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Sukkot holiday: A mom finds comfort, and inspiration, from sukkot ghosts

Sukkot is a Jewish holiday spanning seven days, a holiday for ghosts that ends with Yizkor service that memorializes the dead. For this mom, the ghosts of Sukkot bring comfort – and some parenting inspiration.

By Judy Bolton-FasmanGuest Blogger / October 1, 2012

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man walks past palm branches in Jerusalem's Mea Shearim neighbourhood September 27, 2012. The branches are used to cover the roof of the ritual booths known as sukkah, used during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which began on Sunday.

Reuters/Baz Ratner

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Sukkot is here and my guests are on the way. Like Chagall’s lovers they fly over the silver moon; their white gauzy clothing double as wings. I greet them in the sukkah – a makeshift structure akin to a hut that we build from a kit. The sukkah also has a roof with slats generously spaced to see the sun and the moon and the stars.

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The company I’m talking about stargazing with is called ushpizin – the Hebrew term for mystical guests who will grace sukkot (plural of sukkah) all over the world on each of the seven nights of the holiday. This is my kind of celebration. When I was a kid I loved reenactments of historical events. The old sitcom Bewitched tickled me because someone like Columbus or Shakespeare came alive for me.

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To that end, I have a wish list of historical figures I’ve always wanted to meet. Moses and Leah top my list. No one is more associated with the Torah than Moses. In my mind, he’s an inspiration because so much of his leadership was marked by doubt. As a parent in the 21st century, I take solace in the fact that even with God’s direct intervention, Moses still had a difficult time leading the Israelites out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Leah is my role model as a mother. Every parent has been a Leah at some point – taken for granted, ignored, but still triumphant in ordinary yet miraculous ways.

The Rachel that I want to meet was Rabbi Akiva’s wife. I like her rebelliousness. She was from a prosperous family but followed her heart and married the illiterate Akiva against her family’s wishes. To complete the fairytale, she recognized Akiva’s natural genius and encouraged him to learn to read when he was 40. Forty! Akiva excelled in his studies beyond their wildest dreams. Rachel was alone for years as he studied and taught in the greatest Jewish academies.

In his absence, Rachel coped with grace and fortitude. I want to ask her how she did it. I want to know if she was as disoriented as I am when my husband is only away for a week on a business trip. I want to know how she controlled herself when her husband finally came home and his students, protective of their beloved teacher, did not let her through the throng to greet him. When Akiva realized what was happening, he ordered his students to let Rachel pass immediately. He told them that she single-handedly was responsible for everything that he and his students had attained. I want to know if witnessing her husband’s success was worth sacrificing his company all those years.

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