The Avodah Blog

Greening Sukkot

AVODAH alums Hannah Gelder (Chicago 2008-2009) and Kelly Viselman (Chicago 2008-2009) contributed this post about how they are bringing the mitzvah of bal tashchit (the Jewish environmental ethic of ‘do not waste’) into their sukkah this holiday with their Moishe House Chicago community.

After a meaningful Yom Kippur, and a large break-the-fast celebration with the Moishe House community, we picked ourselves back up on Sunday morning and began building our Sukkah. Afterall, it’s a mitzvah to begin building as soon as possible. For many of us, it was the first time we’ve built a sukkah, and it was definitely the first time each of us had constructed a structure from found materials.

Moishe House Chicago (Wendy Mironov 08-09, Kelly Viselman 08-09, Sarah Miles 08-09, Hannah Gelder 08-09, and Emma Schwartz) partnered with the Gan Project (a local organization focused on the Jewish community, health, and sustainability) to build a sukkah from entirely found materials. We searched in alleys, one of our parents garages, our own basement, and dragged tree clippings from neighbors’ yards. Friends (including Jenna Pollock-New Orleans 08-09) came to help build and others brought over decorations.

An afternoon of creative design and hard labor yielded a beautiful sukkah. It was a unique opportunity to create sacred space in the middle of our bustling neighborhood and to fulfill the mitzvah of building a sukkah. It was particularly meaningful, too, to be able to build in a way that reflects our personal values (not to mention the affordable nature of this project as well) and that is in line with bal tashchit (the Jewish environmental ethic of ‘do not waste’). We were able to give doors discarded in an alley and wood that’s been sitting in a garage for 20 years a new purpose. A new challenge will arise when it’s time for the sukkah to come down, but we are committed to responsibly disposing the materials. Many pieces will be donated to the Gan Project for the garden bed they are building.

Moishe House is hosting a shabbat dinner in the Sukkah on Friday, Sept. 24. People are welcome to come eat and/or dwell with us there during the holiday. Chag sameach!

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