Tishrei: Talking to the Dead

Let’s talk about one of the lesser know and fascinating rituals of Sukkot: the Ushpizin.

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Chag Sameach Sukkot!

Things are so busy that I haven’t had time to write my intended post for Sukkot. I’ve been exploring the idea of a local lulav and etrog and REALLY wanted to write something formal up for this year. I guess an impromptu version will have to do. I forget which book, maybe Arthur Waskow’s Seasons of our Joy, there was a discussion as to how the elements that make up the lulav were partially chosen because they were easily found in Israel. You wouldn’t need to go searching — they were common place. “On the first day you shall take to yourselves the fruit of the goodly tree, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” (Lev. 23:40) While the Torah has a simple enough commandment — we’ve layered all kinds of symbolism, or uncovered all kinds of symbolism, over the centuries. For some the four items represent the patriarchs or matriarchs, for others the four rivers, winds, worlds, and/or elements. I happen to really like the associations with the four elements. Probably because I understand that the best. The idea of waving a wand made up of the four elements in the six directions — I get that. I also like the association of the matriarchs and patriarchs because it ties into the tradition of the Ushpizin/Ushpizot — now I’m wondering what element each corresponds to. I’m sure one of you already has ideas — so please share. Here’s my understanding of the associations of the Lulav and Etrog and the Four Elements: Willow: Water Myrtle: Air Palm: Fire Etrog: Earth Now, considering these elemental associations and that the etrog is never mentioned by name, what substitutions to locally available plants could you make? Willow is easy to find here in the DC region, so I would still use that. I might be able to find Myrtle, but if not then I would probably substitute Bay, which...

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Water Libations

One of the lesser know rituals of Sukkot is the pouring of water libations to ensure good rains.  Needless to say, I dig this concept.  If you ever come to a Becoming ritual — you’ll notice that we libate.  Most people think that’s all Angela’s doing, and it is, but it rubbed off on me.  I love pouring out my thanks, prayers, and praise in a physical form! Then I learn that there’s actually a Jewish use of libations.  Woot! Sadly, I don’t have a sukkah and Sukkot is one of those holidays that I have yet to really develop a way to celebrate.  It’s a harvest holiday.  I’m an earth-based Jew — WTF?  How can I not have a celebration?  I spent the first day of Sukkot at DC Pagan Pride Day.  Not very Jewish, but it was a festival of booths — so it was oddly appropriate.  Plus, I spent a good deal of the time talking with Baba from the RadFeys, and he told me about his trip to Israel.  It was great, as always, to talk to him.  The next day we had Circle, which fell on the second day of Sukkot this year I thought I would do something, but Angela told me she had a working ready.  Drat.  No Jewy goodness. Um…but my Pagan Pantheistic friend with a Celtic bent gave me a little surprise.  While she had no particular awareness it was Sukkot.  And she certainly had no idea that it was the second day and the traditional one for the pouring of the water libations.  I actually only learned that the second day was the traditional day that morning as I read the daily page from the Jewish Book of Days.  (shameless plug for R’ Jill’s book). But, I digress. Angela had a whole working for Circle around pouring water and breathing into it what we need to harvest.  Hello?  Anyone?  Weirdness. It was freaking great!  I got to do my water libation and imbue it...

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