Tsipporah Lax - Yoni Jesner Scholar 2018-19. My Blog

The Shulchan Aruch teaches that the minimum dimensions for a kosher succah are two adjoining walls measuring 7 tefachim each in width, plus a partial wall that is at least a tefach wide. The Arizal draws out a beautiful message from this law: he explains that these lengths resemble the joints of a person's arm when embracing a friend. The two main walls symbolise the upper arm and forearm, whilst the partial wall that measures one tefach (one hand width) symbolises the palm of the hand that completes the embrace. Thus the succah becomes a place where we are cradled in Hashem’s arms, feeling His protection and love for us.

This Succot, I have been surrounded not only by Hashem's embrace but also by the warmth, generosity and hospitality of the many people in whose succot I have sat. I have been truly humbled by the kindness of strangers here in Israel who have gladly accepted me into their homes and treated me like an old friend. The first days of Yom Tov were spent with an Israeli family living in Yerushalaim, whose entire balcony had been converted into a very spacious and beautiful succah, decorated with each of the seven species of Israel. Despite the language barrier between us, and the fact that I had never met the family beforehand, I was greeted with great enthusiasm by all the family, the extended family and all their friends at shul too. I really enjoyed getting to know all the members of the family and having the chance to practice speaking in Hebrew!  I also had great fun visiting some of my teachers'; succot in Ramat Beit Shemesh during a succah crawl on chol hamo'ed - in each succah we were presented with delicious food, a really interesting dvar Torah relating to succot, and the chance to admire the beautiful artwork hanging on the walls of the succah.

I spent the last days of Yom Tov with an English family who made aliyah a few years ago, and who were incredibly helpful in accommodating all my needs for the second day of Yom Tov, since they now keep only one day. It was very insightful seeing how the couple, along with their young children, transitioned to a new life in Israel, and has led me to start thinking more seriously about moving to Israel myself in the near future, please G-d. Over the past couple of weeks I have been able to explore different areas around Israel and gain a glimpse of what life is like for residents of these parts. I participated in a scavenger hunt around Geulah and Meah Shearim just before succot began, and I was awed by the hundreds of
bustling stalls lining the streets, selling every variety of arba minim (the four species) possible, lending a strong citrus aroma to the air all around. I spent Shabbat chol hamo'ed with my cousin's family in Kfar Ya'avetz- a very idyllic and tranquil moshav near Netanya. I was captivated by the beautiful scenery and the warm, friendly atmoshpere- it is definitely somewhere I would be keen to visit again!

Another highlight of Sukkot was attending birkat kohanim (the Priestly Blessing) at the kotel during chol hamo'ed. It was a truly awesome experience to respond "amen"; to the blessings along with so many other visitors from across the
world, and one that created a very special sense of unity amongst us all. The seminary also arranged a tiyul for us during chol hamo'ed: we spent a morning hiking on Sattaf in the hills of Yerushalaim, from where we could admire the stunning views over the surrounding mountains and forests and also see an excavated, ancient wine press up close. 

Over the past few weeks, I have been attending trial classes every day but now that Succot has ended, I will be starting a regular schedule and going to all the classes which I have chosen. I am really excited to be starting the courses at last and getting to know my teachers a little better. As I write this, I am travelling on a bus back to seminary after what has been a truly wonderful Yom Tov. It feels great to be getting to grips with the public transport system here, and gaining a sense of independence in my new home for the year.  I still have a lot to learn and a lot to get used to, but I'm beginning to feel more like a resident here in my new home, rather than a visitor. Although it's flown by much  too quickly for my liking, if this first month is anything to judge by, I'm sure this year is going to be a great one!