For forty years, as our ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt, 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 Sukkot festival (on the
Tishrei 15-21). For seven days and nights, we eat all our
meals in the
sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home.
Another Sukkot observance is the taking of the
etrog (citron), a
lulav (palm frond),
(myrtle twigs) and two
aravot (willow twigs). On each day of the festival
(excepting Shabbat), 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 backward.
Our sages in the midrash tell us that the Four Kinds represent the
various types and personalities
that comprise the community of Israel,
whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot.
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.
The seventh day of Sukkot is called
Hoshaana Rabbah ("Great Salvation") and
period of Divine judgment begun on
Rosh Hashanah. A special observance
is the aravah--the
taking of a bundle of willow branches.
See also How is Sukkot Observed? An Overview of Sukkot's Traditions and Customs and our Complete Sukkot Guide