adam j. sontag

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We celebrate Sukkoth

We celebrate Sukkoth

We celebrate Sukkoth

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.

An unfair caricature of the Exodus

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, and 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.