With help from Deena Grant, Associate Professor of Jewish Studies, and Gilana Levavi, a fellow in the International Peacemaking Program, Hartford Seminary students learned about the Jewish holiday of Sukkot on Wednesday, Oct. 16, and participated in an interfaith dialogue around the holiday’s central themes. They also gamely visited the campus sukkah in the middle of a rainstorm.
Professor Grant first explained the theological underpinnings of the holiday, a seven-day occasion for rejoicing that reminds the Jewish people of the 40-year period during which they wandered in the desert living in temporary shelters. The sukkah, she said, “symbolizes the harvest and thanking God for it.”
Levavi spoke about the contemporary celebration of the holiday, which involves the building of a temporary structure, or hut, with a roof made of natural materials through which one can see the sky. Many Jewish families eat and sometimes sleep in their sukkah, and guests are often invited for meals, she said.
Despite a driving rain, Hartford Seminary students and guests took turns inside the sukkah performing the traditional blessing involving a palm frond, two willow branches, three myrtle branches and an etrog, a type of citrus fruit native to Israel. In Hartford Seminary fashion, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish students all took part.
An interfaith dialogue followed, with students of many faiths discussing questions such as:
- What does your faith/culture/belief system/philosophy/worldview say about humility?
- What does it mean to be truly humble?
- What is the role of happiness in your faith or worldview? Are there times when it is customary, important, or even obligatory, to be happy?
- What makes sacred object different from everyday objects? What makes something sacred? Are there objects that are sacred to you?