Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths, is a Jewish holiday that lasts for seven days (eight days for Jews outside of Israel). It is celebrated in the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which usually falls in September or October, following the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.
Sukkot commemorates the Israelites’ journey through the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. During their wanderings, they lived in temporary shelters called sukkot (singular: sukkah). The holiday also coincides with the agricultural festival of ingathering, marking the end of the harvest season.
The central observance of Sukkot involves the construction and dwelling in a sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary structure with a roof made of branches or foliage, allowing for an open view of the sky. It is decorated with fruits, vegetables, and other harvest symbols. Jews are encouraged to eat their meals and, if possible, sleep in the sukkah throughout the holiday.
Sukkot is a joyful and festive holiday, characterized by communal meals and gatherings. The sukkah is a symbol of impermanence, reminding people of the transitory nature of life and the reliance on divine protection. It also serves as a reminder of the Israelites’ time in the wilderness and their dependence on God’s providence.
During Sukkot, a special set of prayers, called Hallel, is recited in the synagogue. On the first day of the holiday, there is a ceremony called Hoshanah Rabbah, during which worshippers circle the synagogue with willow branches and recite special prayers.
Another distinctive feature of Sukkot is the observance of the Four Species (arba’ah minim): a lulav (a palm branch), an etrog (a citron fruit), three myrtle branches, and two willow branches. These four species are held together and waved in a specific manner during Sukkot prayers, symbolizing unity and the bounty of the harvest.
Sukkot is a time of gratitude, celebration, and reflection on the themes of shelter, abundance, and divine protection. It is a time for families and communities to come together, share meals, and experience the joy of the holiday.