The Festival of Booths
The Holiday of Sukkot (usually translated as Tabernacles or the Festival of Booths) commemorates the Israelites' wanderings in the desert following their Exodus from Egypt, during which time they lived in portable shelters or booths. Sukkot is one of three festivals each year during which the Israelites made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. It continues the story of the Israelites, which began with the Exodus from Egypt (Passover) and the Giving of the Torah at Sinai (Shavuot) and now ends with the wandering in the desert. In addition to commemorating a central event in the History of the Jewish people, Sukkot marks a pivotal agricultural season: Sukkot falls at the end of the autumn fruit harvest.
Sukkot is celebrated for 7 days from the 15 - 21 of the month of Tishri, followed by Shemini Atzeret, (the eighth day of assembly) which is a separate holiday.
It is traditionally celebrated by building, eating in, and sometimes sleeping in a sukkah, a temporary structure usually constructed of four walls and covered with a roof of tree branches. Along with dwelling in the sukkah, we celebrate by lifting and shaking the four species - a palm branch, three branches of myrtle, two willow branches and a citron (a yellow or green bumpy citrus fruit that looks a lot like a lemon, but could arguably be the most fragrant fruit on the planet.
Both the commandment to dwell in the sukkah and the taking of these four species originate from the Biblical book of Leviticus 23:40, 42:
"You shall take on the first day fruit from a hadar tree, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord seven days."
"You shall dwell in booths seven days, all citizens of Israel shall dwell in booths."
View the Sukkot Fact Sheet
Download the following documents to enrich your holiday experience:
(The following PDF documents require Adobe Acrobat Reader version 4.0 or higher.)
A mystical take on the holiday and its relationship to the poor:
Into the Mystic (PDF file 13k)
Delve deeper into the meaning of the Sukkah:
Connecting to Sukkot: A Primer (PDF file 115k)
A resource guide for campuses to integrate tzedek/social justice programming with Sukkot:
CASE It! Sukkot (PDF file 103k)
One of the major symbols and ritual objects of Sukkot are the four species of tree branch, or Lulav and Etrog, that we wave during the holiday. This text study looks at a frequently quoted Midrash that relates each of the four species to different types of Jews and teaches a powerful lesson about community:
Palm Branches and Engagement (PDF file 51k)
Send a Sukkot eCard.
Visit MyJewishLearning.com for more about Sukkot