By: Paula Levin
“His way is to distribute tzedoka – that is his way of beautifying the sukkah.”
The mystical sources tell us that seven supernal guests (Ushpizin) visit us each night of Sukkot. Here’s a thought experiment: if you could invite anyone from the past, present, or even future to share a meal with you in your sukkah, who would you choose? The answer might reveal something about where your heart or interests lie and is a lovely conversation starter you can try at your Yom Tov table. We asked community leaders, professionals, rabbis, teens, and tots who they would love to connect with under the stars and why?
May we always be blessed to do the mitzvah of welcoming guests, especially those most in need of warm hospitality, and in so doing, merit that the souls of our seven shepherds – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David – visit our sukkahs each day of the festival. And as we pray on each day of the festival, “May the All-Merciful One establish for us the fallen sukkah of David,” the restoration of the royal Davidic dynasty with the coming of Moshiach.
Publisher, Jewish Life Magazine
I would invite Rabbi Kalonymos Kalman Shapira, Grand Rabbi of Piaseczna and the Warsaw Ghetto, who was known as the Aish Kodesh after his sefer of Shabbos droshas given between 1939 and 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto. A scion of a distinguished family that included the Maor VaShemesh, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk, the Seer of Lublin, and the Maggid of Kozhnitz, it would be phenomenal just to be in his presence. To have him as a guest in our sukkah, a true honour. Why? Because the Aish Kodesh answers all the questions a Jew has. From the seemingly simple to the esoteric. In the years of fury in World War 2, he never lost his faith. His Shabbos droshas, normally given at Shalosh Seudas, the third meal on Shabbos afternoon, helped him and his fellow Jews come to terms with the suffering they were experiencing and served to strengthen their emunah. Hundreds gathered to hear him every week, risking their lives at every second, to gain insight into the meaning of what was happening and what was expected of them to stay strong. To join him at such a joyous time as Sukkos would be a wonder. I could also ask him how he could do somersaults on Simchas Torah in the ghetto in the thick of it all!
Tehilla Treger (14)
If I had the chance to invite someone to my sukkah, past, present, or future, I would invite a Jewish person who was killed in the holocaust to show them that through their perseverance, us Jews are still a flourishing vibrant nation and we are still keeping the same mitzvot and customs that they did, keeping our culture alive despite the destruction of the war.
Yona Treger (17)
I would invite King Shlomo. When I read Kohelet it really resonated with me and I would love to talk to the person who wrote it!
It’s a tough choice. Here it is anyway: I would invite Morah Dalya Erster for her caring efforts to my children and Mrs Tziporah Carlebach who helped me a lot at Torah Tots with aftercare services, transporting the kids from Torah Academy to Torah Tots and back home for about 2 years.
Businessman and philanthropist
I have a special connection to Sukkot because I hosted an annual sukkah party for 40 years, until Covid disrupted things. I would invite my grandson, Jaydin, because he inspires me never to give up. Jaydin’s two brothers, Devin and Adam, each got 10 distinctions and went on to Ivy league universities and Jaydin was set to follow in their footsteps. When he was 12, he was injured while riding a motorbike and the handlebar punctured his spleen. He missed two and a half years of school while recovering. But Jaydin persevered and went on to get 9 distinctions and studied computer sciences at Stanford. He left his job at a hedge fund to go back to UCT to study law. He really inspires me.
Student at UCT
I would choose my grandfather, because he inspires me!
Sara Nava 11
I’d like to invite my future self so I can interview her about the mistakes that I’ve made and try and fix them before they happen!
I would invite Yaakov Avinu, because I have a lot of questions that I want to ask him about his life. I would ask him what Gan Eden smells like.
My Zaidy and Saba because I never met them and I really would like to.
H.E. Ambassador Eli Belotsercovsky
My guest would be Golda Meir.
Rabbi Gidon Fox
Dayan on the Beth Din
Rabbi of the Pretoria Hebrew Congregation
I would not choose anyone from the past, though they would be great company to have. Because they don’t have this mitzvah. People in the present do. So I would have anyone who doesn’t have a place to eat, because there’s nothing more beautiful and majestic than celebrating Sukkos with people who are either less fortunate or who don’t have an opportunity to eat in a sukkah. I’m reminded of the story of Reb Chaim of Sanz, he was a tremendous ba’al tzedoka. On one occasion on erev Sukkot, he sent out his sons to the wealthy people of the town to collect money and they collected 2000 rubles. When they brought the money to their father, the Divrei Chaim, he went and distributed it to all the needy people in town. On the night of Sukkos he said that many people have the custom to beautify their sukkah, but that’s not his way. His way is to distribute tzedoka – that is his way of beautifying the sukkah. Alternatively, I would have Moshiach, because if he’s in my sukkah, it means he’s brought redemption to the whole world as well.
Rabbi Jonathan Fox
Group Rabbi of the Chevra Kadisha
I would love to host Nachshon ben Aminadav and compliment him on his bravery and emunah for walking into the Yam Suf until the water reached his neck and then suddenly split. I would ask him what it felt like to see the sea split and walk through on dry land.
Director, King David Schools’ Foundation
I would invite Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks. I love reading his books and writings. They are as perfect for today’s world as when he wrote them. I always read his articles thinking how tragic it was that he died so young at 72 with so much more still to contribute to the world. He was revered by Jews and non-Jews alike and had a way of taking the most complex ideas and making them understandable. I gave each of my three children a copy of his short book ‘Letters to the Next Generation’ because I thought it was so special and said exactly what I wanted to say to my kids but in a much better way.
SA Jewish Board of Deputies
The person I would invite into my sukkah is my very first boss at Eskom, Jackie Erasmus. I haven’t seen Jackie for about 20 years but her legacy has lived on in me. When I walked into Eskom for my first day of work in May 1994 I was greeted by a massive arrangement of flowers to welcome me. She instilled in me an appreciation for the people who work for and with me. Throughout the 5 years I worked for Jackie, I learned about bringing out the best in people, innovation and creative thinking, vision, the importance of continual learning, and – most essential – bringing humour to the workplace. I was blessed to work for someone who demonstrated deep passion and commitment to her work. Nearly 30 years later in my career, I would love to bring Jackie into my sukkah and share with her how her nurturing and inspiration has shaped my life and my career.