Sukkot - the Feast of Booths - is a week-long Jewish holiday that celebrates the huts built by ancient Jews as they meandered through the Sahara desert. Jews have always been considered to be a “wandering” people, thanks largely to the 40 years it took them to find the Promised Land after being exiled from Egypt.
Contrary to what you might expect, the holiday is celebrated not by adamantly
refusing to stop and ask for directions, but rather by constructing a
temporary structure - a Sukkah - and spending the holiday eating, sleeping,
screwing chilling in it. Compared to many modern sukkot (N.B.
Sukkot is the name of the holiday, and also the plural form of sukkah), which
often come in all-weather, up-in-half-an-hour
prefab kits, ours was an intricate construction project. Owing largely to
my dad’s carpentry skills, we Sontags repped it really hard and constructed
ours out of real, actual wood from trees. With eleven two-by-fours, five 32-square-foot lattice panels, and one ingenious connection to our
deck, we crafted a hardy hut that could easily withstand the thunderstorm that
would inevitably ravage the paper chains and holiday cards that adorned its
interior. Of course, this also meant keeping five sheets of lattice hanging in
our garage the other 350 days of the year, but in the suburbs, there’s always
plenty of room for… everything.
Ten years later, I was sixteen and my passion for Judaism was at its all-time
high. I must have sucked all the Jew-juice out of our house, because by then,
my dad’s level of interest in building a sukkah was absolutely zero (-459.67˚
Fahrenheit, perhaps an even fairer assessment). Unfettered, I
buildered soldiered on, taking a day off from school to forge the
entire Sukkah myself (with assistance from my mom), in what was easily my
greatest constructionary* achievement to date**. Sure, it didn’t have cool
features like “90-degree angles” or “a flat roof,” but it worked just fine: we
ate, we laughed, we sat in the freezing cold, and just like the one in my
illustration, it kept the nighttime inside.
*Technically, not a word.
**In 2007, I framed and sheetrocked a drop-ceiling in the bathroom of a 150 year old tenement (also, my apartment). That’s still my #1.