Sukkot (Hebrew: סוכות or סֻכּוֹת, sukkōt, Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles) It is a Jewish Holiday that is celebrated on the 15th of Tishrei.  It is one of three bibilicaly-mandated Shalosh R’galim (passover and Shavu’ot being the other two), where Jews make pilgrimages to the Temple in Jerusalem.  According to Zechariah, in the messianic era, Sukkot will become a universal festival and all nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there. It is quite a transition from Yom Kippur (the most solemn) to one of the most joyous Festivals.  Sukkot is so deliberately joyful that it is commonly referred to as Z’man Simchateinu, זְמַן שִׂמְחָתֵנוּ, the Season of our Rejoicing.  The Holiday lasts seven days, including Chol Hamoed, חֺול הַמוֹעֵד, and is immediately followed by another festive day known as Shemini Atzeret, שֶׁמיִניִ עָצֶרֶת. Sukkot is the plural of Sukkah, the Sukkah is intened as a reminiscence of the type of dwellings in which the ancient Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.

Throughout the Holiday the Sukkah becomes the living area of the house, and all meals are eaten in it.  On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav (לוּלָב) and etrog (אֶתרוֹג), or the Four species. The Four species are mentioned in the Torah as being relevant to Sukkot. Karaite Jews build their Sukkot out of branches from the four specified species, while Talmudic Jews take three types of branches and one type of fruit which are held together and waved in a special ceremony during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The waving of the Four species is a Mitzvah prescribed by the Torah, and contains symbolic allusions to a Jew’s service of G-d.
In the Talmudic tradition, the Four Species are:

  • lulav (לוּלָב)– a ripe, green, closed frond from a date palm tree.
  • Hadass (הַדָס)-boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree.
  • Aravah (עַרָבָה)-branches with leaves from the willow tree.
  • Etrog (אֶתרוֹג)-the fruit of a citron (“citron” refers to the fruit called lemon in English)

Sukkot was agricultural in origin. This is evident from the biblical name “the Feast of Ingathering” from the ceremonies accompanying it, from the season -“The festival of the seventh month”, and occasion of its celebration: “At the end of the year when you gather in your labors out of the field” (Exodus, 23:16); “after you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from you winepress” (Deuteronomy, 16:13).  It was a thanksgiving for the fruit harvest.  Coming as it did at the completion of the harvest, Sukkot was regarded as a general thanksgiving for the bounty of nature in the year that had passed.

Sukkot became one of the most important feast in Judaism, as indicated by its designation as “the Feast of the Lord” or simply “the Feast”.  Perhaps because of its wide attendance, Sukkot became the appropriate time for important state ceremonies.  Moses instructed the children of Israel to gather for a reading of the Law during Sukkot every seventh year (Deuteronomy, 31:10-11). King Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot (1kings 8; 2 Chronicles 7). And Sukkot was the first sacred ocassion observed after the resumption of sacrifices in Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 3:2-4).  G-d told Moses to command the people: “On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook” (Leviticus, 23:40), and “You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus, 23:42-43).