Sukkot: What is It and Why is It Important

Sukkot is a seven-day long celebration of the harvest that also commemorates the protection that God gave the Jews as they were fleeing Egypt during the Exodus. It begins on the 15th day of Tishrei. To celebrate Sukkot, Jews dwell in makeshift huts- called sukkahs- and take the Four Kinds.

Sukkot is one of the only Jewish holidays that does not commemorate a specific historical event. Instead, it celebrates the coming of the harvest. It is time to appreciate all the blessings of God. Keep reading to learn more about Sukkot. This article explains:

  • An overview of Sukkot
  • How Sukkot is celebrated
  • Reasons to celebrate Sukkot
  • Sukkahs
  • The Four Kinds
  • The history of Sukkot

An Overview of Sukkot

Sukkot is a celebration of the harvest. To do this, Jews live in makeshift dwellings throughout a seven-day long festival. The holiday occurs five days after Yom Kippur, which is a day of intense prayer and penance.

Between the 15th day and the 21st day of Tishrei, Jews live in sukkahs and appreciate all that God has given them. They also remember how God protected the Jews during the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.

As Sukkot occurs in Tishrei, this means that the celebration of Sukkot is towards the beginning of autumn. The date corresponds with this season because it is the harvest season. The date of Sukkot on the Gregorian calendar changes from year to year. This is because the Jewish calendar does not align perfectly with the Gregorian calendar. Therefore, the dates of Sukkot change each year but remain the same on the Jewish calendar.

How Sukkot is Celebrated

The name of Sukkot comes from the temporary dwellings that Jews live in for the seven-day long festival. In Hebrew, “sukkot” means “hut.” They refer to the sukkahs as their home throughout the holiday. It is where they eat and sleep during Sukkot.

In addition to living in the sukkahs, Jews also take the Four Kinds. These are four symbolic objects- citron, palm frond, willow twigs, and myrtle twigs- that are blessed and prayed over. The taking of the Four Kinds is an activity done each day of Sukkot.

On the first two days of Sukkot, Jews cannot do work. In the evenings, families have big meals and light candles. The next three days are dedicated to living in the sukkah and taking the Four Kinds. However, Jews do not take the Four Kinds on Shabbat, which is the day of rest. The final two days of Sukkot make up a holiday, called Simchat Torah.

Reasons to Celebrate Sukkot

Also called the “Harvest Festival” and the “Festival of Ingathering,” Sukkot occurs during autumn; therefore, festivities are conducted to celebrate the harvest. Jews appreciate God for the harvest and the food He has given.

Another purpose for Sukkot is to commemorate the protection that God gave the Israelites as they escaped slavery in Egypt.

Sukkot is a great time to reconnect in faith and to reject material possessions for a week. It is a happy occasion that causes lots of celebration and joy. Overall, Sukkot allows Jews to live simply for a week and to appreciate all that they have.

Sukkahs

Sukkahs are the temporary dwellings in which Jews live during the week-long festival of Sukkot. They are open-aired, and the roof can be covered but must be able to show the night sky.

Sukkahs must have at least three sides. Families must make the roof out of branches or any other natural element able to cover the dwelling. After the construction of the sukkah, it is a tradition to decorate the temporary home.

The reason to have the sukkah is to return to simpler times and ways of life. During Sukkot, Jewish families try to eat and even sleep in the dwellings. Although sleeping in them is not required. During the welcome ceremonies, families invite their deceased ancestors to enjoy the meal with them.

The Four Kinds

The Four Kinds are a critical element to the celebration of Sukkot. The Four Kinds are a citron, palm frond, a willow twig, and a myrtle twig. The arba minim is the piece when the four kinds are assembled and tied together.

Then, a blessing is recited over the Four Kinds. After the blessing, the arba minim is waved in every direction, representing the diversity in individual personalities that comprise the Jewish community.

After the blessing and the rituals, Jews take the arba minim to the synagogue. There, the Four Kinds are waved and displayed during certain ceremonies of the service.

Overall, the Four Kinds represents the unity of the Jewish community. The four different aspects that make up the arba minim symbolize the different people that make up the Jewish faith. Therefore, in addition to appreciation, another meaning of Sukkot is unity.

The History of Sukkot

The celebration of Sukkot dates back to biblical times. The Torah explains how and why Jews should celebrate Sukkot. It states that Jews must live in “booths” during the seven-day period to remember how God made the Israelites live in their temporary dwellings when fleeing Egypt.

Another reason that Jews live in simple dwellings during Sukkot is due to the medium of these booths. Due to Sukkot being a celebration of the harvest, the construction of sukkahs consists of branches and other natural elements. The Torah briefly mentions that the sukkahs represent the abundance of elements used for nourishment, as well as the construction of homes.

Historically, Sukkot was a reason for Jews to celebrate and has spawned new holidays. For example, the origin story of Hanukkah occurred during Sukkot. After the Maccabees defeated the Greeks, they rededicated the temple. When they lit the candle for one night during Sukkot, the candle lasted eight nights. Thus, Hanukkah became an essential celebration in the Jewish faith.

All in all, Sukkot is a memorable holiday that remains an important aspect of the Jewish faith. During the holiday, there are elements of simplicity, appreciation, and unity.

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