At URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech West we aim to use science and technology as a portal through which to connect with Judaism. That’s nice, but how do we actually do this? Sukkot has ancient foundations and some seemingly strange rituals like marching around while shaking branches in the air, which is a far cry from science! Here are some ways to connect with Sukkot through a scientific lens:
1. Engineering the Sukkah
The Talmud stipulates that the sukkah should be strong enough to withstand a moderate wind. Engineering 101 teaches us that the triangle is the strongest building structure (think pyramid or three-legged stool). So, to build a strong sukkah, be sure to re-enforce the corners with a cross bar to form a triangular shape.
2. Math for sizing the Sukkah
One of the names for Sukkot is zman simchateinu, the time of our rejoicing. To make the holiday fun, we invite as many friends and family as possible to join us in the sukkah. If last year we could fit our family of 4 and 1 other family (average size 4-5 people) for a total of 8-9 people in our 10’ x 10’ sukkah, but this year we want to have 2 families plus ours at a time which increases the number of people to approximately 12, how large of a sukkah should we build? We must apply mathematical scaling!
3. Science of Agriculture
Another name for this holiday is “Feast of Gathering” (or Ingathering if you refer to an English or King James Bible) which refers to agricultural harvest but, ask this trivia question in your sukkah: what were we harvesting at the end of summer in Biblical Palestine? Barley comes in early spring; wheat in early summer; olives in October and November. What we are really celebrating is not the harvest but the completion of the many steps following the wheat harvest. Families and whole communities would have been working together all summer to prepare the wheat for actually making it into bread—threshing, winnowing, sifting–and they had to move quickly before the rain started.
6 Points Sci-Tech campers know that there is always a way to bring what we love most (science, tech, and friendship) to our Jewish practice, making it full of joy and relevance. Chag sameach from your Sci-Tech family!