The Tradition of the Empty Chair

Found In: Welcoming Guests: Ushpizin / Ushpizot

From Project Chana | Ritual Component

It has become a tradition among some Jews to designate one chair in the sukkah in honor of the ushpizin, symbolic guests we "invite" to grace our dwelling with their holy presence.

We have left a chair empty among us tonight. It stands as a stark symbol of those women within our own community who cannot be with us except in spirit. They are the Jewish women who are silenced, who are ashamed or afraid to speak about the abuse they experience at the hands or the lips of a loved one. These women are out friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family. We run into each other in the supermarket, we coordinate car pool schedules, we daven together and share our simchas and holidays. You will not recognize them because they are just like you.

It is our sorrow that they feel they must remain hidden and anonymous. Yet tonight we honor them and we invite them to dwell among us, if only symbolically. We hope they know that CHANA is here to help when they are ready to come forth from the shadow of abuse