While Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the Jewish holidays most closely associated with renewal and the New Year, their placement on the calendar can seem somewhat abstract, not unlike the celebration of the New Year in the Roman calendar on January 1.
With its commemoration of the harvest, however, Sukkot marks an annual transition, celebrating that time of year when we reap what we have sown, and prepare to sow again so we may enjoy a bountiful harvest again next year.
While many of Sukkot’s symbols are agricultural, the holiday has historical significance as well. In commemorating the 40 years the children of Israel wandered the desert, living in temporary shelters sukkot, or booths—it reminds us not only of the long journey of the Jews, but of the journeys we all travel through our lives, and that at each stage of our journey, we must find a new home. This process of finding a new home recalls the harvest, as we gather up our things so that we may begin again somewhere new.
This sukkah, then, is meant to represent those intertwined themes: transitions, and the journey.
Its walls are built of open compartments, which are one, two, and three handbreadths tall. Together, a set of boxes is six handbreadths tall—one cubit. These dimensions are a nod to the official biblical measurement, but they also represent our journey. Often, the window of time and space we share with others—like the four years spent on a college campus—is brief, like the small window of the one-cubit compartments. Other times, such as in our lifelong relationships, the window of time we have together is, thankfully, much longer.
In each of these window compartments, visitors to the sukkah will find small cubes, each painted a different color, and each marked with a different question about their personal journey, and transitions they have experienced. Visitors can move the cubes to different compartments to create different combinations of colors, and different patterns of light and dark. In doing so, they will be redefining the sukkah itself, shifting its boundaries and changing the way light passes through it. The ability to move the brightly-colored cubes should appeal to children, but adults should take special interest in the questions on the cubes—and their answers to them. Visitors will be invited to answer those questions by writing directly onto the cube, so each cube becomes a collective story, and the cubes together become a story of our collective journey, and the transitions that take us from one place, one season, one year, to the next.
The sukkah is topped in a traditional manner, with a roof woven of hemp, a natural fiber. This woven hemp creates a thatched effect, creating shade in the day, but allowing visitors to fully experience the stars and moonlight at night.