Build a Sukkah – It’s A Mitzvah!

Panoramic Sukkah - when you can't be in Israel for Sukkot, bring Israel into your sukkah! (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)
My wife Nili, dressed as a sukkah. (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

This guest post written by my wife Nili – who loves Sukkot so much, she once dressed as one for a costume party! So without further ado…

I grew up in an apartment building in Queens, so while I first built my very own sukkah as an adult, I have been enthusiastically making up for lost Sukkot holidays ever since. I LOVE Sukkot, it is my very FAVORITE holiday!  And I want you to love it and celebrate it as well!

Building a sukkah appeals to my (limited) DIY spirit.  Decorating a sukkah feels like compensation for never having had a Christmas tree (or even a Chanukah Bush) to string with tinsel and lights.

I love scavenging my arba minim (four species) – whether out in nature or out on Rechov Yerushalayim – the main drag of Tzfat where I live.  I love the smell of the etrog and hadasim (citron and myrtle), the rustle of the lulav and aravot (palm and willow) as you shake them, and the deliciously transgressive pagan vibe they bring to shul!

Awesome book by my friend Alison Ofanansky; photo illustrated by my favorite husband! (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

I love traveling to Yerushalayim on the chag, going to the Kotel for birkat kohanim (the priestly blessing), and spending the day shmying around the Old City with my kids and friends.

I love eating meals, hosting guests, reading, napping, cuddling, sleeping, dreaming, screening movies, playing games, making music and LIVING in my sukkah.  It’s like a week-long Thanksgiving holiday to ring in the autumn!

Chilling in our sukkah! (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

I love the universal nature of Sukkot – in Temple times, we brought sacrifices for the peace and well-being of all 70 nations.  I love how every Sukkot, the country fills up with Jewish and Christian pilgrims who come to party in Yerushalayim.  Like two of my other favorite mitzvot – mikvah and living in Eretz Yisra’el – I love that dwelling in the sukkah is the only other mitzvah that you perform with your entire body!

Machane Yehuda Panoramic Sukkah. (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

Enough about me; let’s talk about you…

This is the perfect year to build your very first sukkah – here’s why:

Were you accustomed to eating your holiday meals at shul or with neighbors, extended family, or friends?  Personal health concerns as well as restrictions on large gatherings may make that impossible this year.  This is a great year to take the plunge and purchase a sukkah of your very own!

Looking for an inviting outdoor space to host guests and socialize safely?  A sukkah is considered kosher with as few as 2.5 walls – violá a sacred, beautiful, COVID-friendly holiday space!

Does your family traditionally celebrate Sukkot in a hotel?  Probably not this year….  This is a great opportunity to build and decorate your own sukkah for the very first time!

Kinneret, Galilee, and Golan Panoramic Sukkah. (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

Time for an upgrade?

Love to host guests on chag?  Need more room for social distancing?  This is the perfect year to expand and upgrade your sukkah!

Do you live somewhere between Baltimore and Boston?  Was your sukkah wrecked in last year’s Great Sukkot Nor’easter?  This is the perfect year to build it bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than ever!

Custom Panoramic Sukkah – 40 feet X 40 feet X 10 feet. (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

Why this year?

On Sukkot, we leave our homes, and move into temporary booths, demonstrating that haShem is the true source of security and stability in this world.  As Jews, we believe that haShem nurtures all life with endless love, infinite wisdom, and perfect justice – even when the results are challenging for us to assimilate.

5780 has been one crazy year – and 5781 is looking like more of the same for the foreseeable future.  We are going to need tremendous doses of haShem’s mercy to power us through the coming months.  Coming after the sturm und drang of the high holidays, Sukkot is a great time to charge your spiritual batteries with joy before the long hard slog to Chanukah.

The Kotel at Night – Panoramic Sukkah Wallpaper. (Photo by Andy Alpern (C)2020)

What are these beautiful things and where do I get one of my own?!?

I’m SO glad you asked!  The very special sukkot you see in this post are Panoramic Sukkot – breathtaking 360-degree photos of Israel printed floor-to-schach along four entire sukkah walls.  It’s like stepping into your sukkah and being instantly transported to the Israeli site of your choice!  When you can’t be in Israel for Sukkot, it really is the next best alternative!  Check them out at Sukkah360.com – we carry complete sukkah kits, fabric walls only, single-wall murals, and sukkah wallpaper!

Banias Waterfall Panoramic Sukkah. (Used with permission of Leibowitz Family)

Whether you will be building your own sukkah for the first time this year, or you come from a long line of dedicated booth-dwellers, this is the perfect year to invest in hidur mitzvat sukkah, and bring an extra measure of fun, surprise, and Eretz Yisra’el to your sukkot celebrations for years to come!

About the Author
Andy Alpern is a Chicago-born Israeli artist living and working in Tzfat. Specializing in 360-degree panoramic images of Israel, Andy’s work offers a unique perspective on Israel – one not normally available to the human eye. His photographs take in the full range of action and life in a scene, creating illusions of shape, line, and imagery. Beyond photography, Andy's interests include travel, food, markets, the Chicago Cubs, Kabbalah, music, art, consciousness expansion, nature, and craft beer. Check out his work at Tziloom.com.
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