OCTOBER 19, 2017 – Last week, during the waning days of Sukkot, Rabbi Michael Ragozin was lamenting about not being able to ride his bike. Ragozin, who is recuperating from an ACL tear, had been looking forward to putting together his Sukkah Cycle, which he peddles to congregants’ homes. There, he helps them fulfill the mitzvah of saying a prayer over the lulav and etrog in a sukkah.
Ragozin leads Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, and loves Sukkot. He eats his meals in the Sukkah, and sleeps in the hut along with his children.
“The experience of Sukkot – eating, drinking, and sleeping in the sukkah – takes us out of the comfort of our homes to teach us gratitude for the goodness that we have, and the way I translate the ancient ritual of shaking the lulav into today’s terms is that it’s our hope and prayer for a good and prosperous year,” he said, as he showed a visitor his Sukkah Cycle in his backyard.
The sukkah is a small kit that is almost 4 feet long and wide, and about 7 feet high. It consists of an aluminum pop-up frame that’s covered with a vinyl tarp, and topped with a bamboo covering. All of it fits in a black duffle bag that he places in a small two-wheel trailer that resembles an oversized baby carriage. The trailer hitches to the frame of his old black 15-speed bike.
This year, he still made the rounds to bring the pop-up sukkah to the people, but drove it to North Shore homes, and to the sidewalk outside the Dandee Donut Factory in downtown Marblehead. It took him about four minutes to set up the sukkah, which can hold a family of four standing up. There, Jews and non-Jews seemed intrigued by the idea of standing in a vertical box and waving a lulav and an etrog around.
Janna Schwartz, who attends Shirat Hayam, said her two daughters, Hannah and Vivian, enjoyed standing in the tiny sukkah outside the donut shop.
“I grew up celebrating Sukkot at Hebrew School and that was the extent of it,” she said. “Now, it seems as though celebrating Sukkot is become more mainstream among secular Jewish families.”
Meanwhile, her 7-year-old daughter, Vivian, reflected on shaking the lulav and etrog. “We shake it because of God,” said Vivian. “It was fun and was heavy. I felt happy doing it.”
– Steven A. Rosenberg