Invited to Sukkot
October 19, 2008 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Just found out we have been invited to attend a Jewish friend's home for Sukkot today.

Can anyone help me figure out what do we bring, what do we wear, and is there anything we need to know so we can support our friend during this important time for him?
posted by mamaraks to Religion & Philosophy (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How observant is your friend?
posted by Electrius at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2008

Don't worry too much about it. You basically have food inside a wooden tabernacle decorated with veggies and eat some fruit.. If they're observant, don't bring anything. If they are less observant, bring food.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:32 AM on October 19, 2008

I am pretty sure he is on the 'very' scale of observant.
posted by mamaraks at 10:34 AM on October 19, 2008

Today is Chol Hamoed, as opposed to an actual Holiday day. It should be a regular meal, except it's eaten in a Succa, which is outdoors. If it's cold where you are, wear a sweater or something.

Any food you'd normally bring would work fine today… 'very' observant Jews wouldn't take many prepared food from outside of their own kitchen ever, and there's always the milk/meat thing.
posted by mhz at 11:36 AM on October 19, 2008

Today and tonight (and tomorrow) are sort of half-holidays in that Orthodox people still cook, drive, use electricity, etc, and the meals will likely be less formal than a Shabbat or holiday meal.

Dress: If they're Orthodox, female people will probably feel more comfortable wearing skirts. I wouldn't wear anything low-cut or really tight. It's hard to say how formally people would dress during this part of Sukkot--there's a lot of variety--I guess I'd avoid jeans but not wear a suit or anything. Dress warmly or bring a warm sweater; it can cold at night outside, even if the Sukkah walls are solid enough to block the wind. Sometimes Sukkahs are crowded and wearing a coat at the table (if it gets really cold) can be awkward.

It's traditional to put honey on stuff (especially challah) during this season, so if you want to bring something Sukkot-related, you could bring some nice honey (in a sealed container.) In the US many many brands of honey have an OU or Star-K symbol on the jar/package. Technically any pure honey is fine for kosher purposes but I'd stick to certified stuff in case your hosts aren't up on that. Of course, you run the risk that they may have lots of honey around already since they've probably been putting it on stuff for weeks. Flowers are also a good all-purpose gift here, if you're looking for something.

I can't think of much more to add that you can't find by googling info about Sukkot--I second Astro Zombie's "don't worry too much about it."
posted by needs more cowbell at 11:43 AM on October 19, 2008

OK - you're blessed. What to wear - anything that's modest. What to bring? Food, wine, flowers - anything that's respectible and kosher. What you need to know is that the sukkah represents a few things to the Jewish person but one thing worth mentioning is that God's presence envelopes the Jewish people from all sides and the top where the leafy ceiling is - is where the presence can be actually felt more acutely because there are openings. To see the stars through the leaves above is to be brought back to the wanderings of 40 years and knowing that all in life is temporary, just like the booth that was built by your friends and countless others around the world. It is a holy dwelling place - so good vibes and happiness are emotions that bring that to the heart and mind. Breathing in the air in such a place is good for the soul. The food consumed in the booth is a special treat. Songs can be sung, prayers recited and there is a special prayer for entering and one for exiting it as well.

Feel honored and blessed to be in a place like that. And have a very happy holiday - for you and your friends.
posted by watercarrier at 11:57 AM on October 19, 2008

Do not under any circumstances bring ham. I had a friend who sent her husband out to get food to take to a co-workers and her husband thought it would be funny to get a ham (she did not think to check what he bought and they just went). It wasn't and caused issues.
posted by Jenny is Crafty at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2008

so - do you wish a happy sukkot? merry sukkot? some other hebrew phrase?
posted by nadawi at 12:55 PM on October 19, 2008

You say Chag Sameach - with the gutteral Chhhh that sounds like the H in Hummus but is throatier and the - each in Sameach is also pronounced with that chhhhh (like clearing your throat). Alternatively you can say - Kol Toov, Moadim LeSimcha or if you can - Chag Sukkot Sameach.
posted by watercarrier at 1:01 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

If your friend happens to be the Pope, you can wish him "Gut yontiff, Pontiff."

Seriously, go with the others' suggestions. Flowers add a nice touch to any sukkah, and kosher food is always welcome. If there's a kosher bakery in town, some goodies are always welcome (and many kosher bakeries will indicate their kosher status with a seal or tape on the box they give you). It may be hard to find kosher wine (the non-Manischewitz kind) depending on where you are, but a nice bottle is usually a good thing to bring.
posted by greatgefilte at 1:44 PM on October 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wine handled by gentiles is automatically non-kosher. Don't bring wine.
posted by Electrius at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2008

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg from AskMoses writes: A wine that was handled by a non-Jew after the bottle was sealed (or after it was cooked) remains Kosher.
posted by watercarrier at 2:50 PM on October 19, 2008

IANAJ, but I worked in synagogue, a Jewish archives, and have many Jewish friends. My guess is that if your friends are inviting gentiles to a Jewish celebration, they're not hyper kosher. They're inviting you to share in their culture, so they'll probably tell you about it as things go along.

Go kosher if you can, or just bring flowers. Jews know these aren't your laws, and will be fine if you make an effort. But ham, bacon, and shell fish probably would be in extremely poor form.

I'm envious. Sounds like fun.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:15 PM on October 19, 2008

Definitely bring warm clothing if it's cold out. I still have memories of a Sukkot dinner with temperatures barely above freezing. They lent us wool socks, but it was hours of sitting outside in the gorgeous but frigid night air with not nearly enough layers on.

For a gift, you can't go wrong with flowers or a sealed bottle of kosher wine; food can be difficult if you're not sure what heksher (kosher certification) to look for.
posted by bassjump at 5:48 PM on October 19, 2008

Electrius: Not if it's boiled, but then you have to buy your friends the awful, awful boiled kosher wine.

You have plenty of good advice above.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:58 PM on October 19, 2008

flibbert, some wineries have kosher started flash-pasteurizing their wine instead of boiling them. The end result isn't all that bad.
posted by greatgefilte at 8:20 PM on October 19, 2008

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