Ushpizin, the Seven Shepherds of Judaism

This One will be our peace. When the Assyrian invades our land, when he tramples on our citadels, then we will raise against him Seven Shepherds and Eight Princes of men.

- Micah 5:5

ushpizin-guests.jpg

Ushpizin (Aramaic: “visitors”)- according to the Jewish Kabbalistic book the Sefer ha-zohar (“Book of Splendour”), Seven ancient worthies who take turns visiting the homes of all pious Jews to share their dinner on the festival of Sukkoth. A custom developed of reciting a fixed formula of invitation to the Seven: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.

- Encyclopedia Britannica (2008), Britannica.com

In chronological order, the Seven Shepherds of Judaism are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. However, these Shepherds also correspond to the Seven days of the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot (Festival of Tabernacles) and appear as spiritual guests in the following order: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David.

Why are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David called Shepherds? Some were indeed shepherds, and this was, at times, the primary reason they were chosen to lead

- The Seven Shepherds we invite to the sukkah are in fact none other than ourselves, Arthur Kurzweil (2009) Arthurkurzweil.com

The Seven Shepherds of Israel
1. Abraham
2. Isaac
3. Jacob
4. Joseph
5. Moses
6. Aaron
7. David

Image

During the holiday [of Sukkot], some Jews recite the ushpizin prayer which symbolises the welcoming of seven “exalted guests” into the sukkah. These ushpizin (Aramaic אושפיזין – ‘guests’), represent the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. According to tradition, each night a different guest enters the sukkah followed by the other six. Each of the ushpizin has a unique lesson which teaches the parallels of the spiritual focus of the day on which they visit.

- Sukkot, Wikipedia

The Seven Ushpizin of Sukkot
Day 1. Abraham
Day 2. Isaac
Day 3. Jacob
Day 4. Moses
Day 5. Aaron
Day 6. Joseph
Day 7. David

So we come to the ushpizin. As we fill our sukkah with earthly guests, we merit to host seven supernal guests, the seven “founding fathers” of the Jewish people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. While all seven ushpizin visit our sukkah on each of the seven nights and days of Sukkot, each supernal “guest” is specifically associated with one of the festival’s seven days, and is the “leading” or dominant ushpiza for that night and day.

- The Ushpizin, by Yanki Tauber, Chabad.org

Interestingly enough, the Babylonian Talmud has a very different list of Seven Shepherds than that used today by all denominations of Judaism. Indeed, David, Adam, Abraham, Jacob and Moses are included, but two others are different as they exclude Isaac and Joseph from the list:

Who are these Seven Shepherds? David in the middle, Adam, Seth, and Methuselah on his right, and Abraham, Jacob, and Moses on his left. And who are the Eight Princes? Jesse, Saul, Samuel, Amos, Zephaniah, Zedekiah, Messiah, and Elijah.

- The Talmud, Sukkah 52b

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