Ushpizin: Not Just A Movie

There is a widespread minhag amongst Klal Yisrael to invite the 7 Ushpizin to our sukka. The minhag is that on each day of Sukkos, we invite one of the Ushpizin and with him, we invite the other 6. The Nusach of how we invite them and the order of the invitations change based on which sector of Klal Yisrael you come from. The two main traditions of the order are:

  • Avraham; Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe , Aharon, Yosef and Dovid. This tradition is what is accepted in many Chasidic courts.
  • Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon and Dovid. This tradition is found in those few Lithuanian communities that have taken upon themselves this minhag and as well as some Sephardic communities.

The minhag of Ushpizin is not found in Shas or Poskim, non withstanding the fact that it is not even mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch or other peirushim. For some reason this minhag became very popular, probably due to its mysterious nature. As I started thinking about this, the following questions came to mind:

  • Why is this davka on Sukkos? Perhaps they should come on Pesach, when we say Ha Lachma Anya and Eliyahu is there too?
  • Do all the Ushpizin come every night?
  • What happens if we do not set a place for them; Do they still come, even if we invite them?
  • If we do not give food to the poor from the meal, will we get cursed? Will the Ushpizin come again?
  • What is the difference of the order? What happens if one invites in the wrong order?

I hope the following sources can answer these questions. If you have any further ideas or thoughts please share them.

Reb Abba said, it says “B’Sukos Taishvu Shivas Yamim” and afterwards it says “Yaishvu B’Sukos”. The reason for this is that the the first Pasuk is for Ushpizin or Orchim and the second Pasuk is for regular people. He explains that the Ushpizin are learnt from Rav Hamnuna, who upon entering his sukka, was very happy. He would stand at the outer entrance to the sukka and invite in the Ushpizin. He would then set up some food for them and then he would stand up and say, סכות תשבו שבעת ימים, תיבו אושפזין עלאין תיבו, תיבו אושפזי מהימנותא תיבו The Ushpizin should come in and sit down. Then he would pick up his hands in his simcha and say זכאה חולקנא זכאה חולקהון דישראל Reb Abba continued, that therefore one should also spread the happiness to the poor. Meaning that the portion for the Ushpizin is intended for the poor . If one does not give to the poor, the Zohar continues with the curse that each of the Tzaddikim will give.

Zohar Emor

The Shl”a explains, based on this Zohar, that one should give the food that was “served” to the Ushpizin to the poor guests around the table. If there are no poor guests around the table, then you should make sure to distribute the food to them. The Zohar goes on to mention the Ushpizin by name, Avrohom, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Dovid and the “other tzadikim”. It does not specify Moshe, Aaron and Yosef.


In the Seder HaYom of Reb Machir Ben Moshe, in the Seder Hakofos of Hoshana Rabba, he explains the order of the hakafos and says that each hakafa should be in the zchus of a different tzaddik. The first for Avraham, 2nd for Yitzchak, 3rd for Yaakov, 4th for Yosef, 5th for Moshe, 6th for Aharon and 7th for Dovid. We see similarly, in the Sefer Nefesh HaChochma  by Rav Moshe de Leon that he has the same order as above and sequence of events as the Zohar.  The difference is that he continues to explain that when you give the food to the poor, all the tzaddikim put their hands on your head, give you a bracha and HKB”H calls out about you – “ויאמר לי עבדי אתה ישראל אשר בך אתפאר”. In addition, although he mentions that you must give them their portion for 7 days, he does not seem to imply that they come on separate days, rather it seems that they all come together.

Interestingly enough, the Sefer Yesod Yosef skips Yosef altogether and his listing is Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, Ahron, Dovid, and Shlomo Even though there is a discrepancy between the order of the Ushpizin, we see that the original minhag was to invite all 7 Ushpizin every night.

Reb Moshe Cordevaro in his commentary on the Zohar splits up the Ushpizin into 7 different nights. he says that each day of the seven days is a special Yom Simcha for that tzaddik and all the other tzaddikim accompany him. The Reishis Chochma, who was a student of the Ramak, explains his Rebbe’s words and says that every day has to be its own unique simcha as he is hosting just one of the Ushpizin.

(It is important to note that neither the Ramak nor the Reishis Chachma tell us a nusach to say to invite the Ushpizin.)

The Chemdas Yamim explains based on the Zohar that one should invite the tzaddik of the day – first, and only afterward, include the other Ushpizin accompanying him. He goes on to warn us that we should not change the order and invite one before the other, as Kabbalistically and based in the Sefiros there is a proper order to what come first.

Perhaps this can explain why we do this on Sukkos as Pesach has its own Sefiros program – all we need now is a book about Sefiros for Sukkos! Eliyahu HaNavi only comes on Pesach because Eliyahu is the Go’el Yisrael. So perhaps on Sukkos he comes on Shmini Atzeres, similar to a baby boy’s yom hashmini, the day of his bris.

Have a wonderful Yom Tov and may we get as many brachos from the Ushpizin as possible

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