A Practical Guide for Sukkot
- Weekly Sidra: Sukkot (Tabernacles)
- Torah Portion: Vayikra / Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44
- Maftir: Bamidbar / Numbers 29:12 – 29:16
- Haftorah: Zecharya / Zechariah 14:1-21
What about Sukkot (Tabernacles)?
The central element for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles is the booth we call the sukkah.
Five days after the Day of Atonement comes Sukkot-the Feast of Ingathering or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33-43). “Tabernacles” refers to the temporary dwellings that the Jewish people were commanded to inhabit during this holiday. Sukkot is also called the “Season of our Rejoicing” – and for good reason!
Beginning from the eve of Tishrei 15, during this time, we are commanded to “dwell” in a sukkah — a hut of temporary construction, with a roof covering of raw, unfinished vegetable matter (branches, reeds, bamboo, etc.) signifying the temporality and fragily of human habitation and man-made shelter and our utter dependence upon G-d’s protection and providence. “How [does one fulfill] the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah? One should eat, drink, and live in the sukkah, both day and night, as one lives in one’s house on the other days of the year: for seven days a person should make his home his temporary dwelling, and his sukkah his permanent dwelling” A special blessing, leshev ba-sukkah, “to dwell in the sukkah,” is recited. For the rest of the festival, all meals must be eaten in the sukkah.
The Sukkah signifies the Chuppah – the Jewish wedding canopy – of the renewed wedding between God and the Jewish People. While Yom Kippur represents God’s forgiveness of the Golden Calf Sin, Sukkot represents the reinstatement of the Divine Providence over the Jewish People. Hence, Sukkot mandates Jews to be happy (“v’hayita ach same’ach”).
The three Pilgrimages to Jerusalem, the center location of Judaism and the Jewish State: Passover is the holiday of Liberty, Shavuot (Pentecost) is the holiday of the Torah and Sukkot is the holiday of Happiness
Sukkot, like many Jewish feasts, has different levels of meaning. The first is agricultural, as the tabernacles remind us of how the farm laborers in ancient days lived as they worked to bring in the harvest. The second level of meaning is historical, as the holiday commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.
- Families live in booths – temporary shelters constructed of boughs and leafy branches – to remind us of G-d’s protection during the wilderness wandering after the Exodus.
- Arbat HaMinim (the Four Species): the Etrog (citron, a citrus fruit native to Israel), Lulav (palm branch), Hadas (myrtle branch) and Arava (willow branch) are used in worship and to bless the booth. With the citron in the left hand, and the others held together in the right, a blessing is recited inside the sukkah(booth) and the items are waved east, south, west, north, up and down as a symbol that God’s presence is everywhere. This practice is based on Leviticus 23:40.
- Ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”) – Hospitality is a Sukkot tradition, with people visiting each other in the sukkah and eating together.
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.
On each of the seven days of Sukkot, the High Priest took a golden pitcher and filled it with water drawn from the Pool of Siloam. It was brought into the Temple through the Water Gate (hence the name), and poured into a bowl at the Altar, alongside the pouring of the wine, during the daily burnt-offering (Talmud: Sukkah 4:9).
This water libation was performed only during Sukkot. One explanation found in the Talmud states, “Why is the name of it called the Drawing Out of Water? Because of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said: ‘With joy shall ye draw out of the wells of salvation’ ” (Isaiah 12:3).
Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Yeshua stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’”
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified (Yochanan / John 7:37-39).
For us believers, the Spirit, or Ruach HaKodesh is the Spirit that leads us to learn the Hebrew Scriptures, it leads us to immitate our Rabbi, to be just like Him, to do the Torah that He teaches.
The Torah of Moshe, amplified the correct way. Indeed, our Mashiach will prevail upon Israel to follow and observe the Torah, repair its breaches.
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.
The four species thus effect the fulfillment of the prophecies that “all shall call upon the Name of G-d to serve Him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9), and “G-d shall be King over the entire earth: in that day G-d shall be One and His Name One” (Zechariah 14:9).
Attitudes of Sukkot
Each Sukkot morning, after performing the mitzvah of taking the “Four Kinds,” the Rabbi would allow all who wished to do so to use his lulav and etrog. Many of the believers availed themselves of the opportunity, though they had a set of “Four Kinds” of their own, regarding it as a great privilege to perform the mitzvah with their Rabbi’s set.
One day, after the Rebbe’s etrog was returned to him bruised and stained from being handled by the many believers of hands, one of his assistant said to him: “Why do you allow so many people to use your etrog? Look at what has happened to it! It has lost its hiddur (beauty)!”
“Why,” replied the Rabbi, “this is the most beautiful etrog in the world! What greater hiddur can there be for an etrog than the fact that so many people have performed a mitzvah with it?”
Sukkah owners are urged to invite (especially underprivileged) strangers in the best tradition of Abraham the Patriarch, who royally welcomed to his tent three miserably-looking strangers.
Thus, the Sukkah must remain unlocked! If you are building a Sukkah in your home, work or any where else, let us know, we love to visit your Sukkah.
Sukkot is a universal holiday, inviting all peoples to come to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage (Zechariah 14: 16-19).