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How Is Sukkot Observed?

How Is Sukkot Observed?


For forty years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert prior to their entry into the Holy Land, miraculous "clouds of glory" surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. Ever since, we remember G‑d's kindness and reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah – a hut of temporary construction with a roof-covering of branches – for the duration of the autumn Sukkot festival. For seven days and nights, we eat all our meals in the sukkah – reciting a special blessing – and otherwise regard it as our home. Weather permitting, some even sleep there.

We reaffirm our trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkahAnother mitzvah that is unique to Sukkot is the taking of the Four Kinds: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), at least three hadassim (myrtle branches) and two aravot (willow branches). The Midrash tells us that the Four Kinds represent the various types and personalities that comprise the community of Israel, whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot.

On each day of the festival (except Shabbat), during the daytime hours, we take the Four Kinds, recite a blessing over them, bring them together in our hands and wave them in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and to the rear. (The Four Kinds are also an integral part of the holiday's daily morning service.)

Sukkot is also called The Time of Our Joy; indeed, a special joy pervades the festival. Nightly Water-Drawing Celebrations, reminiscent of the evening-to-dawn festivities held in the Holy Temple in preparation for the drawing of water for use in the festival service, fill the synagogues and streets with song, music, and dance until the wee hours of the morning.

Sukkot runs from the fifteenth through the twenty-first of Tishrei. The first two days of this festival (in Israel only the first day) are a major holiday, when most forms of work are prohibited. On the preceding nights, women and girls light candles, reciting the appropriate blessings, and we enjoy nightly and daily festive meals, accompanied by the Kiddush.

Celebrations fill the streets with song and dance until the wee hours of the morningThe remaining days of the festival are Chol Hamoed ("intermediate days"), when most forms of work are permitted. We try to avoid going to work, writing, and certain other activities – many families use this time to enjoy fun family outings.

Every day of Sukkot, including Chol Hamoed, we recite the complete Hallel, Hoshanot, and Musaf, and the Torah is read during the morning service.

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah ("Great Salvation"). According to tradition, the verdict for the new year – which is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur – is not handed down by the Heavenly Court until Hoshanah Rabbah. On this day we encircle the bimah (synagogue reading table) seven times while holding the Four Kinds and offering special prayers for prosperity during the upcoming year. During the course of the morning prayers it is also traditional to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times.

Sukkot is immediately followed by the independent holiday of Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah.

Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Anonymous October 25, 2016

In NYC, I witnessed groups of young hassidic men running through the streets, day one of sukkot. Any significance? Reply

Barbara J Marks Israel October 23, 2016

Ishpuzin Please discuss origin of welcoming Ishpuzin in the Sukkah. Ishpuzin means guests; but when did the custom of welcoming Avrahm, Itzhak, Yaacov, Moshe, Aaron, Yosef and David begin? Reply

Anonymous Wolverhampton, UK October 19, 2016

I love learning and reading about my religion I'm proud & honoured to be apart of such a beautiful religion. Reply

Anonymous Texas October 17, 2016

Happy Sukkot!!!! From Ricardo, TX Reply

Anonymous October 16, 2016

This is very helpful! Thanks for posting it! Have a joyous Sukkot! Reply

Gemma Lincoln, Ne via October 15, 2016

Happy Sukkot from the Great Plains! Reply

Paul Montréal CANADA October 14, 2016

Sukkot in Montréal On rare occasions, the weather in Montréal cooperates, and we can eat all our meals in the Sukkah. Unfortunately, especially when the holiday starts later in the year, it is cold and rainy, and it's hard to convince our family and friends to join us in the hut. I wish that it would be Kosher to add a clear glass or plastic roof so that we can still enjoy the mitzvah of being in the Sukkah without having to endure the harsh weather. Reply Staff via October 14, 2015

Note: The second days are actually a separate holiday, that of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, and yes they begin immediately as Sukkot ends. Reply

Mordechai Czellak New York, NY September 28, 2015

Sukkot Laws Thank to Bill Montreal I know now that no work is permitted the first two and last two days of Sukkot. I could not find that info anywhere. Thank you Bill. Reply

Tracye Colorado, USA October 8, 2014

Chag Sameach Everyone! Reply

Anonymous October 10, 2013

Sukkot It really is fun when everyone has a succah! Reply

Bill Montreal September 20, 2013

Sabbaths According to the passage in Leviticus, the first and eighth day are considered 'sabbaths'. This would mean that no work is permitted on the last day as well. I don't think this was mentioned anywhere in the above article. Reply

Anonymous September 20, 2013

RE: Sukkot Have you been invited to attend Sukkot at a synagogue or dinner in someone's Sukkah? If the latter, it is up to your own discretion. If the former, some synagogues will have a dress code on their websites. The dress code at the synagogue I attend is essentially business casual, often leaning more towards the casual side. But, it often depends on the individual and what they are comfortable wearing. Hope this helps! Reply

Yuval Modiin Israel September 18, 2013

Happy Sukkot Wishing all a happy Sukkot Holiday.! Reply

Anonymous Fort Lauderdale, FL/USA September 30, 2012

Sukkot I am invited to my first Sukkot and am wondering what is the appropriate clothing to wear to one and are you expected to bring a gift? Reply

BMGM Silver Spring August 21, 2012

Work during Sukkot Are you expected to take time off from work during these days of observance? Reply

Rabbi Menachem Posner October 17, 2011

RE: Question These practices are most certainly mentioned in the Torah (Bible). Have a look at the closing verses of Leviticus 23. Reply

Anonymous Acton, MASSACHUSETTS October 12, 2011

question Does anyone know if all these traditions (eating in the sukkah, shaking the etrog and lulav, etc.) are required according to The Torah? Reply

Ric Ozimek yarmouth October 12, 2011

Sukkot I would like to offer everyone a Happy Sukkot! Reply

Anonymous Netanya, Israel October 10, 2011

To person living in apartment in Jerusalem Israel I am rather surprised that because you live in an apartment you are unable to build a Sukkah!

You live in Israel? So do we and there are many of thousands of people who live in apartments in Israel and they make a plan, even to the extent of them putting the sukkahs on the pavements, which our friends have done and what is most amazing is that none of them over the past years have had there sukkah or contents stolen! Reply

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