I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

12 October 2011

The Ushpizin

Feather, J.Stahl

The Ushpizin (Holy Guests)
The Ushpizin are the seven hidden hosts who, according to Jewish lore, visit each succah during the seven-day festival. This refers to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. The origin of this visitation can be found in a verse of Zohar,

    "When a person is seated in his succah, Abraham and six distinguished visitors partake of his company." (Zohar 5:103b)

Each in turn ushers the others into the succah during the subsequent days of the holiday. Source

"When a person sits in his Sukkah the Shechina (G-d's Divine Presence) spreads its wings (metaphor) over it from above and then Avraham together with the other five Tzadikim (Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe and Aharon) and King David dwell together with him." - Zohar - Parshat Emor.
Ohr Somayach

Recently, it has become popular in some circles to invite matriarchs and other important women of Israel--Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, and Esther--either paired with the men or on their own.

It is tradition to either invite less fortunate guests to your sukkah, or to give tzedakah in the name of the Ushpizin. The sages explain, the only true joy is shared joy. "And you shall rejoice in your festival --you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, and the stranger, and the orphan, and the widow, who are within your cities." (Deuteronomy 12:12)

  The Zohar (Emor 103a), after explaining the Ushpizin, continues:

"One must also gladden the poor, and the portion [that would otherwise have been set aside for these Ushpizin] guests should go to the poor. For if a person sits in the shadow of faith and invites those guests and does not give their portion [to the poor], they all remain distant from him...One should not say "I will first satisfy myself with food and drink, and I shall give the leftovers to the poor." Rather, the first of everything must be for one's guests. If one gladdens his guests and satisfies them, God rejoices over him. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the others shower him..."

We are to invite not only the guests, but the quality of those guests into our lives during Sukkot.

  • 1st Day: The attribute of "Benevolence" and "Love" -- personified in Abraham.
  • 2nd Day: The attribute of "Restraint," and "Discipline" -- personified in Isaac.
  • 3rd Day: The attribute of "Beauty", "Harmony" and "Truth" -- personified in Jacob.
  • 4th Day: "Victory" and "Endurance" -- personified in Moses.
  • 5th Day: "Splendor" and "Humility" -- personified in Aaron.
  • 6th Day: "Foundation" and "Connection" -- personified in Joseph.
  • 7th Day: "Sovereignty", "Receptiveness" and "Leadership" -- personified in David.

A great movie was made several years ago about the practice of inviting in Ushpizin (regardless of how well off you are) called "Ushpizin" and made by Shuli Rand and his wife Mechal Bat Sheva Rand. If you have not seen it already - definitely check it out! It's in Hebrew, but has English subtitles.

    Mark chapter 9
    2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus.
       5 Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified.
       7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.
       9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”
    --New Living Translation

     The Midrash Rabbah anticipates Moses and Elijah to herald the advent of Messiah:

        The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses, "Moses, by your life, just as you have given your soul for Israel in This World, so in the Future to Come, when I bring them the prophet Elijah, the two of you will come as one... In that hour [Moses] will come and comfort Israel... (Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:17)

    Sukkot is also known as the Festival of the Clouds:
    R. Eliezer said, "It has been taught: 'I had the Israelites live in Sukkot,' These Sukkot were clouds of glory." (Sukkah 11b)

    Isaiah 4
    2 But in that day, the branch of the Lord
          will be beautiful and glorious;
       the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory
          of all who survive in Israel.
        3 All who remain in Zion
          will be a holy people—
       those who survive the destruction of Jerusalem
          and are recorded among the living.
        4 The Lord will wash the filth from beautiful Zion
          and cleanse Jerusalem of its bloodstains
          with the hot breath of fiery judgment.
        5 Then the Lord will provide shade for Mount Zion
          and all who assemble there.
       He will provide a canopy of cloud during the day
          and smoke and flaming fire at night,
          covering the glorious land.
        6 It will be a shelter from daytime heat
          and a hiding place from storms and rain.

    Zecheriah 14
     8 On that day life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, half toward the Dead Sea and half toward the Mediterranean, flowing continuously in both summer and winter.
       9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day there will be one Lord—his name alone will be worshiped.

    16 In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters. 17 Any nation in the world that refuses to come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, will have no rain. 18 If the people of Egypt refuse to attend the festival, the Lord will punish them with the same plague that he sends on the other nations who refuse to go. 19 Egypt and the other nations will all be punished if they don’t go to celebrate the Festival of Shelters.

    Make sure you check out Firstfruits of Zion's "In the Shadow of the Almighty" article, as well as Hebrew4Christian's pages on Sukkot.

    For those of us with children, there are some kids' crafts that can be done. Since I have toddlers, this one from ChallahCrumbs looks like one we will do this year.

    Chag Sameach!