Jewish Life

HIGH HOLIDAYS: Celebrating Sukkot

Ideas to help make the holiday festive…and fun

By Marla Cohen

Can it possibly be that time of year? It is still sunny and warm but as we all know, we live in New England and fall is just around the corner. The first new apples are starting to appear on supermarket shelves and pumpkins cannot be far behind. It is a sure sign that Sukkot is almost here.
Sukkot, one of the three pilgrimage festivals in the Jewish calendar, celebrates the fall harvest and is also called
“Zman Simchateynu,” the time of our rejoicing. The most recognizable symbols of the festive season are the sukkah itself and the lulav and etrog.
The sukkah is where meals are eaten during the holiday and is meant to be a temporary structure. You can choose to build your own or buy a pre-fab deal that can be assembled and dismantled in a matter of minutes and stored for the next season with
a minimum of space. There is even a child- size play version that collapses to store in a carrying case. It comes complete with decorations and schach (green roof).
The lulav, formed from branches of palm, willow and myrtle and the etrog (citron) are integral parts of ceremonial worship. If you happen to be in Israel at this time of year or any major metropolitan area in the world with a Jewish population you can find Etrog Centers where you can purchase yours.
Did you know we have our very own Etrog Center in West Hartford at the Judaica Store? Every year, right after Rosh Hashanah the back hall is redolent with the scent of citron. Greens of every kind and little white boxes are everywhere. The assembly takes place on the premises. If you or your child or your class wish to see the process, you are more than welcome. With many years of combined educational and teaching experience, the staff is always ready to answer questions on holiday observances and customs, guide the uninitiated in how to pick out the perfect etrog and even suggest recipes!
Do you think you have monsters in your sukkah? Shalom Sesame does!  Follow the adventures of Avigail and Brosh as they try to repair their sukkah in time to have guests on this eleventh installment of the popular Shalom Sesame DVD. Also for the small fry there is a plush miniature lulav and etrog to carry that looks just like the real one.
For the “People of the Book,” Sukkot is the perfect time to add to the home library.  KarBen publishing always manages to capture the essence of the holidays with something new. This year’s offerings include the legend of the apple tree, retold by Penina Schram and Rachayl Eckstein.  “The Apple Tree’s Discovery” is a charming story about appreciating what gifts we have been given.  “The Vanishing Gourds,” by Susan Axe-Bronk, is a mystery that has a happy ending with a message about caring for the poor and needy. From DK Publishers is the Illustrated “Jewish Bible for Children”  and a perfect way to introduce your child to the Torah cycle. Jewish superhero Shaloman is also featured in a seasonal comic book in “The Legend of Shaloman Number 7, Shofar So Good.”
If you are tired of the same old food, Helen Nashs had compiled a new collection of recipes in “Helen Nash’s New Kosher Cuisine.”
After you finish cooking, give your nails a little pizzaz with Midrash Manicures Jewish Nail Art decals.
Lastly, if the holidays are starting to get to you, chill out with a good book. New from Maggy Anton is “Rav Hisda’s Daughter,” first of the new series that takes place in Talmudic times. Also,
“The Midwife of Venice” by Roberta Rich is a tale of suspense and drama in sixteenth century Venice.  Kenneth Wishnia’s “Fifth Servant” is a tense blood libel tale from sixteenth century Prague. For fans of the Gabriel Alon series , the latest installment by Daniel Silva is “The Fallen Angel.” And lastly, if you are inclined for more serious reading and study, Adin Steinsaltz has begun a new easy to read easy to study edition of the Babylonian Talmud with the Tractate Brachot from Koren Publishing.
Whatever you choose to do, be it leaf peep, star gaze or just hang out with family and friends, may your Sukkot holiday be one of joy.
Chag Sameach!
Marla Cohen is book manager of The Judaica Store at Bishop’s Corner in West Hartford.

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