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Luach Zemanim

Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush Sukkah
The Sukkah of the Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush
Sukkoth 2011/ 5772

By Shoshannah Brombacher-Miller

A very handy and clever member of the  Yavneh Minyan of Flatbush, Gidon Gur Aryeh designed and built with his own hands a unique sukkah for the community last year in memory of several of his relatives. He called it Sukkat Yitzchak ben Hillel. This is not just a sukkah, but something really special: a rotund construction of metal pipes with 12 panels of plastic tarp, a strong pole in the middle, and a s'chach (reed covering) that slopes a bit. The shape is great to withstand the wind in bad weather. It reminds one of a Mongolian Yurt.

Gidon asked another Yavneh member, the artist Shoshannah Brombacher-Miller, if she had any creative decorations. She brought laminated copies of a set of Ushpizin and of several sukkos paintings and made a sign at the entrance. 

But this year after he set up the sukkah again on the lawn in front of the shul Gidon had a much better idea: real paintings on the canvas/tarp. Shoshannah decided to paint the Ushpizin (biblical guests), in black and white. The weather was beautiful, sun and a bit of wind, and she finished it in three days. 

Many people who passed by when the artist was at work asked for a description or an explanation, so here is a short overview of the 12 wall-panels of the sukkah. 

The Ushpizin start at the left side of the entrance and go counter clockwise. 

The first one is Avraham Avinu:

He is known for his hospitality and for his tent with openings on four sides, so no guest or traveler from any direction found a 'closed door'. In the tent (top left) Sarah sets the table for the guests, while Avraham offers the poor and hungry food from a bowl. 

The next panel depicts Yitzchak Avinu. He did not travel, unlike his father Avraham, but stayed put and dug wells, which is a symbol of Torah learning, hence the scroll and the books in the well. Yitzchak dedicated himself to study. In this panel we see a beth midrash, a candle and a chandelier, because "a lamp is a mitzvah and Torah is light". Books float around. In the top left corner a Shas (the 6 volumes of the Mishnah) refer to the Mishnah study of the Yavneh Minyan.

In between Yitzchak and Yaakov a group of chassidim with lulavim performs the hakkafot (the processions with the four species) under the text "And you will rejoice" (at your Festivals).

Next to them Yaakov Avinu sleeps with his head on a stone. He dreams about a ladder going up to heaven with angels ascending and descending (Bereshit 28). His travel sack and his stick lie next to him.

The term Beth Yaakov refers usually to the Jewish women, hence the two women at the bottom. Yaakov traveled a lot and was uprooted a few times, a situation which is generally very difficult for women, but it happened often in Jewish history. The women at the bottom take their children and pack their belongings. They don't forget in the meantime what is to be Jewish women: to perform mitzvoth, keeping a Jewish family going and being responsible for future generations. 

The Chassid in the top right corner depicts the advice of the Karliner Rebbe: "A Jew should be like a sullam (ladder, the ladder of Yaakov): his feet must be planted firmly on the ground and his head in Heaven," i.e., he should take care of his livelihood for his family while thinking of his Torah study. In his left hand, the side of his heart, the Chassid lifts a sefer Torah and seforim, on his right hand he holds a house and a cart with a horse, symbols for parnasah (livelihood). 

The panel next to Yaakov shows his son Yosef, the next Ushpiz. He is dressed in his ketonet passim, his many colored coat. Yosef is surrounded by symbols from the dreams he explained and interpreted: the sun, the moon and the stars which bowed down to him, the lean and the fat ears of wheat, the cows climbing out of the river. Yosef had a difficult life filled with both overt luxury and hardship and he was subjected to temptations; he modestly lowers his eyes and concentrates on the sefer in his hand. His arba kanfus with his tzitzis shows over his colored coat to reflect his pure personality. 

The next Ushpiz is Moshe Rabbenu. He hands the Torah to the B'nay Yisrael who are standing at the foot of Har Sinai around the text "na'aseh we-nishma", we will do and we will hear, our unconditional acceptance of the Torah. Here also books float around, to indicate that there is a written Torah (the parchment scroll in the middle) and an oral Torah, which was later written down as the Gemara and printed in many volumes. 

The panel with the window shows a family enjoying their sukkah, with the text "You shall dwell in booths...."

The next Ushpiz is Aaron haKohen, who stands dressed in his priestly clothes near the mizbeach (the altar of stones which were not cut). He has sacrificial utensils in his hand and is surrounded by sacrificial animals, sheep, cows. Behind him more priests stand in front of the Mishkan, the Tent in the dessert. 

The last Ushpiz, David haMelekh, composes Tehillim while playing his harp over his own city, Yerushalayim. The mandatory Torah of the King is visible behind his shoulder.
These Tehillim have been a comfort and a joy for Jews at all times. Behind the king with his crown and royal garb a few plain Jews are saying tehillim. 

The next panel with the window is dedicated to a story about the Rebbe of Dzhikow. Once his students asked him what kind of ethrog (the heart shaped citron) one should buy for Sukkoth: a big one or a small one, a green or a yellow one, a lumpy or a smoother citron, etc. 
Said the Rebbe: "The best ethrog for the Festival, the one that HaShem prefers over all the others is a lev tov, a good heart".

In the top left corner a boy waves an Israeli flag, and the next panel close to the door contains several dedications. The artist dedicates her work on this sukkah to her mother who recovered from illness last year. The lion with the lulav refers to the builder of this special Sukkah, Gidon Gur Aryeh, whose name means Lion. Under the dedications are a few houses and an old arched alley in Yerushalayim. 

Some people asked why nearly all the personae in he pictures look Chassidic: this is because the artist loves Chassidic stories and has no problem with anachronisms in art; after all, we have to consider ourselves as if we receive the Torah every day. History is present and the present is connected with history.

Gidon Gur Aryeh and Shoshannah Brombacher, Brooklyn 2011

And here are some details:

The light from the outside lets one see the pictures on he inside!

Shoshannah Brombacher, Ph.D., Maggidah
Brooklyn, NY
718-339 2779 / Shoshbm@gmail.com