By Yosef Lewis, chabad.org
Sukkos is here, and judging by the accounts of consumers and retailers alike, many suburban streets are seeing more of those temporary huts spring up for the fall holiday.
As with many Jewish traditions, the observance of the seven-day holiday of Sukkos has seen a resurgence over the past few years. More and more people are buying the Four Species that are held together in a special holiday ritual; and an increasing number of people, like northern California resident Larry Friedman, are choosing to construct the booths that Jewish law prescribes should be eaten in as a remembrance of the Jewish People’s sojourn in the desert.
“It’s been at least 20 years since we’ve had one,” says Friedman, who attends services at Chabad-Lubavitch of Stockton. “We felt it was time to start doing this mitzvah again: Rabbi Avremel Brod has his sukkah, and for years, we’ve been itching to buy our own.”
Like many new buyers, Friedman bought his sukkah online. Jewish law stipulates that the temporary structure have at least three walls and be covered with an organic material, such as cut branches, known in Hebrew as s’chach.
Baruch Cohen, an employee of a Five Towns distributor of sukkahs affiliated with Sukkah Depot – an operation that has of late expanded into dozens of locations nationwide – attributes the rise in his company’s sales to a greater interest in Jewish traditions among families.
“Sukkah consumers have become more varied,” says Cohen. “What used to be a strictly ‘Orthodox’ holiday has increasingly attracted Jews of various levels of observance. Some want to build a sukkah so that their children will be able to really experience the holiday.”
Rabbi Mendel and Shani Katzman, co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nebraska, tell of campers with their Omaha-based Gan Israel summer day camp going home after learning about Sukkot and passing their enthusiasm on to their parents.
“They come home speaking about the sukkah, and their parents listen,” explains Mendel Katzman. “They’re touched by the sukkah’s message of inclusiveness.
“More than 15 sukkahs,” he emphasizes, “will be built for the first time this year by local families.”
In Santa Monica, Calif., Sarah Webber decided to erect a sukkah in memory of her mother after learning about the holiday with Rabbi Chaim Teleshevsky, a local Chabad-Lubavitch emissary.
“It’s going to be open to all,” she relates. “We are even going to have a lulav and etrog available for people to shake,” just like the Chabad House does year after year.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the country in Parkland, Fla., Rabbi Mendy Gutnick says that Sukkot observances have “caught fire out here.” Last year, a New York distributor offered heavily-discounted sukkahs to about 20 families affiliated with local Chabad-Lubavitch centers; this year, says the rabbi, another 30 families decided to buy their own huts.
Valery Sachs is among the first-timers this year.
“My daughter came home a few days ago from the Chabad Hebrew School insisting it was time for us to finally build a sukkah,” says Sachs. “I wasn’t thrilled with the idea, as my husband is away, but my daughter finally convinced me.
“I went online,” she adds, “and ordered a bunch of PVC pipe and other materials. Now, 72 hours and $200 later, we have a beautiful sukkah.”