Is It Too Late To Make Sukkot Meaningful?

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Dear Miriam, 

Sukkot is almost over, and I have thus far failed to do anything meaningful for this holiday at all. My kids sat in a sukkah during Hebrew school, my wife had dinner with some friends in their sukkah on a night I couldn’t attend, and it feels like the week has just gotten away from me. What can I do to salvage what’s left?


Sighing over Sukkot 


Dear Sighing, 

Sukkot is called z’man simchateinu, the time of rejoicing. Please don’t despair, since that basically defeats the whole purpose of a holiday about being happy. Even if you can’t actually pack a week of joy into one day, it’s worth giving yourself over to the idea of joy to make up for how down you’re feeling right now. I highly encourage you to pick one thing and throw yourself into it, psyching yourself into some Sukkot happiness. We even have a special greeting to say happy holiday for the middle of the holiday – moadim l’simcha – so you can think of that as an assurance that it’s really not too late. 

If you can find a sukkah to sit in, start there. Check with local synagogues or friends to see who has one you can use – including your wife’s friend whose dinner you missed. Pack a picnic, or bring a book, or invite a friend, and just sit and enjoy. Say the blessing for dwelling in a sukkah and use this as a reminder to seize important moments in your life and not let time slip away. If you’re at a synagogue, you can also ask to borrow a lulav and etrog and experience the ritual of shaking the lulav, too, which is another important element of the holiday. 

Here’s a quick rundown of some other easy-to-do activities: Look for articles and podcasts about the holiday, and if there’s anything particularly interesting, share them with your family. Start a family discussion about shelter, or nature, or what makes each of you happy. Get some Graham crackers, frosting, and pretzel sticks, and make edible sukkot with your kids. Even if you don’t have a sukkah to decorate, make some decorations (paper chains, anyone?) for your home to feel a little more festive. Learn something new about the holiday that will enhance your understanding and appreciation of Sukkot for years to come.

Sukkot ends Friday night, but it ends by immediately flowing into Shimini Atzeret and Simchat Torah – kind of like it really doesn’t end at all (it’s ambiguous!). This weekend can be viewed as the culmination of the entire holiday season, so you’re in a good position not to squander what’s left of it. Make arrangements to attend a service and dance with the Torah Saturday night or Sunday morning, plan a festive meal with friends, create a playlist of Jewish (or secular) songs that make you feel like dancing, do something else – anything! – that feels festive and makes you feel like you’re celebrating. Finally, remember how you feel now, before enacting any of these ideas, and make sure you plan ahead for future holidays so you can avoid this mid-holiday stress and feel the joy and happiness throughout. 

Be well, and moadim l’simcha!