My U-Haul Sukkot

Gordon Family U-Haul Sukkah 1976.One of my earliest childhood memories was Sukkot of 1976, when I was 3.5 years old. I remember sitting in the family Sukkah, looking up through the branches that formed the roof, at the clouds as they whisked across the sky. We lived in a 17-story condominium and there was no obvious place to build a Sukkah. My father (of blessed memory), an Orthodox rabbi, asked permission to build a Sukkah in his designated parking space. When his request was turned down by the condominium board, my mother came up with the idea of building our Sukkah on the back of a U-Haul trailer. She was inspired by a famous Talmudic ruling that a person traveling in a caravan over the feast is permitted to build a Sukkah on the back of a camel. She noticed many people parking boats and RVs in the outdoor lot and realized the board wouldn't think twice about letting us park a trailer. When our 20th century equivalent of a camel pulled into the parking lot with a Sukkah on the back, the condominium board was livid, but there was nothing they could do about it.

My father's U-haul Sukkah didn't go unnoticed. A local rabbinical student sent the following letter to the editor of a Chicago-area newspaper about my father's Sukkah:

Gets Around the Order Against Building Sukka

The Sukka you see here is not fictitious; it is very real.

When Rabbi "Bob" Gordon, of Winston Towers, was refused permission to build a sukka for the upcoming Sukkot Festival on the grounds of the condominium at which he resides, he refused to be deterred by his friendly neighbors and did something "radical." And, radical, it was. He placed a U-Haul on the parking space allotted to him and constructed a sukka on that U-Haul trailer.

Stare at the sukka! Does it not appear to be different? Is it not unique? Is it not hilarious? A sukka built on a U-Haul, it's for MAD Magazine!!

Yes, at first glance, it may appear to be out of the ordinary. I am sure that even Rabbi Gordon initially grimaced at the thought of observing the laws of sukka in a U-Haul trailer. But, dear editor, stare again at the sukka. This little feeble house has been the cohesive factor of the Jewish people for thousands of years. It is an important part of the "golden chain" that has linked all Jews - however religious or irreligious they may be - together during our courageous history. As the "Four Species" are bound together on sukkot, so have the Jews been bound to one another on sukkot. The sukka has united the Jew of the Western Hemisphere with his brethren of Europe, Africa, Asia and Israel. Thus, the importance of sukka.

Some build their sukka on porches, other on their driveway pavements, while others on their rooftops. But Rabbi Gordon built his on a trailer. He did so not to be comical but out of necessity to properly observe the Sukkot festival and his wish to celebrate and fulfill the holiday precepts.

Now, my friend, stare again at the sukka. Do you see, as I do, a man who is sincere and devoted to his tradition; a man who makes Judaism "live;" a man who sets a fine and positive example for myself and other college students like me. May I publicly say, "Thank you, Rabbi Robert Gordon, for upholding Jewish principles."

by Abraham Isaac Fishweicher
Hebrew Theological College Student
October 28, 1976

Eating our family meals in a U-Haul trailer wasn't without hardship. My mother has been in a wheelchair since the age of two when she was stricken by polio and climbing into the U-Haul Sukkah was an adventure in its own right. Then there was the Chicago weather. Oh, how I don't miss the Chicago weather. Years later when we moved to a 3-story apartment building we built our Sukkah in the backyard. I remember as a teenager waking up one morning in the family Sukkah covered in a thick layer of snow. Yeah, I'll take the Jerusalem weather anytime. I guess all these fond childhood memories are why Sukkot is one of my favorite Torah commandments.

Over the years I have developed a number of personal Sukkot traditions. Those who have been to Jerusalem know the city is plagued with cats. So one personal tradition I practiced for many years was never to sleep in my Sukkah in Jerusalem without my beloved Rhodesian Ridgeback who kept the cats at bay. Sadly, Georgia moved on three years ago to the giant green field in the sky, where she continues to perpetually chase cats until the day of resurrection.

U-Haul Sukkot Article

Georgia in front of my Sukkah.

Georgia (1999-2012) standing guard at the entrance of my Sukkah in Jerusalem in 2010.

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18 thoughts on “My U-Haul Sukkot

  1. this year we used our trampoline! we put light and decorations all around it! lots of fun to lay and watch the stars

  2. This is one of my favorite stories relating to how to celebrate Sukkot in captivity. I have shared this story more than once with “the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel.” You see Nehemia, I know I am of Ephrayim, of Joseph, of Israel… There are so many people like myself who left their non-Biblical Christian doctrines, to embrace Yahshua and his teachings. We are scattered all over and do not have an assembly, though home studies of Torah are beginning to pop up all over. It was prophesied that Yah Himself would “whistle” to His people all over the earth where we have been scattered, and now is that time. So thank you so much for doing your part which I admire greatly. You Nehemiah left your Pharisaic roots to embrace Torah, just as I have had to leave the false doctrines I was raised in to follow Yahshua in Torah, for after all he represents that Word made flesh. Your teaching “The Hebrew Yeshua Vs. the Greek Jesus was an eye opener! I learned that you and I and others like us have become part of that bridge of sorts which brings the prophecy of the stick of Judah and the stick of Ephrayim becoming one in Abba’s hand, together. I could go on dear brother, but there is not enough time or space to write about all the wondrous things Yah has hidden for us all in His Torah.

  3. If YHVH commanded that feasts be done in the land and even though it was a lasting ordinance, how does that supersede the instructions to actually “keep” the feast when all those instructions REQUIRE a person to be in the land with a Temple and Levitical system? And how did YHVH “stop” the feasts as prophecied by Hosea (chapter 2) if not by vomiting Israel from the land also as prophecies by Hosea (chapter 9)?
    In fact, not only did He stop the feasts, He stopped the new moons. Therefore, since it was only the Levitical priests who declared the calendar, how is it that we think it is okay for us who are not priests to do what was commanded for them? How does our “not stopping” the feasts look to YHVH except as rebellion for keeping them in a strange (our own) way? Don’t we learn anything from the lessons of scripture?
    I think we are as careless as Nadab and Abihu and the people are as ignorant and compliant in following others into sin as they were following Jeraboam.

    • I think we should consider this. This provides for being outside of the Land…..

      “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a body, or be in a distant journey, yet he shall keep the Passover to Yehovah. In the second month, on the fourteenth day at dusk, they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; they shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it. According to all the statutes of the Passover, they shall keep it. But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and has failed to prepare the Passover, even that person shall be cut off from his people, because he did not bring the offering of Yehovah in its appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.”
      Numbers 9:10-13

      • Devorah, there is also this to consider 🙂 :

        “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths” Lev 23:42 JPS1917

  4. What’s wrong with cats? Recently a study showed that cats prefer human interaction even over food and toys. Maybe you should make a few friends and accept them as an Ushpizin rather than an enemy.

  5. My son’s sister-in-law in NZ saved up for a ticket so I could see my grandchildren in Hamilton. My son and his wife joined the effort and I could be with them for the month of October 2014 – PROVIDED they would allow me to camp in their garden for Succot. Big Yes!! First my son and daughter-in-law pitched the tent for me, and then they showed me this Movie!! Or the other way around. Anyway, I would love to watch it again – will appreciate it better without the jet lag.
    Thank you, Nehemiah, for taking the complications out of the Festival.
    BARUCH HASHEM. May HE bless you. And bless you for sharing the lovely story of your late father and mother. May YHVH bless them where they are together with the other precious saints.

  6. This is a marvelous sharing! It touches my heart that Nehemia and his father have had such a strong tie to his God of his fathers! This article had touched my heart deeply! And it happened in the USA!

    PS What a smart mother!

  7. I don’t know what USHPIZIN is but after reading all of this I plan to find out and watch! Toda Raba! Thank you for the wonderful story and for the fine example of obedience and reverence your family stood by. Sets my heart on fire!

  8. Hi Nehemia!! Ushpizin was my first Hebrew dvd and I loved it.

    Thank you for sharing your precious memories. You have a great family.

    I sometimes wonder, if christians knew the value of this feast, and the others, if they ever would have been so cruel towards their Jewish brothers and sisters?

  9. This is one of many situations where the Oral Law has it place when it support the Torah and our willingness to keep our Heavenly Father’s instructions. Doing Sukkot in Canada can be a challenge with the changing weather to varying extremes during the fall. But that does not mean an effort should not be made. When I return to the Caribbean, hopefully in the near future, Sukkot is going to take on a whole new meaning having sunshiney weather to make the experience enjoyable and memorable.

  10. Fascinating, the wisdom of Yehowah, in giving us teachings that force us to think, learn, and adapt!
    Imagine the indomitable people who would hear ancient stories of freedom and survival every 7th year, “eat what springs of itself” (finding nutrition in wild edibles), and annually practice building a shelter of natural materials. An inconvenient people for slavemasters 😉

  11. Ushpizin is a must to have for your family.library. Being in Torah for many years; there is much to be seen; each time I view it. Is Tremendous !!! From one set of eyes the “visitors”, “guests” are like the House of Israel, look like to the HOuse of Judah; in the end it all comes out well. The actors were all Yeshiva Students; the man insisted his stage wife be his real wife, Malka, don’t you love her? I hope when I get to Israel to spend some time with her. I also hope them make a sequel; like to know how Moshe and Malka and their new son are doing. I hope to meet many Breslever’s;. Truly, you need to get this film.

  12. Chag Sameagh! I have seen USHPIZIN several times finding amusing that every time is as the first and full of teachings and surprises!

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