Sukkot is one of the most joyful festivals on the Jewish calendar. A harvest holiday that also commemorates the Jews’ journey through the desert, Sukkot reminds us of the importance of home, the bounty of the Earth and the mitzvah (good deed) of hospitality, or hachnasat orchim. Spending time in a sukkah, a makeshift structure, provides an opportunity to think about how fortunate we are to have a permanent home.
Together with your children, watch the videos below, "Abraham and the Three Guests" and “Avigail and Brosh Welcome Guests” by Shalom Sesame. Then try some of the discussion ideas and activities suggested by Reform Jewish educators to further extend the lessons learned in the videos. If you wish, share your experiences and ideas in the comments sections below!
What do you love about your home?
Discuss the concept of home. What are the things that make your home special? What do you think it means to “feel at home”? When you go away, what do you miss about home? How do you think the Jewish people felt having to wander for so many years living in sukkot?
Welcome to our sukkah
A sukkah is the perfect place for your little ones to master the art of hospitality, hachnasat orchim. It's customary to invite guests to your sukkah, so ask some friends and neighbors over and show your kids how to welcome them into your home. As little ones take on hosting responsibilities, they'll be sure to win people over with their charm and good manners. After everyone leaves, ask your kids how they felt when they acted as hosts.
Welcoming your guests
Do you ever invite guests to your home? How do you make your guests feel welcome? What do you like about having guests over? Are you ever a guest in someone else’s home? How do you think a good guest should behave? In the video below, “Abraham and the Three Guests," Abraham and Sarah model how to be good hosts. What are the different things they do for their visitors?
Build a small sukkah in your home
Even if you're a city-dweller with limited outdoor space, there are more practical options (what kid doesn't love to build a pillow fort?) – and provide a space to collect nonperishable foodstuffs to donate to your local food bank or other shelter. Create a “welcome sign” for your sukkah.
Make a sukkah tzedakah bank
Decorate a small box or berry crate like a sukkah and collect money to buy food for the poor. When it is full, either present it to the food bank or plan a trip to the grocery store to purchase a meal for a needy family.
Re-create the story of Abraham and Sarah
- Read the original story found in the book of Genesis and discuss the differences between the story and the video below. Have your children retell the story with their own illustrations.
- Re-create the story by acting it out with costumes, jewelry, and any other necessary props. Let the children play and retell the story in your sukkah space.
- This story took place near Beersheva, a desert city in the southern part of Israel. Learn more about the context of the story by researching what the desert is like, examining books, photographs and video clips about the desert. Explore Shalom Sesame videos about the Israeli desert.
Shalom Sesame: "Avigail & Brosh Explain Hachnasat Orchim"
Shalom Sesame: "Abraham and the Three Visitors"
For more Shalom Sesame videos, activities, and other materials, visit our friends at Shalomsesame.org.