JERUSALEM, Israel – For thousands of years, Jewish people around the world have followed the biblical injunction to live in temporary dwellings during the Feast of Tabernacles – or Sukkot. One Israeli tells how living inside a sukka brings Jewish people closer to God. Some call him Ha'Shem, which means "The Name."
It's an ancient biblical commandment that's still being kept today. Some call it a Jewish camping trip with the conveniences of home.
"We're here in our sukka, which is really our home away from home for this whole week of the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot," Seth Ben-Haim explained.
Every year, Seth and Te'ena Ben-Haim build a sukka – or booth – on the back porch of their Jerusalem apartment.
"It helps us remember first of all we're commanded to remember the exodus from Egypt and how we needed to wander through the desert for 40 years without permanent dwellings," he continued. "But it also reminds us that even though we've been brought into the land of Israel, we haven't reached our final destination."
The roof is important, he explained.
"The main thing is a roof that will make us feel that we're open to the elements because otherwise we'd be in the protection of our homes in some ways and we're just supposed to be in this flimsy tabernacle so that we can remember that ultimately we're under HaShem's protection," Ben-Haim said.
Most sukkas are decorated – at least in part – by the children.
Families eat, sleep, study and pray together in their temporary houses for a whole week. Despite the camping conditions, it's considered a joyful time.
"You can focus on the real important things like relationships, sitting down and studying the Word and talking with the children about God's faithfulness," said Te'ena Ben-Haim.
Jonathan and his sister, Rebecca, enjoy the holiday so much that Jonathan made his tree house into a sukka.
Another part of the Sukkot celebration recorded in Leviticus 23 is bring a special fruit and branches to rejoice before the Lord.
"We offer them to HaShem, all four of these, in our prayers every morning," he said. "We wave them in many different directions, and we really look to above and that's what this type of roof helps us to remember, too. We're looking to above 'cause that's where our help is going to come from."