Ran Tzivoni of Haifa, Israel, is busy this week picking out a lulav and etrog, and is looking forward to spending the holiday of Sukkot at Chabad of Merkaz Hakarmel and going “sukkah hopping” with friends around the city.

“Growing up on a kibbutz in the Galilee, we celebrated the holiday, but I never understood its spiritual essence and how it connects me with G‑d,” Tzivoni told Chabad.org. He said he learned about the deeper meanings of Sukkot when got involved with Chabad as a student at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and has celebrated Passover a number of times with Chabad in Kathmandu. “I love Chabad’s deep and accepting approach to Judaism wherever I go,” he says.

Moving into the new Jewish year of 5784 with mitzvahs, song and dancing—above and beyond division and divisiveness of every kind—zeman simchateinu (“the season of our rejoicing”) has arrived, and thousands of Chabad-Lubavitch centers worldwide are busy helping Jews wherever they are to joyfully celebrate the holiday of Sukkot with a renewed spirit of unity and faith.

It was this unity that the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—stressed when he first launched his Lulav Campaign 70 years ago in the fall of 1953. Since then, Chabad has been bringing the holiday to Jews of all backgrounds, inviting them to step inside the sukkah and make a blessing over the lulav and etrog.

Chabad centers around Ukraine are busy putting up sukkahs around the nation in preparation for as joyous a holiday as possible in the war-weary nation. In Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, Rabbi Nachum Ehrentrau, his wife, Dina, and their children are looking forward to hosting more than 150 people every day at Chabad-Lubavitch of Zaporizhzhia.

“We want people to come not just to eat, but to spend time together,” said Ehrentrau, who says that Chabad is building a new two-story center that will house a soup kitchen to better feed the many needy Jews in the community. “We are working right now on the interior but need help buying the equipment. People are very appreciative that we are staying with them and giving them both material and spiritual aid.”

Meanwhile, the Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish Relief Network Ukraine (JRNU)—the unified effort for funding and providing humanitarian work in Ukraine and for bringing essential, life-saving aid to Jewish communities throughout the country— is hard at work distributing food and supplies for the holiday.

A young cyclist waves the lulav on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv. - Photo by Flash90
A young cyclist waves the lulav on the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv.
Photo by Flash90

Seven Day Festival

Sukkot begins this year before sundown on Friday, Sept. 29. The first two days (sundown on Sept. 29 until nightfall on Oct. 1 in 2023, and only until nightfall on Sept. 30 in Israel) are Yom Tov, when work is forbidden, candles are lit in the evening, and festive meals in the sukkah are preceded by Kiddush and include challah dipped in honey. The intermediate days (nightfall on Oct. 1 until sundown on Oct. 6) are quasi-holidays known as Chol Hamoed. Jews dwell in the sukkah and take the Four Kinds every day of Sukkot (except for Shabbat). The final two days (from sundown on Oct. 6 until nightfall on Oct. 8, only Oct. 7 in Israel) are a separate holiday: Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah.

Over the course of Sukkot, the Jewish people are commanded to dwell in the sukkah, a walled structure covered with flora, and the Rebbe would regularly note that this applied equally to all—from the greatest of rabbis to the simplest of lay people. The Talmud even speaks of the big sukkah within which the entire Jewish people can dwell. The same unifying principle appears in the mitzvah the “Four Kinds,” in which Jews gather and make a blessing on the different species of etrog, lulav, myrtle and willow branches.

The Chabad of Mitown Manhattan Sukkah in front of the New York Public Library. - Poster courtesy Chabad of Midtown Manhattan
The Chabad of Mitown Manhattan Sukkah in front of the New York Public Library.
Poster courtesy Chabad of Midtown Manhattan

Global Effort

The Sukkot effort will indeed be a global one: Chabad-Lubavitch is the largest Jewish organization in the world, with 3,500 educational, religious and social-service institutions in more than 100 countries and territories. According to the Pew Research Center’s 2020 “Portrait of Jewish Americans,” two in five Jewish adults—some 38 percent of American Jews or 2.2 million people—report having some interaction with Chabad. It’s a level of engagement that extends to Jewish communities large and small around the world.

Street parties are all the rage, and Chabad centers are building that engagement and interaction with Judaism by bringing both fun and festival mitzvahs to the streets of cities and towns around the world again this year. In Milwaukee, Lubavitch of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Jewish Federation are partnering to present a Sukkot Street Party on Monday, Oct. 3. The event will feature strolling street shows, a Live DJ, dancing to Jewish music, carnival rides and a giant community sukkah where folks can shake the lulav and enjoy an abundance of kosher food from an ad hoc food court. Friendship Circle of Wisconsin will have its own sensory-friendly sukkah as well. Street parties will also take place in London, San Francisco, Tel Aviv and in Brooklyn, N.Y., where Chabad hosts nightly Simchat Beit Hashoeva celebrations.

One of the highlights of Sukkot is the Simchat Beit Hashoevah celebrations that harken back to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, when all-night dancing, singing and acrobatics would accompany the joyous drawing of water that was poured on the Altar each of the holiday’s seven days. In 1980, the Rebbe called for the modern revival of the festivities of old, and ever since, the celebration has taken many forms, including sit-down farbrengen gatherings in sukkahs, as well as lively dancing in the streets.

Chabad of Milwaukee is hosting a gala Sukkot street party this year. - Poster courtesy Chabad of Milwaukee
Chabad of Milwaukee is hosting a gala Sukkot street party this year.
Poster courtesy Chabad of Milwaukee

Sukkah Comes to You

For those wishing to enter the holiday with greater inspiration and knowledge, Chabad.org has a special Sukkot section that includes A Guide to the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot; Sukkot in Jewish Law; A Sukkot Study Center; Sukkot Stories; Sukkot Audio/Video; Sukkot for Kids; and Sukkot Recipes. The Chabad.org locator is available to find Sukkot events at Chabad centers around the world.

New for this year is the What Is Sukkot? video, produced by acclaimed animator Stu Hershy Sufrin.

Among Chabad’s Sukkot innovations is the iconic sukkah-mobile, constructed and placed on the back of a pickup truck or trailer. Recent years have seen the dawn of the Pedi-Sukkah, an even tinier sukkah on wheels hitched to the back of a bike. This year both will bring the holiday right to people’s doorstep, with sukkah-mobiles being constructed around the world.

Forty-one years ago, the Rebbe penned a public letter ahead of the holiday of Sukkot (published recently in Kehot Publication Society’s To the Sons and Daughters of Our People Israel, Everywhere.) He explained that despite the exile and the darkness in the world, this must not dampen the joyful preparations for any holiday, much less the holiday itself, particularly not Sukkot, which is designated “the season of our rejoicing.”

“ ... [A]s in the case of [the Egyptian exile], when at the height of the surrounding darkness ‘there was light for all the children of Israel in their dwellings,’” wrote the Rebbe, “a Jew’s life, wherever he may dwell, is illuminated in all its aspects by the light of Torah and mitzvot ... .”

It is by intensifying this light in his or her own daily life, the Rebbe explains, that the individual is able to change for the better not only their own immediate surroundings but transform the entire world.

To find a Sukkah celebration near you, visit the Chabad Center locator page here.