When Milwaukee Jewish Day School students Levi Gottlieb and Noah Bernstein spoke at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation board meeting in October, they delivered this D’var Torah.
Hello, my name is Levi.
And my name is Noah.
And we are seventh graders from MJDS.
This week there is a special parsha. It is special because it teaches us about the main holidays:
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, and Shavuot are some of the ones mentioned.
But today, we will be focusing on Sukkot. In Judaism, there is a time to weep and a time to celebrate. As Jews, we are taught how to experience all of these emotions – the good and the bad.
According to Leviticus, chapter 23, verse 40, Sukkot is a holiday that requires mandatory rejoicing. That means that you must try to celebrate on Sukkot. One great way to celebrate is with the lulav and etrog. The Torah specifically references these plants. This happiness is known as z’man simchateinu.
To celebrate Sukkot, the 7th grade class is building their own sukkah. A major goal in our project was to keep the Jewish tradition alive by building our sukkah. Another goal was to follow the laws in order to get closer with G-d. A third goal was that the sukkah will help us be more appreciative of nature. Before we made the sukkah we developed a mission statement. The first step was learning the laws of sukkot and what should be done on sukkot, which we did in Jewish Studies class.
Our mission statement is “By building the sukkah, we are keeping the Jewish tradition alive. If we don’t, Judaism won’t be as meaningful. We will welcome people into our sukkah who don’t have anyone to celebrate Sukkot with. Our sukkah will be very open and you will be able to see the stars in order to get closer to nature. We will connect with G-d by following G-d’s commandments, and we will connect with other Jews by inviting them into our sukkah. Our sukkah will demonstrate empathy by sheltering people and showing that not everyone has a home.
We tried to base our mission statement on MJDS’s core values, tikkun olam, empathy (derech eretz), and wonder (yirah).
The building process was very hard and we had to put in a lot of hard work. Our biggest challenge was that not many people knew how to build a sukkah. We had to build walls from scratch and make our own decorations.
Our class really liked the process, and it was a fun way to connect shop skills to sukkah building.
This has been a very exciting project for us, and a memorable one, too! Sukkot emphasizes the fun side of the Jewish holidays.
It is a holiday that is meant to celebrate with friends and family. It is a great opportunity to unplug from electronics and connect with nature and your surroundings. Building a sukkah shows how to connect with G-d and have fun at the same time.
We hope you enjoyed our D’var Torah and we wish you a great Sukkot tonight.