When we dwell in our Sukkot, we traditionally welcome seven holy "guests," the Ushpizin. According to the Zohar, the foremost book of Jewish mysticism, the Ushpizin are the "souls" of our patriarchs and other great leaders of Israel who reside with us in our Sukkkot. (Zohar: Emor 103.a)

Unexpectedly, I encountered the first three Ushpizin in August, weeks before the Chag, the holiday of Sukkot. They were three young American men just finishing their Taglit-Birthright trips to Israel.

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The first of these Ushpizin, Baroch, is a modern day Abraham. The day I met him he made a leap of faith, enlisting as a Lone Soldier. "Did I do the right thing?" he worried. "I left behind all that I've known. I've left the land of my family, all that is familiar and I face an uncertain future."


I immediately thought of "lech lecha," "go to yourself" as we read in Chumash, the Hebrew Bible. I told Baroch "You are answering the call which has beckoned our people to Israel for thousands of years. You have embarked on a journey to your true self. You are a hero."

Like Abraham, Baroch has the courage to leave behind what's familiar and comfortable and to become a Lone Soldier. The second of the Ushpizin I'll call Phoni. Within 10 minutes of meeting me, he bragged that he uses and deals drugs in America, rather than allow his willing family to pay his college tuition.

"I'll go clean after college and make Aliyah," Ploni said.

"Are you crazy?" I asked. "You're endangering your life and the lives of others. And Aliyah? You're blind to the truth. One blot on your record and you'll never be allowed to do so!"

Ploni reminds me of our patriarch Isaac, the second of the Ushpizin, whose eyesight was compromised. (Bereshit 27.1).

The next was Avi, who plans to make Aliyah after he finishes his university education in America. He also is studying with a rabbi to become a more knowledgeable Jew and learning to speak Ivrit.

"I want to move to Israel with the skills and the language to make a significant contribution to our Homeland. I am dedicated to building a better Israel!"

In Avi, I see Jacob, the nation builder, the third of the Ushpizin.

History, some claim, is a set narrative of the past. I disagree! History is a living narrative manifesting in the present, which enables us to envision and realize a brighter future.

As we celebrate Sukkot this year, may we be privileged to forge a living history imbuing the present with enriched meaning. May we build more meaningful lives and a stronger Israel.
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