why do we raise awareness for homelessness during Sukkot?
- Empathy – “You shall live in booths… In order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt…” (Leviticus 23:42-43)
Sukkot presents a unique opportunity to reflect on the struggles of the Jewish people when they were left without a permanent home after the exodus from Egypt. The theme of displacement, which is fundamental to this high holiday, provides an incentive for Jewish people to help those who remain impoverished and homeless.
- Hospitality- “May it please you, Abraham, my exalted guest, that all the other exalted guests dwell here with me and with you Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David” (Prayer for Ushpizin)
It is considered a mitzvah to invite guests (or Ushpizin) into your Sukkah. This therefore offers the chance to invite people into your temporary home who would hugely benefit from the festive hospitality. The Sukkot motif of generosity further explains why raising awareness and funds for homeless people is of particular importance at this time of the year.
Ideas for Action
What your J-Soc can do?
Donate, Exchange and Appeal
If your J-Soc or local community are hosting a high holiday event, donate leftover non-perishables to your local shelter. This is an excellent way to ensure that spare resources are offered to those most in need. Find your local shelter here
In aid of the Sukkot campaign, a J-Soc event is a prime opportunity to encourage donation to homeless shelters. For instance, ask your society members to bring a non-perishable item of food in exchange for their festival meal.
Launch an appeal for people to donate toiletries and mobilise your J-Soc committee to collect the donated goods around Sukkot. Utilise your J-Soc’s social media presence to reach as many people as possible
What you can do throughout the year?
Homelessness charities nationwide have incredible volunteer opportunities throughout the year. For more information please look at:
It is important to remain informed about causes of homelessness as well as the struggles of poverty. The following reading list, which could be used for Yom Tov, offers valuable insight into the experience of homeless people.
- ‘No Fixed Abode’ Charlie Carroll
- ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’ George Orwell
- ‘In Darkest England and the Way’ William Booth
- ‘London Labour and the London Poor’ Henry Mayhew
- ‘Glimpses in the Abyss’ Mary Higgs
Additionally, Jewish Human Rights organisation Rene Cassin are organising a workshop aimed at members of the community who volunteer for soup kitchens, homeless shelters or asylum drop-in centres on awareness of modern slavery.