Labor of love: Why Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays

    Lulav and Etrog
    Detail of a lulav and etrog, symbols of the Jewish festival of Sukkot

    I’m serious when I say this: I love Jewish holidays that are very physical, require tons of preparation and take hours upon hours of work to pull off. Sukkot, which is on the 15th day of Tishrei, is one of my favorite Jewish holidays.

    Each year, right after our Yom Kippur break fast, we go into our garage and take out our Sukkah poles and decorations. We spend hours constructing the thing, inevitably getting it wrong a few times, and having to start all over again. We hang up the canvas walls, go to a local Jewish store to buy the kosher sechach for the roof, and place lights on the ceiling and decorations on the walls. We cook a themed meal — last year, it was carnival food, so we made fried pickles, funnel cake, and hot dogs — and invite over about 20 friends.

    Our sukkah

    I love the work that goes into Sukkot.

    When I’m enjoying the meals we made with friends and family in our beautifully constructed setting, I appreciate all the effort we put in. It’s amazing to eat under the stars and feel God’s presence in our backyard — even though we live right off one of Los Angeles’ busiest streets. We have pet chickens and a pet tortoise, Mr. Tenenbaum, which adds to the “being in nature” aspect of the holiday. Hearing the chickens clucking throughout the meal makes me feel like I’m living in Biblical times.

    Celebrating Sukkot under the stars

    All year round, we toil and work our butts off.

    The ancient Israelites harvested grain and would celebrate by praising God and resting on the holidays. Like many people, I sit at a computer for eight to 12 hours per day, six days a week. At the end of the year, during the High Holiday season, we get to take time to reflect on the last 12 months, and hope and pray about what the year ahead will bring.

    Sukkot is one of the last holidays of the High Holiday season, and the end of our month-long, deeper connection to God that happens once per year. This holiday is when I sit back, do a little meditation, and contemplate my life under the stars.