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Sukkot at Congregation Kol Ami

What an amazing three day Sukkot celebration at The House in the Woods! Kol Ami members Ilene and Phil Freedman and their friendly and industrious sons, Noah and Jonah, generously opened their House in The Woods Farm to the congregants of Kol Ami, who were invited to help build a sukkah there this Sukkot. The Freedmans built the sukkah frame and on the first night of Sukkot, about 25 adults and children came out to help decorate it. Branches were used for the ceiling, making sure stars could be seen through it as tradition dictates, and the walls were made from tablecloths decorated by the children of Kol Ami’s religious school and from flowers gathered at the farm. Rabbi Dan did a sukkot service with the lulav and etrog and explained the meanings of each. Afterwards, everyone gathered in the sukkah for a potluck dinner. It was a beautiful autumn evening, the setting was lovely and everyone commented how appropriate the setting was to the holiday, given that Sukkot celebrates the end of the harvesting season.

On the third night of Sukkot, which was a Saturday, Kol Ami held its first “Sukkot Under the Stars,” an adult only evening with attendance of about 50 people. Everyone brought appetizers and hot spiced apple cider was provided for all. When the sun set, the end of Shabbat was celebrated with a beautiful Havdallah service led by Rabbi Dan and Eric Dubbin. The Freedmans built a roaring bonfire and everyone gathered around to hear Eric play tunes on the guitar. After a hard rain the day before and the threat of possibly needing to cancel the event, it turned out to be a gorgeous night with good food, music and camaraderie. The clouds even cleared and the stars came out for viewing in the sukkah!

The following day after religious school, a beautiful Sunday afternoon, a group of about 15 children and their families arrived at the Freedmans. They had a blast enjoying arts and crafts and a tour of the farm animals given by Noah and Jonah Freedman. They got to feed and pet the goats and enjoyed eating lunch in the sukkah. The kids even loved seeing a snake skin that Noah and Jonah had found! The crazy photo booth was a highlight to end the afternoon.

We wish to thank Ilene and Phil Freedman for their generous hospitality and for making Sukkot a very memorable one for many members of the Kol Ami community.   See photo gallery >

What is Sukkot?  (borrowed from

For forty years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt, miraculous "clouds of glory" surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. Ever since, we remember G-d's kindness and reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah--a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches--for the duration of the Sukkot festival (on the Jewish calendar Tishrei 15-21). For seven days and nights, we eat all our meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home.

Another Sukkot observance is the taking of the Four Kinds: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs). On each day of the festival (excepting Shabbat), we take the Four Kinds, recite a blessing over them, bring them together in our hands and wave them in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward. Our sages in the midrash tell us that the Four Kinds represent the various types and personalities that comprise the community of Israel, whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot.

Sukkot is also called The Time of Our Joy; indeed, a special joy pervades the festival. nightly Water-Drawing Celebrations, reminiscent of the evening-to-dawn festivities held in the Holy Temple in preparation for the drawing of water for use in the festival service, fill the synagogues and streets with song, music and dance until the wee hours of the morning.

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshaana Rabbah ("Great Salvation") and closes the period of Divine judgment begun on Rosh Hashanah. A special observance is the aravah--the taking of a bundle of willow branches.

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