Ushpizin, (Aramaic: “visitors”), according to the Jewish Kabbalistic book the Sefer ha-zohar (“Book of Splendour”), seven ancient worthies who take turns visiting the homes of all pious Jews to share their dinner on the festival of Sukkoth. A custom developed of reciting a fixed formula of invitation to the seven: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. (Britannica article: Britannica article)
.....each of these exalted personages represents uprootedness. (Abraham left his father’s home for the land God promised to show him [Genesis 12:1], Isaac went to Gerar during a famine [Genesis 26:1], Jacob fled from his brother Esau to the habitat of Laban [Genesis 28:2], Joseph was sold to merchants and taken to Egypt [Genesis 37:23-36], Moses fled to Midian after inadvertently killing an Egyptian [Exodus 2:11-15] and he and Aaron wandered the Sinai for forty years [beginning with Exodus 13], and David hid from Saul in the wilderness [ISamuel 20, 21].) (My Jewish Learning - Ushpizin: Welcoming Guests)
Today, many new traditions are developing around these invitations. In some circles, historical Jewish women are included in the invitations. Some of the women are Biblical while some are other Jewish women throughout our history. And even more recently, some have included family members who have died as well as other important figures in our lives who are no longer alive?
Last Sukkot, because of Covid-19, many of us were not able to welcome "flesh and blood" guests into our Sukkot. In the midst of the pandemic, what choice did we really have? Reflect back on what that was like for you and your household. Is this going to impact on how you celebrate in your Sukkah this year? Think about who you wish you could invite into your Sukkah.
- Who would you like to be among your Ushpizin this year?
- Might you consider inviting strangers so that you can hear what they've experienced in their "world" during the last year?
- What might you ask them?
- What might you imagine they'd say in response to you?
Who NEEDS to be in your/our Sukkot this year?
Now it's time to officially welcome a guest(s) into your sukkah. Consider using the texts below to invite as the Siddur says, the lofty guests. After inviting in a lofty guest or two, think about other, more personal guests you'd like to invite into your sukkah. Consider:
- People who you haven't seen for too long
- People who are no longer alive - inviting their memory and presence into your sukkah
- People you don't know but would like to know
- People whose pictures grace the walls of your sukkah
- Strangers you don't know and without an effort on your part, will never know
Invite them in - sense their presence - be thankful for having your sukkah available to welcome in all these and other guests.