Cedars-Sinai Blog

Cedars-Sinai Celebrates Sukkot

If you've been to Cedars-Sinai during fall in past years, you may have noticed a large hut-like structure on the Plaza Level terrace. That structure is a sukkah, which means "booth" in Hebrew. The sukkah is erected in honor of Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, a Jewish holiday held in the fall to celebrate the gathering of the harvest as well as the Jewish exodus from Egypt.

During Sukkot, observant families spend as much time as possible in the sukkah. Because the Torah requires Jews to treat the sukkah as they would their home, it is especially important to eat all meals inside the sukkah.

"During the holiday, observant Jews can only eat or drink in a sukkah. It is forbidden to eat outside of it," says Rabbi Jason Weiner, senior rabbi and manager of the Spiritual Care Department. "The sukkah at Cedars-Sinai helps our staff, as well as our patients and their families."

Of course if an observant patient is not able to leave their room, they may take their meals outside of the sukkah.

Unity is a central theme during Sukkot.

Cedars-Sinai has constructed a sukkah each fall for more than 30 years. It takes an entire day to build and is made out of bamboo and other organic materials. Sukkahs are built outdoors with 3 walls, which must be firm enough not to sway in the wind. They also have a roof that must be made of something that grew from the ground, such as palm leaves. Many also choose to adorn their sukkah with decorations.

In addition to enjoying meals in the sukkah, it is customary during Sukkot to shake four plants together each day, usually inside the sukkah. This ritual involves reciting a blessing and bringing together plants from the so-called 4 species: a palm branch (lulav), two willows (aravot), three myrtles (hadassim), and one citron (etrog). Each species represents a different type of person. Unity is a central theme during Sukkot and the four plants help emphasize the need for various types of people who serve God.

"It is always very moving to see it out on the Plaza—a small feeble shack, next to this massive, innovative, modern medical center," says Rabbi Weiner. "It's a reminder of the fragility of life and also of the importance of faith and religious symbols to give people hope while they are receiving medical treatment."

We welcome all visitors, staff, and patients to enjoy the sukkah during the joyous holiday. Chag sameach!