A study of the Jewish holidays can reveal a megillah’s worth of customs, writings and requirements. With Sukkot just days away, one idea worth considering is that according to the Shulchan Aruch, a 16th-century code of Jewish laws, it’s praiseworthy to eat exclusively in a sukkah.
Those looking to fulfill the rabbinic precept need not have their own booth. With several public sukkahs nearby, finding a hut has never been so easy.
Sukkahs are a common site in many neighborhoods around Pittsburgh, especially Squirrel Hill.
For individuals who don’t have a sukkah, there’s one at Chabad of Squirrel Hill, said co-director Rabbi Yisroel Altein: “Everyone is always welcome to open the gate in the back, and use the sukkah.”
Rabbi Ron Symons, of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s Center for Loving Kindness, offered a similar invitation: “We will have a sukkah outside of Levinson Hall on the patio. We welcome the community to come and use it at their discretion unless there's a program already happening in it.”
In Oakland, sukkahs will be erected on the campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, as well as at Chabad at Pitt.
Sara Weinstein, co-director of Chabad House on Campus, said the holiday is a reminder of unity. To that end, on both the first night of Sukkot and Shabbat, Chabad and Hillel Jewish University Center are welcoming students for dinner.
The gatherings should enable “several hundred students” to enjoy the abodes, said Dan Marcus, executive director and CEO of Hillel JUC.
But apart from those two events, students and others on campus can frequent the sukkahs all week long, Marcus added.
Weinstein echoed the sentiment. Students and faculty should feel free to use the sukkahs on the campuses of Chatham University and Duquesne University School of Law, as well as the one at Chabad House in Shadyside, she said.
Robert Gleiberman, Congregation Beth Shalom’s executive director, said the Squirrel Hill congregation’s sukkah may be available for use, but people wishing to use it must take appropriate steps, including calling the synagogue first.
“Anyone wanting to use our sukkah would have to go through Michelle Vines here at our office. There are already many things planned. Individuals will not be able to just come over and use it,” he said.
Leslie Hoffman, executive director of Temple Emanuel of South Hills, offered a similar caveat regarding sukkah usage at the suburban synagogue.
People interested in using Temple Emanuel’s sukkah are welcome to join the Oct. 9 Erev Sukkot service in the sukkah. Otherwise, Hoffman continued, “if they want to stop by on their own any afternoon — our preschool uses the space in the mornings and our religious school uses it on Sunday mornings — I’d just ask that they send an email or call the office in advance to let us know.”
With proper planning, there are plenty of sukkahs available, several community professionals said.
What’s important to consider, said Beth Shalom’s Rabbi Seth Adelson, is that, apart from finding a sukkah, one should have a certain mindset about the dwelling.
“The sukkah is a reminder of our fundamental vulnerability: that even after we have endured the odyssey of the High Holidays, after we have pleaded for our lives and been cleansed of our sins, we need to be reminded that we are not invincible,” Adelson said. “Living in the sukkah for a week, without the creature comforts of our sturdy, climate-controlled homes, brings us all down a notch, so that we might focus on the truly essential aspects of our lives as we complete the holiday cycle.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.