Sukkot – also known as the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles – is a Biblical festival with an amazing range of unique laws, customs, and traditions. Learn all about this special holiday below!
What is Sukkot?
- The Sukkot holiday is a fall time harvest festival that lasts for seven days in Israel, and eight around the rest of the world.
- The first and last days of the holiday (or first two and last two outside of Israel) are Shabbat-like in that minimal work is done, there are special prayer services, and large, festive meals.
- The middle days are known as chol hamoed, literally, “everyday holiday”.
- Along with Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost), Sukkot makes up the shalosh regalim – the three pilgrim festivals. In ancient Israel, Jews would travel to Jerusalem for these holidays to bring special sacrifices.
- The sixth day of Sukkot (the last day of chol hamoed) is called Hoshanah Rabbah. It’s traditionally the day on which the gates of heaven close, making it the very last day on which God accepts repentance-related prayers.
- The seventh day is called Shemini Atzeret, and the eighth, Simchat Torah (in Israel, these are celebrated on the same day). Shemini Atzeret is a special extra day God gave to us as a symbol of His love for His people; Simchat Torah is our celebration of God’s Torah.
When is Sukkot?
So on the fifteenth day of the seventh month… you shall celebrate God’s festival for a seventh day period… You shall celebrate it as a festival for God.
Dwelling in a Sukkah
God commands the people of Israel to dwell in a booth – sukkah in Hebrew (plural sukkot, hence the holiday’s name) – for the duration of the holiday, so that the Jews would remember they lived in temporary houses when He brought them out of Egypt (see Leviticus 23:42).
Today, we build sukkot in our gardens and decorate them lavishly to bring as much beauty to the holiday as we can.
Lulav and Etrog
One of Sukkot’s most unusual commands is the concept of the arba minim, which is also known as the Four Species. In Leviticus 23:40, the Jewish nation are commanded:
You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree, date branches, myrtle branches, and spring willows, and you will celebrate before the Lord our God for seven days.
The “fruit of a beautiful tree” is taken to mean an etrog or citron.
Check back later in the week for more information about the Four Species!