They lived on a side street in Jerusalem, but I don't remember the name of the street. I carried a piece of paper in my pocket where I had scribbled the name of the family and their address. I walked from the apartment where I was sleeping on the couch temporarily and crossed Bar Ilan on my way up towards Rechov Sephania where I knew to turn left.

The streets were empty of cars, and the peaceful quiet of twilight on Friday night, the Shabbat of Succot, had settled over the city.

Everything was new to me. Even the clothes I wore. I was used to wearing jeans, but now I had on a long skirt and a pullover sweater. The acquisition of Shabbat shoes was a few weeks away in the future, and for now I still wore the hiking boots which I had brought to Israel for my volunteer stint on a kibbutz.

I was seized, taken, shaken, awakened from a deep sleep with the most revolutionary discovery of my lifeI never made it as far as the kibbutz, because I was seized, taken, shaken, awakened from a deep sleep with the most revolutionary discovery of my life. It took me by surprise during the Israeli tour with my mother which was supposed to be a prelude to six weeks of hacking down banana leaves or picking pears and living in some prefab dormitory. Instead I moved in with a few religious girls in Jerusalem and sent my jeans back to America in my mother's suitcase.

I was traveling light, just a few articles of clothing, a black unlined journal book to record my thoughts, feelings, and impressions, and a prayerbook. Back in the U.S. of A., I had left a beautiful little house on the Maine Coast which I had helped to build with my own hands, a green compact station wagon parked in the driveway, and a dream job I had finally landed after years of schooling. I had even defaulted on my return plane ticket, because everything I was letting go of had no value to me when compared with what I had found on these narrow, seemingly ancient streets six thousand miles away from what I had only recently called "home."

Now it was Succot, my first real Succot. From my childhood, I remembered Chanukah, the Passover Seder, and the High Holidays, but when it came to Succot, I only recall hearing the word smuggled into my life by my after school Hebrew teacher, or in books, or my grandfather whispering to me from far, far away. Or maybe I saw it in my grandmother's eyes as she remembered her childhood in the Ukraine.

I walked slowly, looking to my right and left at all the wooden shacks topped by giant date fronds or bamboo sticks. They were tucked in everywhere in the folds of these old stone structures that seemed to be crumbling at the edges. Some of the succahs were as tiny as the tiniest balconies I had ever seen, big enough for maybe two chairs inside, maybe just one. Some of these wooden shacks were right on street level, jutting onto the sidewalk. I looked up the sides of the buildings. There were even succahs perched up high on the roof.

I was invited to Malka's succah to eat with them the Friday night meal. I had met Malka just yesterday morning when I sat down next to her on the bus. After a short conversation, she had invited me in her broken English to come to her succah on Shabbat. I felt so warmed by her presence that I accepted, quickly writing down her address in my black journal book before she went down from the bus at her stop.

I looked around at the dark room lit by a few candles. There wasn't one piece of furnitureI glanced at the address on my scrap of paper and crossed the street to the even numbers. I found Malka's building and walked downstairs to the apartment where she lived. I knocked on the door and waited. When she opened the door, a smile erupted on her face and she took my hand to lead me inside.

"Good Shabbos, Good Yom Tov!" and then in her broken English, "I'm so, so happy you here." She swept her hand in the direction of her husband who was holding a baby. "This my husband." His voice rang out, "Good Shabbos, Good Yom Tov!"

"This our daughter Chaya Sara. She three months old. New. New. We so, so happy you came. Now we have guest in our succah."

I looked around at the dark room lit by a few candles. There wasn't one piece of furniture. Malka read my mind: "Everything in succah. Come. We want to bring you."

At the far end of the room, she opened a door and I followed Malka and her husband into the succah. She motioned me to sit on a bench next to the table covered by a white cloth. And then she sat down next to her husband who stood at the head of the table. Here was all of their furniture—two benches, a table, and the mattresses stacked up against the wall of the succah.

I looked at their faces. They looked so joyful, even ecstatic. During the course of the meal, Malka explained to me that they waited three years for children, and when their daughter was born, they could not believe their good fortune. They felt blessed beyond words. And now they rejoiced in the great honor of having me in their succah.

And what did I feel? I felt completely safe and protected. I felt transported. I felt as if Malka and her husband were angels, and the way I felt, I could have been transformed into an angel as well. Besides the challah, the only food at the meal was a miniscule piece of fish, and a bowl of clear chicken soup very lovingly placed in front of me. Inside the soup floated a sliver of chicken.

Malka's husband sat with his eyes closed, singing. Malka sat with her eyes closed as well and swayed to the melodies as she held the baby in her arms.

And then I, too, closed my eyes. I was in the succah, underneath a mantle of peace and joy unlike anything I had known before. I felt extraordinarily blessed. Consciously, I knew that I was sitting in flimsy wooden shack, in a foreign country where I had only recently arrived, surrounded by the sounds of a language I didn't speak, observing customs that I had never heard of, and yet at that moment, I had never felt so much at home.

A year later I was in Denver in a succah that my husband and I built in the freezing cold when winter had come early to Colorado. To keep warm in our temporary dwelling, I wore the purple down park I brought with me from my years in Maine.

The first night of Succot, my husband stood saying the words of Kiddush, the blessingon the wine, after he had taken off the glove on his right hand in order to hold the silver goblet of wine. It started to snow as soon as we finished our hurried meal in the cold air. Still, we couldn't tear ourselves away from the succah and stayed for hours under our bamboo roof in the hush of falling snow.