What is Sukkot?
The fall is a festive time for the Jewish people. After the New YearÃ¢s celebration of Rosh Hashanah and the somber Day of Atonement of Yom Kippur, Jews become joyous once again as the next holiday on the calendar is Sukkot.
Sukkot falls on the 15th of the Jewish month of Tishrei. Typically, this is sometime in October on the Gregorian calendar. It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals, along with Passover and Shavout. We celebrate this holiday after the somber one of Yom Kippur because we have atoned for our sins and we are starting out once again like a tubula rosa- clean slate.
When Jews were freed from Egypt, they wandered the desert for forty years. Since there were no Holiday Inn’s or Marriott Hotels along the way, they needed to make their own shelters with materials they found along the way-branches and leaves. These temporary huts or booths that they erected were called a sukkah.
These sukkahs were also built during the harvest time. Farmers went into their fields to gather the crops. They lived in a sukkah while they were working.
Jews around the world build their own sukkot immediately after Yom Kippur has ended. While you can build your own sukkah from a sukkah kit, these are extremely expensive. You can build your own with inexpensive materials found at your hardware store.
A Short Video Explains What a Sukkah is and It’s History
Rules for Building a Sukkah
You can’t just go out and erect a structure and call it a Sukkah.
Nope. There are rules to follow when building it.
The first rule is that is must have at least 2.5 walls or sides. They can be made from any material-wood, plastic or canvas.
Most people use 3 walls, with at least one being attached to the house. The roof, called a S%u2019chach, must be made of branches from a tree that was still living. In addition, there must be space in the roof so you can see the stars at night.
Jews study, eat their meals and have guests in the Sukkah during the holiday. Therefore, it must have at least one table and one chair. Weather permitting, families will also sleep in it, too.
Sukkot lasts for seven days for Jews in Israel and for Jews who are a part of the Reform movement. For Jews in other countries, the holiday is celebrated for eight days.
An interesting fact…
Did you know that the most American holiday, Thanksgiving, was based on the holiday of Sukkot. The Pilgrims were thankful for the harvest of food and for having survived the harsh winter.
Shake Your Lulav and Your Etrog
One of the things that Jews are commanded to do inside the sukkah is say blessings and shake the lulav and the etrog. We use these symbols because in the Bible, we are commanded to rejoice before G-d.
An etrog (citron, in Hebrew) is part of the citrus family and resembles a lemon. The piton, or stem, must stay intact and in order for the etrog to remain kosher. Otherwise, it cannot be used in the sukkah. It’s symbolism is the heart.
The lulav (Hebrew for “palm branch”) is made of three different branches, each which is symbolic of a part of our body:
Palm-To represent our backbone and strength
Myrtle-To represent our eyes
Willow-To represent our mouth
We shake the lulav and etrog together and say blessings as we shake them in all directions, because G-d is everywhere.
Resources for Building Your Own Sukkah
How to Build a Sukkah Videos
Featured image from freedigitalphotos.net./digitalart and altered by the author in picmonkey.com