Hannah Senesh. Kevin Youkilis. Mom. JK Rowling. Megan Fox. Aaron (from the Bible). “My younger self.” What do all of these people have in common? There are the special ushpizin invited to the sukkot of the Anafim (grades 4 and 5) class at Kesher Newton.
Sukkot is a hands-on holiday. Hammer and nails, wood and paper chains, gourds and pumpkins… for all of the handymen and handywomen (and handykids) it’s a chance to showcase one’s skills. In Jewish classrooms, kids are hard at work making decorations and manipulating the lulav and etrog.
All of that is fun, but our challenge is to add a new layer of understanding to a holiday which is fairly well-known. At Kesher, it’s essential to keep these almost-adolescents engaged when they are in class, which requires them to believe that you a) have some new information to share and b) will deliver that information in a clever fashion.
Our two Anafim teachers were luckily up to the task. Introducing the concept of ushpizin to the kids, they spend half of the class talking about the different traditional ushpizin (Abaraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David) and their qualities. What made them worthy of ushpizin-hood?
After that reflection, the students were asked to think about who they would like to invite to their Sukkot as honored guests. The answers were varied, and you saw some of them in the opening lines of this article. Kids can find inspiration in interesting places- in the Torah, in history, and in their families- and it was interesting to see the Anafim go through the process of learning about the ushpizin and coming up with their invitations.
“Dear Aaron; I want to invite you to my sukkah. It was amazing how you stood up to Pharaoh. You were so brave! We will be having refreshments and entertainment. Remember to bring your sleeping bag- we will besleeping in the Sukkah. I want you to tell me all about the flight out of Egypt.”
“Dear Rosa Parks; You are invited to my sukkah because you are very brave and believe in yourself.”
“Dear [name]; If you get this letter way up in heaven, then please come to my sukkah on Sukkot. I would like to learn about you, since I never met you. Oh, by the way, I’m your granddaughter.”
On Sukkot, any of these ushpizin might very well pay our Anafim a visit, but perhaps simply inviting them was the more important thing.