Sukkot: The Harvest Celebration Under The Stars

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Credit: Flickr/bondidwhat

I was raised in Ohio, but I am no child of the corn; my childhood was paved with suburban sidewalks and concrete playgrounds. The first time I saw a whole pig was at the Cuyahoga County Fair. Its already crispy skin was charring in the hot Midwestern sun and, impaled by a spit stick, an apple rested comfortably in its mouth. I promptly became a vegetarian.

In Zionsville, Indiana, where I spent the summers of my youth, a dusty road led to a summer camp for Reform Jews. Us kids would spend our days kicking soccer balls, learning to swim and tying lanyards. In the evening, after hearty dinners of industrial strength beef stew or defrosted fish sticks, we would make our way to an outdoor chapel where we would sing Hebrew songs and our voices would rise up into the surrounding trees.

I remember laying on my back on an outdoor basketball court at that camp staring up into the night. The inky black sky was lit up with stars. I was homesick, but I was happy. At curfew we retreated back to our cabins and awoke the next morning with the sunrise.

I have never been a farmer but I knew in that moment what it meant to feel connected to the earth and blanketed by the sky.

Sukkot is the holiday that celebrates the autumnal harvest. Farmers would go out into their fields to prepare for the gathering of their produce and build temporary huts to live in as they finished working the lands. These makeshift structures are represented in contemporary Judaism by sukkah’s, which are built with thatched roofs so the stars can shine through at night.

Somewhat ironically, it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I began to appreciate the harvest and all the delicious fruits and vegetables that it bestows. With farmers markets in most neighborhoods and an overabundance of restaurants boasting locally grown foods, it does not require a pilgrimage to acquire a perfect specimen of squash. I eat these foods, grateful that I live in a place and time where healthy and local food is not just appreciated but worshipped. I will taste all that fall has to offer and think of my ancestors, tolling in their fields and sleeping under the sky. If only I too could see still see the stars.

Observing Sukkot this year? Consider these local events:

  • Shababa Dinner in the Sukkah
    92Y, Lexington Ave. at 92 St.
    Friday, October 10
    6:00 p.m.
    Welcome Shabbat with friends and family, eat dinner under the stars in our rooftop sukkah and learn about the ancient festival of booths.
  • JCC Manhattan’s Annual 20s + 30s Rooftop Sukkah Party
    34 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St.
    Monday, October 13
    8:00 p.m.
    Celebrate the harvest festival under the stars in a beautiful rooftop sukkah. Enjoy an open bar, great food and a live DJ.
  • Brooklyn Sukkot Festival and Block Party
    274 Garfield Place, Brooklyn
    Sunday, October 12
    11:00 a.m.—1:00 p.m.
    Celebrate with Congregation Beth Elohim at their Sukkot Festival and Block Party. Food trucks will be on the scene, as will free events for the whole family.
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