Sukkah on wheels 
W.V. Jewish center celebrates Sukkot with mobile dwelling

 

 

Keep your eyes peeled for an unusual automobile in Goodyear this week.

Rabbi Berel Zaklikofsky of Goodyear's Chabad Jewish Center recently built a mobile sukkah, or temporary dwelling, on his truck to help celebrate the Jewish holiday Sukkot.

"When the Jews left Egypt, they were traveling in the desert and God protected them," Berel's wife, Chana, explained. "They lived in tents, which is like a sukkah, so building one reminds us how God protected us from all the elements."

During Sukkot, Jews build and occupy their own sukkah for seven days.

Some sleep in the sukkah, while others only pray and eat meals with their family and members of the community in the sukkah.

"It's about coming together to one structure and celebrating Jewish pride," Zaklikofsky said. "Chanukah is about light, Passover is a family holiday but I think Sukkot is the idea of unity; anybody can come and everyone is free to join and sit together, enjoy the religion and faith."

The idea of unity and building community is one of the reasons why the Zaklikofskys decided to make a mobile sukkah with their congregation this year.

"I feel like when people hear the word synagogue they feel like it might be too hard to come to," Zaklikofsky explained. "When they see a mobile sukkah, they see that the rabbi can come to them and spread the message of the holiday to them. It's all about bringing the message to the world and letting people know they don't have to be nervous or a member, it's open to everyone."

Building the sukkah
While there are some specifications for the dimensions of a sukkah, they can be constructed out of almost anything and placed anywhere, the Zaklikofskys explained.

"Some boys in Brooklyn started a sukkah on a bike. In Venice, someone put a sukkah on a boat and in Colorado Springs, a rabbi placed one on top of Pikes Peak," Zaklikofsky said.

Chana recalled a sukkah made out of red Coca-Cola crates where she grew up.

"There are a lot of different ways to do it," she said. "There are rules for how tall it is and where it can be built. Since it's a commandment, we don't want to put it in a place where it's not respectful, and a lot of people decorate their sukkahs."

The sukkah also must be under the stars, Chana added. There can be no trees or roof covering the structure apart from natural materials, such as branches, reeds or bamboo poles.

Apart from the mobile sukkah, the Zaklikofskys also have the largest sukkah in the West Valley in their backyard


Weathering the elements
A common question about Sukkot is how Jews are able to spend a week outside in a sukkah, especially in a place such as Arizona.

The difficulty is part of the holiday's purpose, Zaklikofsky said.

"When you go out into the world, there are a lot of harsh elements, so we must always remember to stick to our standards even though it's hard," he explained. "God wants us to stick to who we are. It's a message about progress and perfection; we have to keep on doing more and trying to become better no matter what."

The message of perseverance despite the elements is why Sukkot is celebrated in the fall instead of in the spring after Passover, which marks the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, he added.

"The idea of the commandment is that even when it's not comfortable, we still need to be able to go into the sukkah and do what we're told," he said. "In New York, it's pouring and in Alaska, there's snow. In Arizona, it's hot, but it's fitting. Avondale and Goodyear are the most desert-like compared to other parts of the Valley, so we look at our ancestors and then look at us."

For information on Chabad Goodyear, visit www.jewishgoodyear.com or call 623-466-6110.

 

Rachel Trott can be reached by email at rtrott@westvalleyview.com or on Twitter @byracheltrott.