Weather or Not: Spending Time in the Sukkah

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Dear Miriam,

I planned to get several of my non-Jewish friends together in my sukkah to teach them about the holiday, but it looks like we’re going to get rained out. Now I’m trying to decide if I should cancel or have them in my (very small) apartment instead. If it were Jewish friends, I know I’d go ahead with it, but for my non-Jewish friends, we can just do something together after the holiday rather than force them to have this particular experience. What do you think?

Signed,

Sukkot in the Rain

Dear Rain,

One of the reasons we have for spending time in a sukkah is to experience the fragility of life: the swaying fabric, the roof with intentional holes in it, the requirement that it only exist temporarily. This whole holiday is an exercise in confirming that z’man simchateinu, the season of our rejoicing, can happen in a flimsy hut, in weather that’s too cold or too hot and, yes, even in the rain.

Different rabbis and different denominations of Judaism have varying standards about whether you’re expected to spend time in the sukkah if it’s raining. One common adage is that if it’s raining enough to “spoil your soup,” you should go inside. But one person’s spoiled soup is another person’s wet, celebratory adventure.

You could tell your friends the gathering is rain or shine and then see how hearty they’re feeling. You could say kiddush and motzi in the sukkah if it’s not a torrential downpour, and then move the rest of the evening inside. You could model to your non-Jewish friends this really interesting aspect of an already interesting holiday by showing how much fun can be had in tight quarters when you need to be flexible about plans.

There’s no reason to cancel. The event might be shortened and have a different vibe. You might feel really disappointed inside but still muster the energy to be a good host on the outside. You can advise your friends to bring rain gear and apologize that you haven’t yet figured out how to control the weather. But more than anything, you should have fun, rain or shine, since that’s actually the essence of the holiday.

Chag Sameach,

Miriam

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