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From left to right, lulav, etrog carrier, and etrog used on Sukkot
Official nameHebrew: סוכות‎ or סֻכּוֹת "Booths, Tabernacles"
Observed byJews, Hebrews, Israelites and Messianic Jews
SignificanceOne of the three pilgrim festivals
ObservancesEating in sukkah, taking the Four Species, hakafot in Synagogue.
Ends21st day of Tishrei (22nd outside of Israel)
2013 date18 September–26 September, Karaite: 22 September-28 September
2014 date8 October-15 October
  (Redirected from Feast of Tabernacles)
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For the biblical location, see Sukkot (place).
From left to right, lulav, etrog carrier, and etrog used on Sukkot
Official nameHebrew: סוכות‎ or סֻכּוֹת "Booths, Tabernacles"
Observed byJews, Hebrews, Israelites and Messianic Jews
SignificanceOne of the three pilgrim festivals
ObservancesEating in sukkah, taking the Four Species, hakafot in Synagogue.
Ends21st day of Tishrei (22nd outside of Israel)
2013 date18 September–26 September, Karaite: 22 September-28 September
2014 date8 October-15 October

Sukkot, Succot or Sukkos (Hebrew: סוכות‎ or סֻכּוֹת sukkōt or sukkos, Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles) is a biblical Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (varies from late September to late October). It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.

The holiday lasts seven days (eight in the diaspora). The first day (and second in the diaspora) is a sabbath-like yom tov (holiday) when work is forbidden, followed by the intermediate Chol Hamoed and Shemini Atzeret. The Hebrew word sukkōt is the plural of sukkah, "booth or tabernacle", which is a walled structure covered with schach (plant material such as leafy tree overgrowth or palm leaves).

The sukkah is 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 some people sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav (closed frond of the date palm tree, bound with boughs and branches of the willow and myrtle trees) and etrog (yellow citron) (Four species).[1]

According to the prophet Zechariah, in the messianic era Sukkot will become a universal festival and all nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there.(Zech 14:16-19) Rashi in Parashat Pinchas (Numbers, 29:18) writes that the 70 bulls offered whenever the Jewish people are able to offer animal sacrifices, the sum total sacrificed throughout the seven days of the Sukkot festival, correspond to and benefit the 70 national-linguistic groups encompassing all of humanity.[2]


Sukkah booths where Jewish families eat their meals throughout the Sukkot holiday
Sukkah in the U.S.

Sukkot is agricultural in origin. This is evident from the biblical name "The Feast of Ingathering," Ex. 23:16, 34:22 from the ceremonies accompanying it, from the season – "The festival of the seventh month" Ezek. 45:25; Neh. 8:14. – and occasion of its celebration: "At the end of the year when you gather in your labors out of the field" (Ex. 23:16); by its designation as "the Feast of the Lord" Lev. 23:39; Judges 21:19 or simply "the Feast". 1 Kings 8:2, 8:65; 12:32; 2 Chron. 5:3; 7:8 Perhaps because of its wide attendance, Sukkot became the appropriate time for important state ceremonies.[3] Moses instructed the children of Israel to gather for a reading of the Law during Sukkot every seventh year (Deut. 31:10-11). King Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot (1 Kings 8; 2 Chron. 7). And Sukkot was the first sacred occasion observed after the resumption of sacrifices in Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 3:2-4).

In 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).

Etrog being examined for flaws

Laws and customs[edit]

Sukkot is an eight-day holiday, with the first day celebrated as a full festival with special prayer services and holiday meals. The remaining days are known as Chol HaMoed ("festival weekdays"). 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 two days are celebrated as full festivals. Throughout the week of Sukkot, meals are eaten in the sukkah and the males sleep there, although the requirement is waived in case of rain. Every day, a blessing is recited over the Lulav and the Etrog. Observance of Sukkot is detailed in the Book of Nehemiah 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[edit]

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 or palm fronds. It is customary to decorate the interior of the sukkah with hanging decorations, the four Species."Judaica 101: Sukkot". Retrieved 2012-04-03. 

Special prayers[edit]

Sukkot prayers at the 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.


On each day of the festival, worshippers walk around the synagogue carrying their Four species while reciting Psalm 118:25 and special prayers known as Hoshanot. 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 worshipers parading around the altar reciting prayers.


During the holiday, some Jews recite the ushpizin prayer which symbolises the welcoming of seven "exalted guests" into the sukkah. 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. A new tradition has arisen among some Jews to invite seven female counterparts to the above shepherds. A number of different lists exist which may include any of the following: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Ruth, and Tamar among others, though these are not accepted by Orthodox Jews.[citation needed]

Chol HaMoed[edit]

Decorations in an Israeli 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. Observant Jews typically 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 following Shabbat when sukkot is on the first day. Otherwise they read it on the Shabbat of Sukkot, as in Israel.) 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.)


Main article: Hakhel

In the days of the Temple in Jerusalem, all 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 on a smaller scale.[4]

Simchat Beit HaShoevah[edit]

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.

Hoshana Rabbah[edit]

Main article: 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 Psalm 118:25 with additional prayers. In addition, a bundle of five willow branches are beaten on the ground.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah[edit]

Main articles: 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.[5] In the Diaspora a second additional holiday, Simchat Torah (lit. "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 of Israel, many eat in the sukkah without making the blessing. The sukkah is not used on Simchat Torah.[citation needed]

In Christianity[edit]

Sukkot is celebrated by a number of Christian denominations that observe holidays from the old testament. These groups base themselves on the fact that Jesus celebrated Sukkot (see the Gospel of John 7, additionally John 10:22 shows Christ present in Jerusalem during the Festival of Dedication, called Hanukkah in Hebrew.) The holiday is celebrated according to its Hebrew calendar date. First mention of observing the holiday by Christian groups dates to the 17th century regarding the Subbotniks in Russia.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Gabrielle A. Berlinger (2008) Ritual Interpretation: The Sukkah as Jewish Vernacular Architecture. M.A. Thesis, Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, Indiana University Bloomington.
  2. ^
  3. ^ David M. Gitlitz & Linda Kay Davidson Pilgrimage and the Jews (Westport: CT: Praeger, 2006), 20-35.
  4. ^ "Hakhel Ceremony To Be Held in Jerusalem on 10/4". Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  5. ^ See Rosh Hashanah 4b for rare cases where it is viewed as part of the Sukkot holiday.

Further reading

External links[edit]


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