Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is a Jewish biblical holiday commemorated on the 15th day of the seventh month of Tishrei in the biblical calendar.
This festival lasts for about a week and falls between late September and late October in the Gregorian calendar.
Sukkot is an agricultural celebration to give thanks for gathering the harvest. The week-long holiday also commemorates God's protection of the people of Israel when they left Egypt.
Sukkot represents a joyful celebration in the Jewish religion and is one of the three pilgrimage festivals.
Sukkot is not a public holiday, so businesses and schools remain open.
History of Sukkot
Sukkot traces way back to biblical times and are deep-rooted in agricultural and historical significance.
The festival has its origins when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt.
According to the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 23:33-43), the Israelites were commanded by God to observe Sukkot as a commemoration of their journey through the desert and to give thanks for the harvest.
During the time of Sukkot, the Israelites would construct temporary dwellings known as sukkot (singular: sukkah) to live in.
These sukkot were made of branches and leaves and were intended to symbolize the temporary shelters used by the Israelites during their time in the wilderness.
The roofs of the sukkot were made in such a way that they provided partial shade during the day, allowing people to see the stars at night.
Sukkot is also an agricultural holiday because it is a harvest festival, where people celebrate the bounty of the Earth.
This is why Sukkot is also known by some as the Festival of Ingathering.
Sukkot Customs and Traditions
The most crucial custom of Sukkot is the building of a sukkah. 'Sukkah' is a Hebrew word that means booth or hut, the sukkah can be built with wood, sheets, canvas, or aluminum, as long as the roof is made with organic materials such as tree branches, leaves, or palms.
During the week of Sukkot, Jews should spend as much time as possible in their sukkah and are required to have all their meals there.
The inside of the sukkah should be decorated and blessed with the four species, these are four plants mentioned in Leviticus: palm branch, willow branch, citrus, and myrtle.
There is a prayer every day of Sukkot, apart from the Shabbat, known as Hallel. The psalms are recited while holding the four species.
The seventh day of Sukkot is Hoshanah Rabbah, the day when the fates of the Jewish people for the year and finalized.
During Sukkot, the proper greeting to exchange with others to wish them a Happy Sukkot is "Chag Sameach!".
In the United States, there are two more days of celebration after Sukkot: Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. On these days there is a big celebration in the synagogue, with dancing and singing.
How Sukkot is Observed
After building their sukkah, many families decorate them with dry squash and corn, sometimes used for Halloween and Thanksgiving afterward.
On the last day of Sukkot, Hoshanah Rabbah, there is a special service at the synagogue, where the rolls of the Torah are taken out, and people take seven turns around them while holding the four species.