Sukkot and a order for a palm branch in 1941

This week Sukkot, or Festival of Shelters, is celebrated. This is a Jewish harvest festival that lasts for seven days. The holiday is in memory of the wandering in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. It also marks the end of harvest season.

Sukkot is celebrated both at home and in the synagogue. At home the Jewish families build a sukkah, a hut, which has to be under the open sky. This tradition is connected to a law from The Book of Leviticus which says that “You are to live in huts for seven days”. According to the Jewish law Halakha all Jewish men are supposed to eat all their meals in the sukkah, and also sleep there if the weather allows it. The use of the Sukkah is to remember how the life was for the Israelites who lived in huts during the wandering in the desert. How much the Sukkah is used varies from family to family. Some will use it as much as possible, while others only eat their meals there. The Sukkah is also used as a place where you invite friends and family to gather during the holiday. In Western countries it is common to have a Sukkot at the synagogue, which is the case for the synagogue in Trondheim.

An important artifact that is used during sukkot is the Lulav, or The Four Pieces. The Lulav is a bundle of four pieces; a palm branch, a willow tree branch, a myrtle tree branch and a citrus fruit called Etrog. During Sukkot the Lulav is waved in all directions. This practice is done to mark fertility and a wish for rain. It is also done in remembrance of God’s almightiness.

The four pieces is not that easy to find all over the world, and in Norway they have to be imported. This is fairly easy today, however it has not always been like this. From the archive we have found a letter from the Second World War that write about an order for a palm branch. The congregation in Trondheim asks the congregation in Stockholm to send a palm branch, since they can’t find a place to buy it in Norway.

The document from August 1941 shows us that the congregation wishes to maintain the religious practice despite the situation in Norway during the war. Earlier the same year the synagogue was confiscated and the congregation lost their building for service and celebration. Shortly after the confiscation a secret synagogue was established in the Methodist Church in Trondheim. Therefore it might be that Sukkot was celebrated in the Methodist Church that year.

Click here to se the complete document.

Translation of the letter:

“12th of August 1941

Sir Director of the Congregation A. I. Jacobsohn, Stockholm

The congregation has received your honored letter of 3rd of August, as well four calendars you sent. We are grateful if you could send more calendars to the members of the congregation, but since the congregation most likely will not be able to pay for these now, we find it better that those of the members who have relatives in Stockholm rather get these to send calendars for the new year. These relatives can in turn be able to order calendars through them.

Regarding the palm branch for the Festival of Shelters, we do not know if we can order this at a flower store in Oslo. We would therefore be grateful if you could send us one. We will hear more from you regarding this case later in the fall.

Same as last time, we can inform that all the members of the congregation in Trondheim are healthy and in vigor. We hope that you and your family are doing well. The whole congregation sends their regards. All the best.

From The Jewish Congregation


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