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What Is Sukkot?

What Is Sukkot?

The Sukkah, the Four Kinds, the "Water-Drawing Celebrations," the meaning of unity, the dynamics of joy...


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 Jewish calendar 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 Four Kinds: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (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 closes the 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

By Staff
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Discussion (22)
May 10, 2014
Jewish holidays
Now I have a better understanding of the 6 most important holidays in the Jewish faith. Thanks for the educational experience. Connecting the event with names. Thanks again.
Hickory Valley, Tn
September 18, 2013
My neighbors built sukkah yesterday and are celebrating today so thought of searching about it. Your post helped me to understand the festival.
October 8, 2012
Thanks for the explanation of Sukkot. Was never sure of its meaning
October 6, 2012
New Neighbors
My neighbors built a sukkah and I admit at first I had no idea what it was. I decided to go introduce myself and they were so welcoming and friendly! They explained the holiday and I just love their sukkah! It's almost a shame that it's only temporary. Sukkot has helped me to meet my neighbors and learn more about Judaism, and for this I am very thankful!
Pittsburgh, PA
October 5, 2012
Jewish Holidays
I have recently become business partners with a group of observant Jews, and have found this site very informative, thanks !
Hamilton, Ontario
October 3, 2012
I am a martial arts instructor and one of my students couldn't attend class in observance of this holiday. In an attempt to understand my students faith a little more I looked up the Sukkot holiday and found your website. After reading and going through your page I learned something new from my student.
Sensei Elliott
Hartford , Ct
October 1, 2012
Thanks for the great article , The word "Sukkot" means "booths," and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday. The name of the holiday is frequently translated as The Feast of Tabernacles.
new york, US
October 11, 2011
To Anonymous
If the tent's roof can be removed and replaced with a suitable covering, it may be used for a Sukkah, as long as the tent is fastened to the ground and will not be blown away by a regular wind.

You would have to inquire with the campground's officials whether they allow 'tents' to be erected.
Eliezer Zalmanov
October 11, 2011
beautiful idea
The whole idea is saturated with meaning, tradition, aestheticism and beauty. However, I must say that so very much is demanded, down to selecting a perfect fruit and I would be terrified that i wouldn't be doing it right. Really, surely its the heart being in the right place that's more important.
Ireland, Ireland
October 11, 2011
Could a person set up a regular tent, and then put some symbolic branches on it? And...what about using a public campground if a person was an apartment dweller? Would most state campgrounds be accepting of such?
Prescott, AR/US
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