While reading about Sukkot1 I came across a mention of a prayer recited during Sukkot, during which a celebrant invites the seven 'exalted guests' (well-known heroes and leaders of the Hebrew people/religion) into his home before a meal eaten in the sukkah. According to the Wikipedia article, this originates with Isaac Luria's Kabbalah tradition, and I haven't found any other references to this prayer/ceremony that he called ushpizin (Aramaic for 'guests') elsewhere.

My question is, is there any earlier form of such a tradition predating Lurianic Kabbalah? If not, when was this first openly used by the Jewish community?

1 Answer 1


Jewish Chronicle states

Apparently, the earliest source for the custom of welcoming the Ushpizin on Succot is in the Zohar, the classic of Kabbalah. The Zohar makes clear that a central reason is to stress the importance of inviting guests to share the holiday with us: "One must also gladden the poor, and the portion [that would otherwise have been set aside for these Ushpizin guests] should go to the poor. For if a person sits in the shadow of faith and invites those guests and does not give their portion [to the poor], they all remain distant from him" (Zohar III 103b).

R Isaac Luria lived from 1534-1572. The Zohar is much more ancient.

  • 1
    Is there any evidence of this practice between the writing of the Zohar and, say, 1300 CE? And when "was this first openly used by the Jewish community?" Before or after the Arizal?
    – Double AA
    Jun 7, 2018 at 14:19
  • One way to test this would be to look at ancient mahzorim for Soukot if someone has the time and inclination
    – mbloch
    Jun 7, 2018 at 14:52
  • Does the Zohar specify Succot or all holidays?
    – DanF
    Jun 7, 2018 at 15:52
  • So are you saying that the Zohar might have been hinting that general hospitality to people relates to hospitality to spirits? If so, this kinda mirrors the Christian 'entertaining angels' concept. Jun 8, 2018 at 17:20
  • @DanF yes there is an explicit reference to the Souka
    – mbloch
    Jun 9, 2018 at 19:28

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