GROTON -- Was it an act of vandalism or a greater force? A sukkah -- a small hut -- that was built for celebration at First Parish on Sept. 30 was discovered two days later heaped into a pile. Church members worried vandals might have targeted the structure after discovering the pile of wood and branches, and the incident was reported to the Groton Police.

It turned out to be a false alarm, according to the sexton, Joe Spencer, who said that a strong gust of wind whipped across the Common, indeed a greater force, causing the sukkah to fall against the church. Worried about damage to the glass windows, he pushed it off the building.

Members gathered later the same day and the sukkah was rebuilt, stronger albeit simpler, where it remained until last Sunday, Oct. 7.

The Sukkot event, sponsored by the Groton Interfaith Council, was hosted by First Parish. "We are honored to host it and share in the holiday," said Rev. Elea Kemler.

A seven-day harvest holiday, Festival of Booths, or Sukkot, is an ancient Jewish holiday and the booth refers to the temporary hut or shelter people built to provide shade as they harvested their food. Sukkot also relates to the Jewish story (told in the Hebrew Bible) of people who wandered in the desert for 40 years (Leviticus 23:42-43) and built temporary shelters called sukkot.

The sukkot (plural) are little dwellings made out of poles and branches with open walls and roof, so the stars can be seen at night and are commonly decorated with flowers, grape vines or branches.


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During the week of the holiday, people put a table and chair inside and eat their meals, while others sleep inside the sukkah (singular). The meals show gratitude for the food provided by the earth and the delight of being alive with food, wine, family and friends.

"The point is to spend some time in it during the week of the holiday," Kemler said. Hoping people will delve further into it's meaning, Kemler added, "I look at the sukkah and think about refugee camps and homeless encampments, Red Cross tents and mobile homes erected after hurricanes, floods and tornados.

There is another aspect of Sukkot that Kemler pointed out, "The (ancient) story of 40 years of homelessness and wandering is not just history -- it is still happening now for people all over the world; the sukkah is a reminder of all kinds of temporary shelters and the millions of people who live in those inadequate shelters."

Kemler noted the special features of Sukkot are hospitality and compassion and to open one's heart.

"It is a special blessing to invite those who are needy or hungry or don't have a sukkah in which to eat."