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From left to right, lulav with Hadasim and Aravot, etrog carrier, and etrog used on Sukkot
Official name Hebrew: סוכות‎ or סֻכּוֹת
("Booths, Tabernacles")
Observed by Jews, Hebrews, Israelites, Messianic Jews, Samaritans, Semitic Neopagans
Type Jewish
Significance One of the three pilgrimage festivals
Observances Dwelling in sukkah, taking the Four Species, hakafot and Hallel in Synagogue
Begins 15th day of Tishrei
Ends 21st day of Tishrei (22nd outside of Israel, overlapping with Shemini Atzeret)
2017 date Sundown October 4 through
nightfall October 11
(October 12 outside Israel)
Karaite: TBD
2018 date Sundown September 23
through nightfall September 30
(October 1 outside Israel)
Karaite: TBD
Related to Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah

Sukkot (Hebrew: סוכות‎ or סֻכּוֹת, sukkōt, commonly translated as Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of the Ingathering, traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation Sukkos or Succos, literally Feast of Booths) is a biblical Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month, Tishrei (varies from late September to late October). During the existence of the Jerusalem Temple, it was one of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals (Hebrew: שלוש רגלים‎, shalosh regalim) on which the Israelites were commanded to perform a pilgrimage to the Temple.

Sukkot has a double significance. The one mentioned in the Book of Exodus is agricultural in nature—"Feast of Ingathering at the year's end" (Exodus 34:22)—and marks the end of the harvest time and thus of the agricultural year in the Land of Israel. The more elaborate religious significance from the Book of Leviticus is that of commemorating the Exodus and the dependence of the People of Israel on the will of God (Leviticus 23:42-43).

The holiday lasts seven days in Israel and eight in the diaspora. The first day (and second day in the diaspora) is a Shabbat-like holiday when work is forbidden. This is followed by intermediate days called Chol Hamoed, when certain work is permitted. The festival is closed with another Shabbat-like holiday called Shemini Atzeret (one day in Israel, two days in the diaspora, where the second day is called Simchat Torah). Shemini Atzeret coincides with the eighth day of Sukkot outside Israel.

The Hebrew word sukkōt is the plural of sukkah, "booth" or "tabernacle", which is a walled structure covered with s'chach (plant material such as overgrowth or palm leaves). A sukkah is the name of the temporary dwelling in which farmers would live during harvesting, a fact connecting to the agricultural significance of the holiday stressed by the Book of Exodus. As stated in Leviticus, it is also intended as a reminiscence of the type of fragile dwellings in which the Israelites dwelt during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many people sleep there as well.

On each day of the holiday it is mandatory to perform a waving ceremony with the Four Species.

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 External aerial view of Sukkah booths where Jewish families eat their meals and sleep throughout the Sukkot holiday
External aerial view of Sukkah booths where Jewish families eat their meals and sleep throughout the Sukkot holiday
 A 19th century painted Sukkah from Austria or South Germany, Painted pine, 220 × 285.5 cm, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme
A 19th century painted Sukkah from Austria or South Germany, Painted pine, 220 × 285.5 cm, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme
 Sukkah in New Hampshire
Sukkah in New Hampshire

In the Book of Leviticus, God 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" (Lev. 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" (Lev. 23:42–43).

The origins of Sukkot are both historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag HaAsif (חג האסיף, the "Festival of Ingathering"), as it celebrates the gathering of the harvest.[1][2]

Laws and customs

Sukkot is an eight-day holiday, with the first day celebrated as a full festival with special prayer services and holiday meals. The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah ("Great Hoshana", referring to the tradition that worshippers in the synagogue walk around the perimeter of the sanctuary during morning services) and has a special observance of its own. Outside Israel, the first and last two days are celebrated as full festivals. The intermediate days are known as Chol HaMoed ("festival weekdays"). According to Halakha, some types of work are forbidden during Chol HaMoed.[3] In Israel many businesses are closed during this time.[4]

Throughout the week of Sukkot, meals are eaten in the sukkah. If a brit milah or Bar Mitzvah rises during Sukkot, the seudat mitzvah (obligatory festive meal) is served in the sukkah. Similarly, the father of a newborn boy greets guests to his Friday-night Shalom Zachar in the sukkah. Males awaken there, although the requirement is waived in case of draught. Every day, a blessing is recited over the Lulav and the Etrog.

Observance of Sukkot is detailed in the Book of Nehemiah 8:13-18, Zechariah 14:16-19 and Leviticus 23:34-44 in the Bible, the Mishnah (Sukkah 1:1–5:8); the Tosefta (Sukkah 1:1–4:28); and the Jerusalem Talmud (Sukkah 1a–) and Babylonian Talmud (Sukkah 2a–56b).

Building a sukkah

 It is customary to decorate the interior of the sukkah to beautify the mitzvah. Pictured: 5-by-8-foot (1.5 m × 2.4 m) wall hanging
It is customary to decorate the interior of the sukkah to beautify the mitzvah. Pictured: 5-by-8-foot (1.5 m × 2.4 m) wall hanging

The sukkah walls can be constructed of any material (wood, canvas, aluminum siding, sheets). The walls can be free-standing or include the sides of a building or porch. The roof must be of organic material, known as s'chach, such as leafy tree overgrowth, schach mats or palm fronds.[5] It is customary to decorate the interior of the sukkah with hanging decorations of the four species[6] as well as with attractive artwork.

Special prayers

 Sukkot prayers at the Western Wall or Kotel
Sukkot prayers at the Western Wall or Kotel

Prayers during Sukkot include the reading of the Torah every day, reciting the Mussaf (additional) service after morning prayers, reciting Hallel, and adding special additions to the Amidah and Grace after Meals. In addition, the service includes rituals involving the Four Species. The lulav and etrog are not brought to the synagogue on Shabbat.[7]


On each day of the festival, worshippers walk around the synagogue carrying their Four species while reciting special prayers known as Hoshanot.[7]:852 This takes place either after the morning's Torah reading or at the end of Mussaf. This ceremony commemorates the willow ceremony at the Temple in Jerusalem, in which willow branches were piled beside the altar with worshippers parading around the altar reciting prayers.[8]


A custom originating with Lurianic Kabbalah is to recite the ushpizin prayer to "invite" one of seven "exalted guests" into the sukkah.[9] These ushpizin (Aramaic אושפיזין 'guests'), represent the seven shepherds of Israel: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. According to tradition, each night a different guest enters the sukkah followed by the other six. Each of the ushpizin has a unique lesson which teaches the parallels of the spiritual focus of the day on which they visit.

Chol HaMoed

 Decorations hanging from the s'chach (top or "ceiling") on the inside of a sukkah
Decorations hanging from the s'chach (top or "ceiling") on the inside of a sukkah

The second through seventh days of Sukkot (third through seventh days outside Israel) are called Chol HaMoed (חול המועד - lit. "festival weekdays"). These days are considered by halakha to be more than regular weekdays but less than festival days. In practice, this means that all activities that are needed for the holiday—such as buying and preparing food, cleaning the house in honor of the holiday, or traveling to visit other people's sukkot or on family outings—are permitted by Jewish law. Activities that will interfere with relaxation and enjoyment of the holiday—such as laundering, mending clothes, engaging in labor-intensive activities—are not permitted.[10][11]

Religious Jews often treat Chol HaMoed as a vacation period, eating nicer than usual meals in their sukkah, entertaining guests, visiting other families in their sukkot, and taking family outings. Many synagogues and Jewish centers also offer events and meals in their sukkot during this time to foster community and goodwill.

On the Shabbat which falls during the week of Sukkot (or in the event when the first day of Sukkot is on Shabbat), the Book of Ecclesiastes is read during morning synagogue services in Israel. (Diaspora communities read it the second Shabbat {eighth day} when the first day of sukkot is on Shabbat.) This Book's emphasis on the ephemeralness of life ("Vanity of vanities, all is vanity...") echoes the theme of the sukkah, while its emphasis on death reflects the time of year in which Sukkot occurs (the "autumn" of life). The penultimate verse reinforces the message that adherence to God and His Torah is the only worthwhile pursuit. (Cf. Ecclesiastes 12:13,14.)[12]


In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, all Israelite, and later Jewish men, women, and children on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the festival would gather in the Temple courtyard on the first day of Chol HaMoed Sukkot to hear the Jewish king read selections from the Torah. This ceremony, which was mandated in Deuteronomy 31:10-13, was held every seven years, in the year following the Shmita (Sabbatical) year. This ceremony was discontinued after the destruction of the Temple, but it has been revived in Israel since 1952 on a smaller scale.[13]

Simchat Beit HaShoevah

During the intermediate days of Sukkot, gatherings of music and dance, known as Simchat Beit HaShoeivah (Celebration of the Place of Water-Drawing), take place. This commemorates the drawing of the water for the water-libation on the Altar, an offering unique to Sukkot, when water was carried up the Jerusalem pilgrim road from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple in Jerusalem.[14]

Hoshana Rabbah

The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabbah (Great Supplication). This day is marked by a special synagogue service in which seven circuits are made by worshippers holding their Four Species, reciting additional prayers. In addition, a bundle of five willow branches is beaten on the ground.[7]:859 [8]

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

The holiday immediately following Sukkot is known as Shemini Atzeret (lit. "Eighth [Day] of Assembly"). Shemini Atzeret is usually viewed as a separate holiday.[15] In the Diaspora a second additional holiday, Simchat Torah ("Joy of the Torah"), is celebrated. In the Land of Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on Shemini Atzeret. On Shemini Atzeret people leave their sukkah and eat their meals inside the house. Outside Israel, many eat in the sukkah without making the blessing. The sukkah is not used on Simchat Torah.[16]

Jeroboam's feast

According to 1 Kings 12:32-33, King Jeroboam, first king of the rebellious northern kingdom, instituted a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month in imitation of the feast of Sukkot in Judah, and pilgrims went to Bethel instead of Jerusalem to make thanksgiving offerings. Jeroboam feared that continued pilgrimages from the northern kingdom to Jerusalem could lead to pressure for reunion with Judah:

If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.[17]

In Christianity

Sukkot is celebrated by a number of Christian denominations that observe holidays from the Old Testament. These groups base this on the fact that Jesus celebrated Sukkot (see the Gospel of John 7). The holiday is celebrated according to its Hebrew calendar dates. The first mention of observing the holiday by Christian groups dates to the 17th century, among the sect of the Subbotniks in Russia.[citation needed] In the Orthodox Church, the holiday is said to correspond to the new covenant Feast of the Transfiguration.

Academic views

De Moor has suggested that there are links between Sukkot and the Ugaritic New Year festival, in particular the Ugaritic custom of erecting two rows of huts built of branches on the temple roof as temporary dwelling houses for their gods.[18][19]

Some[who?] have pointed out that the original Thanksgiving holiday had many similarities with Sukkot in the Bible.[specify][20][21]

See also


  1. ^ "Judaism 101: Sukkot". 
  2. ^ Sukkot – The Festival of Booths
  3. ^ Scherman, Nosson; Zlotowitz, Meir, eds. (1994). Pesach Its observance, Laws and Significance. Mesorah Publications, Ltd. p. 88. ISBN 9780899064475. Retrieved October 17, 2014. 
  4. ^ "True Chol Hamoed Celebration is only in Israel". Arutz Sheva. October 12, 2014. Retrieved October 17, 2014. 
  5. ^ "How Do We Make a Sukkah?". Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  6. ^ "Judaica 101: Sukkot". Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  7. ^ a b c Sacks, Lord Jonathan (2009). The Koren Siddur (Nusaḥ Ashkenaz, 1st Hebrew/English ed.). Jerusalem: Koren Publishers. ISBN 9789653010673. 
  8. ^ a b "Honshana Rabbah — Sukkot & Simchat Torah". Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  9. ^ Encyclopaedia Judaica, v19, pg 303
  10. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 530
  11. ^ Krakowski, Rabbi Y. Dov. "Hilchos Chol HaMoed". Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  12. ^ Schlesinger, Hanan. "Ecclesiastes (Kohelet)". Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  13. ^ Appel, G., "A Revival of the Ancient Assembly of Hakhel", Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Fall 1959)
  14. ^ Prero, Rabbi Yehudah. "Simchas Bais HaShoeva – A Happiness of Oneness". Retrieved 3 October 2017. 
  15. ^ See Rosh Hashanah 4b for rare cases where it is viewed as part of the Sukkot holiday.
  16. ^ See A Deeper Look at Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah Retrieved 2014-10-14
  17. ^ 1 Kings 12:27
  18. ^ Johannes Cornelis De Moor (1972). New Year with Canaanites and Israelites. Kok. pp. 6–7. 
  19. ^ Wagenaar, Jan A. (2005). Origin and Transformation of the Ancient Israelite Festival Calendar. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. p. 156. 
  20. ^ "Thanksgiving's Sukkot Roots". 
  21. ^ "Did Sukkot Shape Thanksgiving?". 

Further reading

  • Chumney, Edward (1994). The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. Treasure House. ISBN 1-56043-767-7. 
  • Howard, Kevin (1997). The Feasts of the Lord God's Prophetic Calendar from Calvary to the Kingdom. Nelson Books. ISBN 0-7852-7518-5. 

External links



By religious movement


This page was last edited on 31 December 2017, at 06:14.
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