Ushpizin in December

Historians say that the original idea of Chanukah was that the Maccabees didn’t have time to celebrate Sukkot since they were fighting. So, in essence, Chanukah is a late Sukkot. A characteristic of Sukkot is hosting “Ushpizin”, or guests. Likewise, in Israel, around this time, we get a lot of visitors from abroad, as this is the vacation time, and it makes this quite a busy time for Ushpizin of all kinds.

First, we welcomed to my congregation, Darchei Noam in Ramat HaSharon, a family who is visiting from New York who is a member of our sister congregation, Temple Chaverim. They arrived literally straight from the plane to Friday night Shabbat dinner at an Israeli family’s house, members of my congregation. Though we were afraid they would be too tired to be social, when I met them later in the week over coffee at Aroma the next week, all they could say was what a wonderful feeling it was to be greeting immediately at their arrival with warm, Shabbat hospitality – and new friends. How wonderful that this connection can bring Americans and Israelis together!

Tuesday morning, I came to the airport bright and early to welcome the International Godol and International Nesiah (presidents) of BBYO who have come for 10 days to visit their sister youth movement in Israel, Tzameret. These 18-year-old leaders, mature beyond their years, have taken a year off to visit BBYO chapters around the world. They smiled contentedly over breakfast at one of my favorite coffee shop chains, Café Café, rested a bit, and then took off to hang out with Israeli teens, speak at the National Zionist Congress at which over 1000 Israeli youth attended and engaged in discussion about Israel’s future, including educational values, leadership, Zionism, and the army (Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi spoke there about the importance of freeing Gilad Shalit). And now they will have a week of visiting in local Tzameret chapters, close encounters with Israeli youth of all backgrounds.

This week, I also officiated at a bat mitzvah of a family from South Africa at the egalitarian portion of the Western Wall (part of the Davidson Archaeological Center). It was an intimate ceremony for this family of four full of joyful tears, the first time this young woman had an aliyah to the Torah, putting notes in the wall. A few days later, I officiated at a bar mitzvah of a family from the United States in the Beit Midrash (house of study) at Masada. This was a more boisterous affair with 40 extended family members and friends joining from across the US on a tour inspired by the family’s visit to Israel 3 years ago. I am inspired by these families’ choices to invest resources and energy to celebrate a significant moment in the life of their family in Israel at places of immense meaning to the Jewish people. My heart fills with pride at the end of each ceremony as we all stand together singing Hatikvah.

There are more visitors in the coming week. It’s a hectic time, for sure, but it reminds me that truly Am Yisrael Chai, the Jewish people lives, and Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh L’zeh – All of Israel is connected and responsible for each other, and, despite the distances, we can create immense and life-transforming connections, all thanks to the land and the people of Israel.

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2 Responses to “Ushpizin in December”

  1. Daphna Shezaf Says:

    It’s good to have guests and it’s wonderful to have people like you who can so beautifully bridge between the guests and Israel and make them feel at home!

    And, with all due respect, I am very sorry but I am not replacing Chanukah for another Sukkot. Chanukah food is much better 🙂

  2. Stacey Says:

    Enjoy the rest of your visitors!

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