Guest Author - Rachel Schaus
In the Tannakh, or Old Testament, there were seven feasts given by the Lord. Leviticus 23 lists the seven feasts in chronological order. The feasts are tied to Israel's agricultural schedule, four of these feasts occurring in the spring of the year, and the other three in the fall. The final three feasts occur within a very short period, in the Hebrew month of Tishri (September/October).
Sukkot or Succoth the seventh feast given, and itself is a 7-day festival, occurring in the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar. It occurs just five days after Rosh Hoshana, the Day of Atonement. It is also known as the "Feast of Booths," the "Feast of Tabernacles," or just "Tabernacles." It is one of the three pilgrimage festivals mentioned in the Bible, and occurs the 15-21st of Tishrei.
The word sukkot is the plural of the Hebrew word sukkah, meaning "booth." Jews are commanded to "dwell" in booths during the holiday. This generally means eating meals, but some sleep in the sukkah as well. There are specific guidelines for building a sukkah (booth).
The seventh day of the holiday is called Hoshanah Rabbah, "Great Hosanna" or the "Great Supplication". This day is marked by a special service in which seven times, worshippers walk around reciting Psalm 118:25 with additional prayers and then using a bundle of five willow branches, beating the ground.
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah
The eight day is called Shemini Atzeret or Simchat Torah means "rejoicing with the Torah". It refers to a special ceremony which takes place on the holiday of Shemini Atzeret. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is one day long and includes the celebration of Simchat Torah. Outside Israel, Shemini Atzeret is two days long and Simchat Torah is observed on the second day, which is often referred to by the name of the ceremony.
Sukkot in the Bible
The origination of this feast started at the end of the Israelites 40-year wandering in the wilderness. God wanted them to annually remember how He had provided for them during that time - providing water from rock, manna from heaven, birds for meat. Their clothes did not wear out, neither did their sandals. References include: Leviticus 23:39; II Chronicles 8:13; Ezra 3:4;
This feast is also called the Feast of Ingathering (Exodus 23:16; 34:22), the Feast to the Lord (Leviticus 23:39; Judges 21:9), the Feast of Booths, or simply "the feast" or "the holiday" (Leviticus 23:36; Deuteronomy 16:13; I Kings 8:2; II Chronicles 5:3, 7:8; Nehemiah 8:14; Isaiah 30:29; Ezekiel 45:23,25) because it was so well-known and loved.
Importance of Sukkot
All Jewish males were required in ancient times to make pilgrimage to the Temple and offer sacrifices. Many additional sacrifices of animals were offered during this time. Today, sacrifices are no longer offered, but Jews celebrate this holiday, with special attitudes of thankfulness for what they have been given.
Prayer of Sukkot
In ancient times, it was important for the Israelites to pray for rain. If God did not send rain between November and March, there would be no spring harvest. Today, prayers for rain and good crops are still made during this time
Building a Sukkah
It is important to construct a Sukkah, a temporary dwelling, using at least three temporary walls. The walls may be constructed of branches, large leaves, or even blankets. However, the roof should be natural materials and with openings so that the stars can be seen. The space should be decorated with pumpkins, corn stalks, and other harvest vegetables. Children can decorate with paper chains and other easily made crafts.
Resource: Howard, K. & Marvin Rosenthal. The Feasts of the Lord, p 135-148<