This year, make room for chocolate in your Sukkot celebration. Sukkot’s theme of openness symbolized by the leafy ceiling and flimsy walls tempts creative approaches to menus, decorations, and customs.
Deuteronomy 16:14’s challenge “v’samachta b’chagecha” (to rejoice in the festival) could easily be fulfilled by layering chocolate onto the holiday’s menus. Sukkot’s custom of welcoming honored guests, known as, (traditionally Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David; additionally more recently, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Abigail, Esther) into the sukkah.
What better way to honor a guest than to treat them to tantalizing chocolate concoctions?
It could also be fun to recall some of the earlier Jews with significant connections to chocolate by extending a symbolic Sukkah invitation of ushpizin to colonial American traders, retailers and manufacturers such as Aaron Lopez, Rebecca Gomez and Daniel Gomez. From the first of the Jewish chocolate makers ever, in Bayonne, France, include Abraham D’Andrade. Cite Jews who developed the navigational sciences of the 15th-16th centuries which in turn created the opportunity for European first contact with cocoa beans, such as Abraham Ben Samuel Zacuto.
Imagine dried cocoa pods, cocoa beans and other chocolatey decorations hanging from your sukkah or enhancing your festive table. Begin the celebration with a traditional round challah totally doused in chocolate, or a round raisin challah shmeared with chocolate spread, or a round challah encrusted with chocolate chips.
On the second night, the salads could be decorated with healthy and crunchy cocoa nibs. For the third night, one of the courses could tempt with fresh fruits such as apples, pears, and more dipped into chocolate fondue. The fourth night’s main course – chicken, fish, or meat – could be smothered in a chocolate mole sauce.
And any Sukkot meal could end with a dessert platter of gooey possibilities, perhaps highlighted by delicious truffles and chocolate-covered candied apples, their roundness recalling the cycle of the year.
Warm up in the cool of the fall evenings with a Mexican-style hot chocolate or a rich Italian bicerin lusciously layered with coffee, chocolate and cream. The last night could spotlight chocolate in each course!
Ultimately, whichever recipe, chocolate course, or brand of chocolate you choose to mix in with the first fruits for Sukkot, be sure to blend in the tradition of Sukkot’s themes of appreciation and gratitude by reciting a special shehakol b’racha for the amazing gift of chocolate:
Baruch atah Adonai elokeinu melech haolam boreiy minei mezonot
Blessed Are You God, the Eternal, Ruler of the World, who creates various types of foods.
Enjoy the bounty of the abundant blessings, including chocolate, and a!