Ushpizin: Special Guests in the Sukkah

This post is dedicated in memory of Shlomo ben Aryeh Zalman. May it be an aliyah for his neshama. 

By: Shayna Chana

There is a tradition found in the Zohar, the holy book of Kabbalistic thought, that when we dwell in our sukkahs we are joined by the "Seven Exalted Guests" - known as ushpizin in Hebrew. This is because being in the sukkah is akin to being in the Garden of Eden, and so the ushpizin go from the Garden of Eden above to the one here on Earth. These are the seven shepards that were leaders of the Jewish people in ancient times. On each of the seven days of Sukkot we are joined by a different Jewish forefather (and his wife!) in the sukkah - actually they are all there with us each day, but each day has its own 'leader' (bet you didn't realize you could fit so many guests in your sukkah!). It is a custom when entering the sukkah each day to invite the ushpizin in with a declaration in Aramaic. Sefardim take this a step further and have a separate, ornate chair waiting for the day's guest of honor. 

The ushpizin are listed below, in order of their specific day in the sukkah, along with which of their traits we are supposed to try and emulate:

Avraham Avinu was known for his chesed - loving kindness. We are encouraged to have guests in our sukkah, as Avraham was famous for having guests. G-d also famously told him to 'lech lecha' - go from your home - which is exactly what we do on Sukkot.

Yitzchak  Avinu was forced to move around Israel, being chased by various enemies, but was always secure because of his faith in G-d, just as we are supposed to be secure in our relatively unsecure (and roofless) sukkahs.

Yaakov  Avinu was known as the sefira of teferet - which is a combination of beauty and truth. We should look at the Torah as teferet - not to mention our sukkahs with all of their wonderful decorations!

Moshe Rabbeinu was the leader of the Jewish people from our captivity in Egypt through our redemption and ultimately up to the border of Israel. We should similarly strive to be faithful in our observance of G-d and mitzvot and strive to achieve our own purpose in life as Moses did!

Aaron Hakohen was the first to serve as the High Priest. Just as he served with joy and alacrity, so should we seek to live our lives.

Yosef HaTzadik remained faithful in his service of G-d, even while he was imprisoned in Egypt, still rising through the ranks to become Viceroy. So too, even while the Jews today are still in exile, we should seek to emulate Yosef and stay true to our Jewish beliefs, confidant that they will only help us to succeed in life.

Dovid Hamelech was always secure in his faith in G-d, even when being pursued by enemies and in the wilderness with no provisions. While being in the sukkah isn't the same as being in the wilderness, living in it shows that we don't need real walls and a ceiling to feel secure, since like King David, we feel G-d is always watching over us.

Enjoy your time in the Sukkah. It lasts for only one week every year, and now you'll be entertaining more guests than you may have realized!

And no discussion of Ushpizin would be complete without a mention of the famous Israeli movie Ushpizin, that takes place, unsurprisingly, over Sukkot. Enjoy!

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