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God in the Details



Originally published in The Dubois County Herald, Religion
By Jim Priest



If a person drives around town in late November and early December, he will be in-undated with the sights of Christmas. Decorations are as common as chilly temperatures. Trees covered in tinsel with presents underneath can be found in nearly every home.

But scour the county in late September and early October and finding hints of another significant religious holiday may be a bit more difficult. Uncovering the temporary shelters that signify the Jewish holiday of Sukkos (pronounced soo-KOSE) is upon us isn't easy

The sparse Jewish population in our area is a primary reason for the lack of familiarity with the holiday, but even communities with a bigger Jewish segment are sometimes bare during this time of year.

The sukkah is the temporary dwelling that Jews build during the eight-day holiday that rep-resents the 40-year journey of ancient Israelites to find the promised land. Israelites showed their appreciation for the harvest and their gratitude to God by celebrating the holiday.

"The most important aspect of it is to rejoice about the gifts God has given to us and to honor him," Dr Richard Moss said. "It is a very joyous holiday There are a number of themes involved iii Sukkos and they are all very uplifting."

Moss and his family built their own sukkah for tile first time last year. Before that, Moss, like many Jews, visited the sukkah at a synagogue.

But Moss said it was important to him that his family build their own, mostly to get his children more involved.

"I've always wanted to build my own," Moss said. "I wanted to give the kids the experience and make it a living thing for them. Maybe, then, they will be able to pass it along to their families."

Moss ordered his sukkah, which came in a kit, because the building of the structure is extremely specific to adhere to Jewish tradition.

Moss, his wife, Ying, and children decorated the structure Wednesday evening in preparation for the ceremony at sunset. Moss' 9-year old son, Noah, hung fruits and vegetables from the top of the three-sided structure while his 12-year-old daughter, Arielle, trimmed branches from a tree to further decorate the sukkah.

The Mosses' sukkah, like many that are built, is open on one side and has a thatched roof. There is a table in the Middle that had candles and fruits and vegetables on it in preparation for the ceremony.

The ceremony that takes place to kick off the holiday is also detailed, so much so that Moss often read from a book to ensure that everything about the ceremony was correct.

As the sun disappeared, Moss guided his children through the ceremony. Arielle lit the candles and said blessings before each family member took turns praying while holding the Four Species, which is symbolic of God's gifts. The Four Species comprises an esrog --like a lemon -- and a lulav, which is made up of the center branch of a palm tree, two willow branches and three myrtle branches.

Each member of the family stood in front of the table and shook the symbolic items in each direction (east, west, south, north, up and clown) while saying a prayer The ceremony is so particular that the esrog and lulav must be held in the hand in a specific way throughout the prayer.

As he finished the final prayer, Moss turned to his family and said, "Very nice, children. Well done."

During the holiday, Moss will invite friends to his house in celebration. He expects questions, which he is happy to answer. He hosts a Hanukkah party at which many of the guests are Christian and he said they always have plenty of questions.

"It is an opportunity to educate people about Judaism," Moss said. "Most of my friends in Jasper are Christians and they have a lot of curiosity about Judaism. They have asked a lot of questions anti have been very interested."


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