Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of the Ingathering
Literally, Feast of the Booths
Hebrew Calendar Dates: 8 Day holiday- the 15th of Tishrei through the 23rd of Tishrei. Last of the Shalosh Regalim, three biblically mandated festivals on which the Jewish people were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Other Names for Sukkot:
Chag HaAsif (Festival of the Ingathering) is also known as Z’Man Simchateinu (The Time of our Joyful Celebration). Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters in which they were divinely protected from all harm. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival. We are commanded to build and “reside” in the sukkah, a flimsy four walled outdoor booth, for the duration of the holiday, a reminder of the miraculous existence God gifted us in the wilderness, and a contemporary reminder that even in this day and age of cars, homes and technology, without God’s constant intervention and protection, we would be as helpless as back then. We are also commanded to recite a blessing over the Arba Minim (Four Species) each day of the holiday, other than Shabbat.
When it began:
The festival of Sukkot was given to the Jewish people during their 40- year sojourn in the desert. King Solomon dedicated the Temple in Jerusalem on Sukkot, and Sukkot was the first sacred occasion observed after the resumption of sacrifices in Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity.
How it’s observed today:
Prior to Sukkot, each Jewish person either builds or makes arrangement for the use of a sukkah for the holiday. Sukkot is an eight-day holiday, with the first day (outside Israel, first 2 days) celebrated as a full festival with special prayer services and holiday meals. The intermediate days, second through seventh days of Sukkot (third through seventh days outside Israel) are called Chol Hamoed (Festival Weekdays) in which labor-intensive activities that will interfere with enjoyment of the holiday are not permitted. Chol HaMoed is treated as a vacation period with nicer than usual meals in the sukkah, entertaining guests, visiting other families in their sukkot, and taking family outings. Many synagogues and Jewish centers also offer events and meals in their sukkot during this time to foster community and goodwill.
Throughout the week of Sukkot, meals are eaten in the sukkah and the males sleep there, although the requirement is waived in case of rain. Every day, a blessing is recited over the Four Species, often referring to as Blessing the Lulav and the Etrog.
Decorating the sukkah, as a means of showing the love of God’s commandment.
Purchasing the nicest etrog one can afford, as a further means of showing love of God’s commandments.
During the Intermediate days of Sukkot, gatherings of music and dance, known as Simchat Beit HaSho’eivah (Celebration of the Place of Water-Drawing) take place. This commemorates the drawing of the water for the water-libation on the altar, a divine Temple offering unique to Sukkot, when water was ceremoniously and joyfully carried up the Jerusalem pilgrim road from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple in Jerusalem.