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Microsoft word - festivalsukkot.htm
The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after YomKippur. It is quite a drastic transition, from one of the most solemnholidays in our year to one of the most joyous.
This festival is sometimes referred to as Zeman Simkhateinu
, the Seasonof our Rejoicing. Sukkot lasts for seven days. The two days following thefestival are separate holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah, butare commonly thought of as part of Sukkot.
The word "Sukkot" means "booths," and refers to the temporarydwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday. Thename of the holiday is frequently translated "The Feast of Tabernacles,"which, like many translations of technical Jewish terms, isn't terriblyuseful unless you already know what the term is referring to. The Hebrewpronunciation of Sukkot is "Sue COAT," but is often pronounced as inYiddish, to rhyme with "BOOK us."
Like Passover and Shavu'ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical andagricultural. The holiday commemorates the forty-year period duringwhich the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living intemporary shelters. Sukkot is also a harvest festival, and is sometimesreferred to as Chag Ha-Asif
, the Festival of Ingathering.
The festival of Sukkot is instituted in Leviticus 23:33 et seq. No work ispermitted on the first and second days of the holiday. Work is permittedon the remaining days. These intermediate days on which work ispermitted are referred to as Chol Ha-Mo'ed, as are the intermediate daysof Passover.
In honor of the holiday's historical significance, we are commanded todwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. Thecommandment to "dwell" in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all
of one's meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one's healthpermit, one should live in the sukkah as much as possible, includingsleeping in it.
A sukkah must have at least three walls covered with a material that willnot blow away in the wind. Canvas covering tied or nailed down isacceptable and quite common in the United States. A sukkah may be anysize, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the commandment ofdwelling in it. The roof of the sukkah must be made of material referredto as sekhakh
(literally, covering). To fulfill the commandment, sekhakh
must be something that grew from the ground and was cut off, such astree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, sticks, or two-by-fours. Sekhakh
must be left loose, not tied together or tied down. Sekhakh
must be placedsparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough thatthe stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that more than ten inches is openat any point or that there is more light than shade. The sekhakh
must beput on last.
It is common practice, and highly commendable, to decorate the sukkah.
It was traditional to hang bottles of wine, fruits and general ornaments;store bought and homemade decorations. Building and decorating asukkah is a fun, family project. It is a sad commentary on the highlyassimilated Jews who complain about being deprived of religious fun,rationalizing the setup and decoration of a Christmas tree, while theyhave never even heard of the joy of Sukkot.
The following blessing is recited when eating a meal in the sukkah:
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam asher
kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu leisheiv basukkah.
Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated sukkah for the first time,remark on how much the sukkah (and the holiday generally) remindsthem of Thanksgiving. This is not entirely coincidental. Our Americanpilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, were deeply religiouspeople. When they were trying to find a way to express their thanks fortheir survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for anappropriate way of celebrating and based their holiday in part on Sukkot.
(Nifty facts they don't teach you in public school!)
Another observance related to Sukkot involves what are known as TheFour Species (arba minim
in Hebrew) or the lulav and etrog. We arecommanded to take these four plants and use them to "rejoice before theL-rd." The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit native toIsrael), a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav
), a myrtle branch (hadas
) and awillow branch (arava
Every morning of Sukkot, except on Shabbat, it is the custom to hold thelulav in the right hand and the etrog in the left. Bringing them together(with the pitam
, the stem of the etrog pointing downward), the followingblessing is recited:
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam asher
kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al n'tilat lulav.
The four species are also held during the Hallel prayer in religiousservices, and are held during processions around the bimah
(the pedestalwhere the Torah is read) each day during the holiday. These processionscommemorate similar processions around the alter of the ancient Templein Jerusalem. The processions are known as Hoshanahs, because whilethe procession is made, we recite a prayer with the refrain, "Hosha-Na!"(please save us!). On the seventh day of Sukkot, seven circuits are made.
For this reason, the seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshanah Rabbah(the great Hoshanah).
List of Dates
Sukkot will begin on the following days on the American calendar:
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