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My Ushpizin, my loved ones

This year, I will invite my friends and family who embody the traits of each of the traditional biblical sukkah guests we welcome each night to join us in spirit when they do
Image by Zhivko Dimitrov from Pixabay

This year — this odd, twisted year — our sukkahs shall remain closed to one another, and there will be sorrow in this separation. There will be emptiness and pain.

But, like the Ushpizin, our loved ones can still come to us in spirit. And this year, I will open wide the doors of my heart. I will turn them into windows, into pathways, into tunnels. I will force them to break through our closed sukkah walls.

I will invite you to come through them, my loved ones. I will think of you, and feel you, through the empty space.

Tonight, I will invite Avraham to join us. Please come, Avraham — ground breaking, path making, ever-walking Avraham. And come, too, my path-breaking loved ones. come, all those who left behind familiar places, and followed an insistent instinct to go forth. Come, you who always rush to offer aid to others. Come, you who see what must be done and do it, and never let conventions hold you back.

Avraham, you were the one who taught us what it means to shape the world to match an unseen inner vision. I will invite you tonight, bold Avraham, and with you — my iconoclastic friends. I’ll invite those I cheer, and those with whom I argue. I’ll try and learn from you and them, and to always remember: just because something IS, doesn’t mean that we can’t change it, if we think we OUGHT.

I need your boldness more than ever, Avraham. I need to look at this time of death and pain and discontent and truly believe that we can change it for the better, that we can forge a path beyond what is right now.

Tomorrow, I will invite the Isaacs in my life. All those silent, quiet, faithful people: you who don’t say much, but put your shoulder to the task, and see beyond the obvious. Come, dear friends. Come in spirit, and allow me to admire you — you, who often step away from praise and fame. And then, the Jacobs: you whose lives are so challenging and so complex, yet reach great truths through this complexity. I will think of your perseverance, loved ones, and feel awe. May the morning dawn on your victories, and may your truths enlighten the world.

When I invite Joseph — dreaming, far-sighted Joseph — I’ll think of all the Josephs I call friends. I’ll think of my artistic friends whose eyes see visions of beauty. And I’ll think of you, my world-changing friends, whose ambition carries you far.

When I invite Moshe, who never saw a wrong he didn’t try to alter, I’ll think of my warrior friends, who throw themselves into making the world a just and better place. May your courage be like the burning bush, dear loved ones. May it burn bright without consuming your energy; may it bring redemption to this world.

Aaron — quiet, steady, conciliation-seeking Aaron — will remind me that sometimes a soft word can mean as much as cleansing fire. I will invite him, and with him — all my peace-making, compromise-seeking, bridge-building loved ones, those who make the world a softer, sweeter place.

And then there will be David: David as in David-and-Goliath, David as in David-the-poet, David as in the man whose “Absalom, Absalom my son” still rings in all our ears. I will invite you, David, and with you, my friends who dare to face down great big challenges, my friends whose souls birth beauty, my friends who lived through loss and had to still go on.

My loved ones, my friends — I will miss you this year, and I will feel your absence. But you will be my Ushpizin, my guests in spirit, and I will marvel at the wisdom and the passion that you bring into my life. I will think of you and celebrate, and pray to be together soon.

About the Author
Rachel is a Jerusalem-born writer and speaker who's in love with her city's vibrant human scene. She writes about Judaism, parenting and life in Israel for the Times of Israel and Kveller, and explores storytelling in the bible as a teacher and on 929.
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