בסיעתא דשמיא

סוכות | Ushpizin and Ushpizata: Inviting the Avot and Imahot into your Sukkah by Rabbi David Seidenberg (neohasid.org)

"Ushpizata 5776" by Noam Sienna

“Ushpizata 5776” by Noam Sienna

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סֵדֶר אוּשְׁפִּיזִין / אוּשְׁפִּיזָתָא
Seder Ushpizin / Ushpizata

הִנֵּה אֲנֲחְנוּ בָּאִים לְקַיֵּם מִצְוַת עֲשֵֹה לֵישֵׁב בַּסֻכָּה כְּמוֹ שֶׁצִוַּֽנוּ יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּתוֹרָתוֹ׃ בַּסֻּכֹּת תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, כָּל הָאֶזְרָח בְּיִשְֹרָאֵל יֵשְׁבוּ בַּסֻּכֹּת, לְמַֽעַן יֵדְעוּ דֹרֹתֵיכֶם, כִּי בַסֻּכּוֹת הוֹשַֽׁבְתִּי אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל בְּהוֹצִיאִי אוֹתָם מֵאֶֽרֶץ מִצְרָֽיִם.‏
Behold we come here to fulfill the mitzvah to dwell in the sukkah, as YHVH our God commanded in the Torah: “Seven days you will dwell in sukkot, so that your generations will know that I made Israel’s children dwell in sukkot when I brought them from Egypt.”

לְשֵׁם יִחוּד קֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא וּשְׁכִינְתֵּהּ, לְיַחֲדָא שֵׁם י״ה בְּו״ה בְּיִחוּדָא שְׁלִים, אֲזַמֵּן לִסְעֻדָּתִי בְּשֵׁם כָּל יִשְֹרָאֵל אוּשִׁפִּיזִין עִלָּאִין וְאוּשְׁפִּיזָתָא עִלָּאָתָא.‏
For the sake of uniting the Holy One and the Shekhinah, to unify the name Y”H with V”H in complete unity, I invite to my meal, in the name of all Israel, the exalted guests, ushipizin ila’in v’ushpizata ila’ata.

בְּכֹחַ מִצְוָה זוֹ יִמְשֹׁךְ לְרָחֵל אִמֵּינוּ מֵאִימָא עִלָאָה, מִמְקוֹם לֵאָה אִמֵּינוּ, אוֹר הַמֵקִיף
By the power of this commandment, may there be drawn down to Raḥel our mother from the Upper Mother [Binah], from the place of Leah our mother, the Encompassing Light of

הָחֶמֶד שֶׁבְּחֶסֶד
[Day One] Love within Love

הָחֶסֶד שֶׁבִּגְבוּרָה
[Day Two] Love within Judgment

הָחֶסֶד שֶׁבְּתִּפְאֶרֶת
[Day Three] Love within Beauty

הָחֶסֶד שֶׁבְּנֶצָח
[Day Four] Love within Eternal Victory

הָחֶסֶד שֶׁבְּהוֹד
[Day Five] Love within Majesty

הָחֶסֶד שֶׁבִּיסוֹד
[Day Six] Love within Foundation

הָחֶסֶד שֶׁבְּמָּלְכוּת
[Day Seven] Love within Sovereignty

עוּלוּ אוּשְׁפִּיזִין עִלָּאִין קַדִּישִׁין, עוּלוּ אֲבָהָן עִלָּאִין קַדִּישִׁין, עוּלוּ אִימָּהָתָא עִלָּאָתָא קְדִּישָׁתָא, לְמִיתָב בִּצִלָּא דִמְהֵימְנוּתָא עִלָּאָה, בְּצִלָּא דְקֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא.‏
Come in exalted holy guests, come in exalted holy fathers, come in exalted holy mothers! Come sit in the shade of exalted supernal faith, in the shadow of the Holy One, blessed be.

ביום הראשון – לִיעוּל אַבְרָהָם רְחִימָא אַבָּא קַדִּישָׁא. תִיעוּל רוּת כָּלָתָא חַסִידָא. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן יִצְחָק יַעֲקֹב מֹשֶׁה אַהֲרֹן יוֹסֵף וְדָוִד, שָֹרָה רִבְקָה מִרְיָם דְבוֹרָה תָמָר וְרָחֵל.‏
[Day One] Come in Abraham, merciful one, holy father. Come in Ruth, devoted kallah-daughter. Come in with them, Yitzḥak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David, Sarah, Rivka, Miriam, Devorah, Tamar, and Raḥel.

ביום השני – לִיעוּל יִצְחָק עֲקִידְתָּא. תִיעוּל שָֹרָה גְבִירְתָא אִימָּא קַדִּישָׁא. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן אַבְרָהָם יַעֲקֹב מֹשֶׁה אַהֲרֹן יוֹסֵף וְדָוִד, רוּת רִבְקָה מִרְיָם דְבוֹרָה תָמָר וְרָחֵל.‏
[Day Two] Come in Isaac, bound one. Come in Sarah, mistress, holy mother. Come in with them, Avraham, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David, Ruth, Rivka, Miriam, Devorah, Tamar, and Raḥel.

ביום השלישי – לִיעוּל יַעֲקֹב שְׁלִמְתָּא. תִיעוּל רִבְקָה בַּעְאֵית אָלָהָא. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק מֹשֶׁה אַהֲרֹן יוֹסֵף וְדָוִד, רוּת שָֹרָה מִרְיָם דְבוֹרָה תָמָר וְרָחֵל.‏
[Day Three] Come in Yaakov, perfect, whole one. Come in Rebecca, God-seeker. Come in with them, Avraham, Yitzḥak, Moshe, Aharon, Yosef, and David, Ruth, Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Tamar, and Raḥel.

ביום הרביעי – לִיעוּל מֹשֶׁה רַעֲיָא מְהֵימְנָא. תִיעוּל מִרְיָם נְבִיאָתָא בְּאֵר נָהָרָא עִלָאָה. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק יַעֲקֹב אַהֲרֹן יוֹסֵף וְדָוִד, רוּת שָֹרָה רִבְקָה דְבוֹרָה תָמָר וְרָחֵל.‏
[Day Four] Come in Moshe, faithful shepherd. Come in Miriam, the prophet, wellspring of the exalted stream. Come in with them, Avraham, Yitzḥak, Yaakov, Aharon, Yosef, and David, Ruth, Sarah, Rivka, Devorah, Tamar, and Raḥel.

ביום החמישי – לִיעוּל אַהֲרֹן כַּהֲנָא קַדִּישָׁא. תִיעוּל דְבוֹרָה נְבִיאָתָא דַיָנָא דְיִשְֹרָאֵל. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק יַעֲקֹב מֹשֶׁה יוֹסֵף וְדָוִד, רוּת שָֹרָה רִבְקָה מִרְיָם תָמָר וְרָחֵל.‏
[Day Five] Come in Aharon, holy priest. Come in Devorah, the prophet, judge of Israel. Come in with them, Avraham, Yitzḥak, Yaakov, Moshe, Yosef and David, Ruth, Sarah, Rivka, Miriam, Tamar, and Raḥel.

ביום הששי – לִיעוּל יוֹסֵף צַדִּיקָא. תִיעוּל תָמָר צַדִּיקָתָּא אוֹלְדַת מְשִׁיחָא. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק יַעֲקֹב מֹשֶׁה אַהֲרֹן וְדָוִד, רוּת שָֹרָה רִבְקָה מִרְיָם דְבוֹרָה וְרָחֵל.‏
[Day Six] Come in Yosef, righteous one. Come in Tamar, righteous one, bearer of mashiaḥ. Come in with them, Avraham, Yitzḥak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, and David, Ruth, Sarah, Rivka, Miriam, Devorah, and Raḥel.

ביום השביעי – לִיעוּל דָּוִד מַלִכָּא מְשִׁיחָא. תִיעוּל רָחֵל אִימָּא בָּכִיָא עָל בִּנַהָא. וְלִיעוּל עִמָּהָן אַבְרָהָם יִצְחָק יַעֲקֹב מֹשֶׁה אַהֲרֹן וְיוֹסֵף, רוּת שָֹרָה רִבְקָה מִרְיָם דְבוֹרָה וְתָמָר.‏
[Day Seven] Come in David, anointed king. Come in Raḥel, mother weeping for her children. Come in with them, Avraham, Yitzḥak, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, and Yosef, Ruth, Sarah, Rivka, Miriam, Devorah, and Tamar.

בַּסֻּכֹּתָ תֵּשְׁבוּ שִׁבְעַתָ יָמִים. תִּיבוּ תִּיבוּ אוּשְׁפִּיזִין עִלָּאִין, תִּיבוּ תִּיבוּ אוּשְׁפִּיזָתָא קְדִּישָׁתָא. תִּיבוּ בְּצִלָּא דִמְהֵימְנוּתָא עִלָּאָה, בְּצִלָּא דְקֻדְשָׁא בְּרִיךְ הוּא.‏
“These seven days (levels) will dwell in the Sukkot…” Sit, sit exalted guests, sit, sit holy guests! Sit in the shadow of exalted faith, in the shade of the Holy One.

אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים, תָּשֶׁרְה שְׁכִינָתְךָ בֵּינֵינוּ, וּפְרוֹשֹ עָלֵֽינוּ סֻכַּתָ רַחֲמִים וְשְׁלוֹם. הַקִּיף אוֹתָֽנוּ מִזִּיו הַשְׁכִינָה, תֵּן לַשָּׁמַיִם רְפוּאָה מֵעוֹנוֹתֵנוּ וְטַהֲרֵֽנוּ מֵחַטָּאתֵינוּ. כְּנֶֽשֶׁר יָעִיר קִנּוֺ, תָּעִיר שֶֽׁפַע הַחַיִּים שֶׁיֻשְׁפַּע עָל עוֹלָמָךְ לְהַחֲיוֹת הַכָּל וְתָּשְׁקֵם, תֵּן לָרְעֵבִים לַחְמָם הַנֶּאֱמָן וּתְּזַכֵּֽנוּ לֵישֵׁב יָמִים רַבִּים עַל הָאֲדָמָה. בָּרוּךְ יְיָ לְעוֺלָם, אָמֵן וְאָמֵן.‏
G!d full of compassion, make your Presence, Shekhinah, rest among us, and spread over us a sukkah of compassion and peace. Encompass us with the radiance of the Shekhinah, heal the heavens from our wounding actions and purify us from our sins. As an eagle awakens its nest, may you awaken the flow of life-energy to flow upon your world to give life to all, and water them. Give the hungry their bread faithfully, and grant us merit to dwell many days on them earth. Blessed be Yah for all time, Amen, Amen.

בכל סעודה מברך׃
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶה הָעוֺלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָֽׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו, וְצִוָּֽנוּ לֵישֵׁב בַסֻּכָּה.‏
At every meal say the following blessing:
Blessed be You, Adonai, Our God, Ruler of all space, all time, who made us holy through commandments, and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah.

Where are the mothers on Sukkot? Why don’t we traditionally invite them into the sukkah the way we do the fathers? These are not just rhetorical questions, and the answer isn’t just “patriarchy”. In the adaptation of the Ushpizin above we invite the mothers. Below we explain the traditional Ushpizin prayer, as the new liturgy is a direct extension of what came before.

First and foremost, the seder of the ushpizin or guests—the seven Avot or ancestors we invite during the seven nights of Sukkot—is a Kabbalistic custom. Each of the ancestors represents one of the seven lower Sefirot. The same Sefirot correspond to the seven days in each week and seven weeks of the Omer. The traditional lineup, is:

  • Avraham, Ḥesed ~ Lovingkindness
  • Yitzḥak, Gevurah ~ Might, Judgment
  • Yaakov, Tiferet ~ Beauty, Harmony
  • Moshe, Netzaḥ ~ Triumph, Eternity
  • Aharon, Hod ~ Majesty
  • Yosef, Yesod ~ Foundation
  • David, Malkhut ~ Kingship, Kingdom

For the fathers, these correspondences are very strongly established in the Zohar and other Kabbalistic literature, and there are no well-grounded alternative orders. For the mothers, however, the correspondences with the lower Sefirot are much less stable, with the major exception of Raḥel Imeinu, who is always Malkhut. To the extent that other female figures are mentioned in Kabbalah, they most often also symbolize Malkhut. For example, in Gikatilla in Sha’arey Orah writes, “In Abraham’s time Malkhut was called Sarah; in Isaac’s time Malkhut was called Rivkah, and in Jacob’s time Malkhut was called Raḥel.”

There are only two strong correspondences between any mother and a particular sefirah besides Malkhut-Raḥel. They are between Tamar and Yesod, and between Leah and Binah. Furthermore, because Binah is above Ḥesed, and not one of the lower seven Sefirot, it doesn’t get its own day of Sukkot. That means that any liturgy for the Imahot, if it’s going to be based on the Kabbalah, can’t include Leah as one of the seven ushpizin (or, in the feminine, ushpizata).

(As an aside, the Kabbalistic significance of Leah being Binah and Raḥel being Malkhut is that Binah and Malkhut are the upper and lower mother (imma ila’ah and imma tata’ah), or (alternatively), the upper and lower feminine, or mother and daughter. The reason why Jacob has to marry both Leah and Raḥel because he is the symbol of Tif’eret, the lower masculine, which stands between Binah and Malkhut and connects them. Tif’eret-Jacob must be in conjunction with both Binah and Malkhut in order for the chain of emanation (seder hishtalsh’lut) to be unbroken and for the world to be sustained.)

The whole point of the liturgy of Ushpizin in fact is to invoke the energies of the seven lower Sefirot in the proper order, so that Shefa, blessing and sustenance, can be drawn down into the world. This is the essence of Kabbalistic liturgy, and a liturgy of the imahot would only make sense if it were to follow that pattern. That means we have the playfully serious task of finding a stable order for the imahot where no clear order exists. There are a number of proposals out there for how to do this. The liturgy I am sharing here uses only the most traditional texts to establish the “right” order, and you can also find below Reb Zalman’s order and the order for the seven “prophetesses” from Azariah deFano.

So, here is our list of correspondences between the mothers and the seven lower Sefirot:

  • Ruth, Ḥesed (Lovingkindness) – pure kindness and trust, devoting herself entirely to being God’s instrument and Naomi’s support, the one who chooses to be Jewish (to speak anachronistically) without any advantage or self-interest, motivated strictly from within herself, like Abraham
  • Sarah, Gevurah (Judgment) – the one who demands that Hagar be thrown into the wilderness, judgment that overcomes mercy, she is even called g’virati by Hagar
  • Rivkah, Tiferet (Beauty, Balance) – she is the wily one, like Jacob, who knows how things must turn out, who can create the reality that needs to exist, and who can draw on mercy or harshness as needed to accomplish her purpose
  • Miriam, Netzaḥ (Victory, Eternity) – prophet, bearer and bringer of water (the right side), Moshe’s sister, the one who knows how to celebrate victory over Pharoah’s army
  • Devorah, Hōd (Majesty) – warrior and prophet, the greatest female ruler in Israel.
  • Tamar, Yesōd (Foundation) – the one who sits at the crossroads of Einei Hashem (i.e. between Netzaḥ and Hod), who embodies the fullness of sexuality (as does Yesod), who joins with Judah (who represents Malkhut – this reverses the masculine and feminine assignments of these Sefirot), who is tzadkah, the righteous one, just as Yosef is tzadik.
  • Raḥel, Malkhut (Kingdom) – the Shekhinah who goes into exile with her children and pleads for their return.

How do we fit Leah in? It turns out that the Sefaradi nusach includes a reference to Binah (Understanding), so all that we need to do is to add Leah’s name when Binah is invoked.

One thing you may have already considered is that it’s not clear which of the other women besides the four matriarchs should be included. Dinah, Hannah, Hulda, Esther and many others come to mind besides the ones we’ve already mentioned. Because allusions to the other foremothers, besides Sarah, Rivkah, Raḥel and Leah, are so infrequent as compared to the forefathers, it’s hard to know which allusion is the most important, both with respect to which figure to use and with respect to which Sefirah she should represent.

There is one clear text that assigns a Sefirah to each of the “seven prophetesses” which is quite different than the above order. Menachem Azariah deFano gives this order in his work Asarah Ma’amarot: Sarah, Chesed; Miriam, Gevurah; Devorah, Tif’eret; Hannah, Netzaḥ; Avigail, Hod; Hulda, Yesod; Esther, Malkhut. This order doesn’t feel to me like the one we should base ushpizin on however: only one of the matriarchs is represented, and the three very strong correspondences between the Sefirot with Leah, Raḥel and Tamar are left out. We might make a distinction for this question between the seven n’viot prophetesses, and the seven mothers.

The basic order of the Ushpizin presented here is: Ruth, Sarah, Rivkah, Miriam, Devorah, Tamar, Raḥel, plus Leah as Binah. Reb Zalman’s order is also quite different, with Sarah at Hod! The rest are: Miriam, Chesed; Leah, Gevurah; Hannah, Tif’eret; Rivkah, Netzaḥ; Tamar, Yesod; Esther and Ruth, Malkhut. It would be easy to plug deFano’s order or Reb Zalman’s order (or any other order you’re attached to) into the liturgy I’ve created, with the simple proviso that if Leah is included in the lower seven, one would leave out the mention of her name where it’s used as an epithet for imma ila’ah near the beginning. (This line is the one that immediately precedes the invitation, Ulu, ulu.)

In all cases, making space for a liturgy that includes the imahot, especially where there is absolutely no halakhic rule about something needing to be said, seems not only good but imperative. May this action add to our “building the stature of the Shekhinah” to bring redemption nearer.


This work was initially published online at neohasid.org in 2008. (In formatting this text, I have transcribed Reb Dovid’s work into Unicode Hebrew script. –Aharon N. Varady) Please make sure to donating to neohasid.org if you appreciate Reb Dovid’s fine work.

Each of the seven fathers and mothers represents one of the seven lower Sefirot, which are also called “days.” We bring the energy of each day into the sukkah through Ushpizin, and through this, according to Kabbalah, we bring blessing to the earth and cosmos, to all being, and fertility to Eretz Yisra’el.
It’s important (to the degree that things like this can be important) that the order is not historically chronological but spiritual, reflecting the unfolding of divinity in creation, as Kabbalah understands it. Any Ashkenazi liturgy that orders the ushpizin chronologically, putting Yosef before Moshe, is not traditional, even if it is found in a Rinat Yisrael siddur.
The most helpful source in doing this was not a particular book but an index of Kabbalistic literature called Torat Natan.
Netzaḥ and Hod are called Einei Hashem, “the eyes of God”, and represent the power of prophecy, so Miriam and Devorah as prophets fit here pretty clearly, but the distinctions between Netzaḥ and Hod in Kabbalah are pretty nebulous, so the order between them is tentative. The connection between Miriam and Moshe makes Miriam fit with Netzaḥ well, but one could also argue for Devorah as Netzaḥ, the victorious one.
See above, Netzaḥ
This ignores the question of Bilhah and Zilpah, the handmaids of Leah and Raḥel who also bore Jacob’s sons, and who are included in a discussion of the “six imahot” in one of the early midrashim.
Thanks to Aryeh Cohen of the SFKAUJ (AJU) for bringing my attention to deFano, which he learned about from Shaul Magid. Aryeh also spent time on the phone holding my hand through the Aramaic conjugations and declensions.
You can read a 2-page pdf in Hebrew of Reb Zalman’s explanations for these correspondences, provided by R. Ruth Kagan from the Hebrew volume of Reb Zalman’s thought, Kirvat Elohim:Tikkun Olam v’Tikkun Halev (Jewish Renewal—Integrating Heart and World), which she edited. Click here to download.
The phrase comes from the Or Hameir, Zev Wolf of Zhitomir, who calls on us to build up the Shekhinah to be equal, ayin b’ayin “eye-to-eye” with the Holy One. For him this is the essential task of the exile. Read his words here.

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