frame-leftpixel pixel
rabbi dorit edutphone number 248-543-4255email follow rabbi dorit on twitterrabbi dorit on facebook
homemeet the rabbirabbinic serviceswritings & ritualsactivismblogcontact rabbi dorit
meet the rabbi

Ushpizin Healing Service for Sukkot

by Rabbi Dorit Edut

Ushpizin Healing Service
Created by Dorit Edut, AJR, Winter 2004

Ushpizin means “guests,” and this is a service to welcome them.

As you enter the Sukkah have a bowl, a pitcher of water, and a towel so everyone can wash their hands and say the “N’tilat Yadayeem” blessing. Seats are arranged in a semicircle and a table with candles, wine, challah, plus lulav and etrog are at the open end of the circle. Cards with the names of each of the Ushpizin are on the seats. The leader begins humming a niggun (melody) as all enter and are seated.

Niggun of “Hosheeah et Amecha”

Welcome to our lovely Sukkah, our temporary home which you make so much nicer by your presence as we join here together in the Presence of God, the Shekhina, our Source of Life. We have come from many different places and each are on our own journey through life. How good it is that we have paused here to rest and celebrate together. It is a time for us to relax, to reflect, and to ease our spirits. Let us spend a few minutes to quiet our minds and put aside our burdens. Let us close our eyes, breathe deeply, and listen to the sounds of our own breathing – in and out, in and out – like the waters of the sea- cleansing us, renewing us, carrying us gently to a safe shore.

Please open your eyes when you are there. Now let us pray together:

Behold, I am prepared and ready to fulfill the commandment of sukkah as the Creator, of Blessed Name, commanded me: (Leviticus 23:42-43) “In sukkot shall you dwell for seven days; every citizen of Israel shall dwell in sukkot so that your generations will know that I settled the children of Israel in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” (translation by Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips)

A beautiful custom has come to us from Jewish mysticism. On Sukkot, the Zohar teaches that seven shepherds are sent from Heaven to be guests- our Ushpizin - at our celebration and observe how we fulfill the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah. In modern times we have added some shepherdesses as well so that we have at least fourteen guests present in every sukkah on each of the seven days of the holiday. They have come also to bring us blessings and to strengthen us as we sit together as the siddur says:
“In the shade of the Holy One.”

Would you all please rise and then each person will tell us which of our Ushpizin is sitting with you as their name appears on the cards on your chairs.

ALL (sing to the tune of the niggun):
Be seated, be seated (2x)
Be seated, honored guests
Be seated, be seated (2x)
Be seated, holy guests.

(Everyone sits down)

(Reader #1 and One who blesses the candles now comes to front table)

“Let us restore Shekhinah to her place
In Israel and throughout the world
And let us infuse all places
With her presence.”
(by Marcia Falk, The Book of Blessings, pg.236)

May the light of these candles also remind us of the light which the Shekhina and those who are dear to us have brought into our lives.

ALL: (Psalm 90:17)
May the pleasantness of the Eternal our God be upon us;
Establish the work of our hands –
May the work of our hands be established!
(translation of Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips)

ONE WHO RECITES THE KIDDUSH (comes forward to front table)

May the love which God has shown us and continues to show us, sweeten our lives and find a place in our hearts so that we can open ourselves to its joy and its holiness. May our time spent in the Sukkah bring us renewed strength.

ONE WHO RECITES THE MOTZI (Comes forward to front table):
May this bread nourish us and encourage us to be thankful for the good that sustains us which God brings to us.

“Where shall we look for God?
Around us, above us, beneath us, within us;
Wherever we turn, we find God’s work.

We see You, God, in the beauty of the trees.
We see You, God, in the loveliness of flowers.
We find You, God, in the order of nature.
We find You, God, in the miracle of growth
We find You, God, in the wonder of understanding.
We find You, God, in the sheltering love of parents.
We find You, God, in the warmth of friendship.
In all Your gifts we sense Your presence, O God. Praised are You, God, Giver of all.”

(from Siddur of Congregation Shir Tikvah, Troy, MI)


Although all of the invited Heavenly Ushpizin are present with us each day of Sukkot, they take turns being the one Guest of Honor on different days of the week . Today, for example, is the third day of Sukkot and Ya’akov and Leah are considered the Guests of Honor. When we think of the lives of our Ushpizin, we know that they went through many trials and tribulations themselves and have much to teach us. I’d like to share with you a Midrash about Ya’akov’s life, at the point when he finds out that his son Yosef is still alive.

Yosef has sent his brothers back to Israel from Egypt to bring their father, Ya’akov with them. Ya’akov has been mourning the loss of his son Yosef for many years since the brothers first lied and told their father that Yosef had been killed. Now they must confront him now and tell him that this was not true, that Yosef is alive and prospering in Egypt. The midrash in Parshat Vayigash says that the brothers feared what the shock of telling Ya’akov might do to him. To prepare him, they decided to ask Asher’s daughter Serach who was an extraordinary child and gifted musically to play her harp for her grandfather and sing about Yosef still being alive. She sang to him so beautifully that Ya’akov was deeply touched and pronounced a special blessing over her – that she be allowed to live forever – and indeed legend has it that she was still alive in King David’s time and was one of the righteous who were taken to Gan Eden alive.

When the brothers then approached Ya’akov and told him the news about Yosef, the Torah says that Ya’akov did not believe them until they mentioned something that Yosef had told them to say.

At this point I wonder if we could give voice to Ya’akov, to express what he might have been feeling at that moment. (Allow others to speak as if they were Ya’akov.)

Can we offer Ya’akov any thoughts or prayers for healing to comfort him? (Allow others to offer their thoughts or spontaneous prayers.)

Our other Ushpizin also have been faced with times when they may have needed healing. It is not always clear from our texts that they received this healing. I have chosen one moment of their lives when it seems they were in need of assistance I’d like you to look at this list below and see if you would like to address words of comfort to any one of our them.

Avraham – Worrying that by moving away from his nephew Lot, their family ties will be broken forever
Yitzchak– Terrified by the Akedah experience, wondering how he can ever trust his father again
Ya’akov – Fearful of confronting his brother Esau and asking forgiveness after many years
Yosef – Depressed and alone after being put in jail in Egypt with no visible hope of release
Moshe – Feeling overwhelmed by his job as leader and discouraged by the constant complaining and arguing of the people of Israel
Aharon – Shock and grief at the sudden death of his two sons which he was not allowed to openly express
David – Hurt and confused that King Saul does not trust him no matter what he does and can only see him as his mortal enemy.

Sarah - Fearing what might have happened to her son Yitzhak after Avraham has taken him up to Mt Moriah.
Rivka – Saddened by the conflict between her twin sons which has led to Ya’akov’s having to leave home and Esav’s anger .
Leah – Sad and jealous that Ya’akov preferred Rachel and would not change no matter what she did
Rachel – Anger at her father Laban’s deceit in substituting her older sister Leah for her at the marriage with Ya’akov
Miriam- Lonely and depressed when she was punished with leprosy after having spoken against Moses.
Hannah – Despair that she would not have a child and her husband would leave her
Deborah – Worry that Barak might later resent or be jealous of her, even though he insisted on her help with the battle.

As all of our Ushpizin have been in need of healing, so we,too, each have people in our lives who are in need of strengthening – either physically or spiritually or both. They may be family, friends, or even our own selves. Let us take a couple of minutes to think of them quietly, to bring them here through our meditations, and sense where they and we may need God’s help . (Sit in silent meditation for a few minutes.)
If you will indulge me, I would like to share with you a few words about the person I have been thinking of. ……..While we continue thinking , I will pass around this pomegranate whose many seeds are like the many different lives that touch us and the many chances that God gives us to help others. When you get this pomegranate, if you have some thoughts or prayers that you’d like to offer about someone, please, go ahead. And if you’d rather pass, that is ok,too. ( Hum niggun. )
(When all have finished speaking, invite everyone to recite the following words and then sing the Mi Shebeyrach).

As those who come before us were blessed in the presence of the communities that sustained them, so we offer our blessings for those among us needing support.

(Say the name of the person to yourself) - may your spirit be calmed and your pain be eased, may you receive comfort from those who care for you, and may you drink from the waters of the ever-giving well.
(from Marcia Falk’s Book of Blessings, pg. 276)

Mi Shebeyrach Avoteynu, M-kor habracha l’eemotaynu
May the Source of Strength Who blessed the ones before us
Help us find the courageto make our lives a blessing
And let us say – Amen.

Mi Shebeyrach Eemotaynu, M-kor habrach l’avotaynu
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah shleyma
The renewal of body,the renewal of spirit
And let us say – Amen.
(written by Debbie Friedman)

Please join me in our closing prayers for our Ushpizin.

May it be Your will, my Eternal God and God of my ancestors, that Your Presence may dwell among us, that You spread over us the Sukkah of Your Peace, in the merit of the mitzvah of sukkah that we are fulfilling. From the honored and faithful guests may Your ears hear abundant blessings. For the hungry and the thirsty, may we provide sustenance. May You grant us the privilege to dwell and take refuge in the sheltering protection of Your Wings. May this mitzvah of sukkah that we fulfill be counted as if had fulfilled it in all of its details as well as all the mitzvoth that depend on it. May You seal the Book of Life for our benefit, and give us the opportunity to dwell many days upon the earth, holy earth, in Your service and Your reverence. Blessed is Adonai –Amen

Niggun (from Festival and Shabbat Amidah)