What is your best advice for hosting guests during this Sukkot? It should be a great holiday for hosting because we’re already outside!
Another COVID Holiday
My best advice, unfortunately, is not to host guests, at least not in the way you may be imaging from years past. That’s my official advice, of course, because being around people cannot be guaranteed to be risk free. However, you’re right that Sukkot has a lot of elements that make it fairly COVID-appropriate because we’re already outdoors, and I’m happy to explore your options.
Though hosting guests for meals is typically a main element of Jewish holidays, consider whether you can host people but not for a meal. People sitting together wearing masks and not eating is safer than people taking off their masks to eat. You can socialize and enjoy each other’s company without needing to figure out some of the finer details that would be necessary when food is involved.
If you are absolutely sure that you want your hosting to center around a meal, consider your sukkah setup. Can you have different families socially distanced within your sukkah while eating? Could you eat in shifts? Could you gather inside for blessings and then take your food outside to eat with more space between you?
Most importantly, you and your potential guests need to be honest about your expectations. Will people be allowed inside your house to use the bathroom? What will you do if it rains? When you issue an invitation, set up those expectations up front and ask your guests if they have any questions or concerns. If you or anyone else turns out to have any symptoms or other reason why it wouldn’t be a good idea to be around people, be prepared to change plans or cancel.
Finally, even though Sukkot is called z‘man simchateinu, a time of rejoicing, it’s both acceptable and understandable to feel sad. While Sukkot is usually a joyous culmination of the High Holiday season, this year, it’s another week in a long list of strange, unfamiliar situations to navigate. Allow yourself to miss the Sukkot you wish you were having, and find moments of happiness to celebrate in the framework that’s actually possible this year.