Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) Guide for the Perplexed, 2013

September 18, 2013 8:38 am 2 comments

The etrog, lulav and hadas for sale. Photo: Huffington Post.

1. The U.S. covenant with the Jewish State dates back to Columbus Day, which is always celebrated around Sukkot. According to “Columbus Then and Now” (Miles Davidson, 1997, p. 268), Columbus arrived in America on Friday afternoon, October 12, 1492, the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, the Jewish year 5235, the 7th day of Sukkot, Hoshaa’na’ Rabbah, which is a day of universal deliverance and miracles. Hosha’ (הושע) is the Hebrew word for “deliverance” and Na’ (נא) is the Hebrew word for “please.” The numerical value of Na’ is 51, which corresponds to the celebration of Hoshaa’na’ Rabbah on the 51st day following Moses’ ascension to Mt. Sinai.

2. The first recorded 7 day Sukkot celebration was – following the Cyrus Edict – in Nehemiah 8:17: “And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.”

3.  Sukkot is the 3rd Jewish holiday – following Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – in the month of Tishrei, the most significant Jewish month. According to Judaism, the number 3 represents divine wisdom, stability, permanence, integration, and peace. Three is the total sum of the basic odd (1) and even (2) numbers. The 3rd day of the Creation was blessed twice; God appeared on Mt. Sinai 3 days following Moses’ ascension to the mountain; there are 3 parts to the Bible, 3 Patriarchs, 3 pilgrimages to Jerusalem, etc.

4.  The Book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon – one of the greatest philosophical documents – is read during Sukkot. It amplifies Solomon’s philosophy of the centrality of God and the importance of morality, humility, family, friendship, historical memory and perspective, patience, long-term thinking, proper timing, realism and knowledge. Ecclesiastes 4:12: “A 3-ply cord is not easily severed.” The Hebrew name of Ecclesiastes is Kohelet (קהלת), which is similar to the commandment to celebrate Sukkot – Hakhel (הקהל), to assemble.

5.  Sukkot starts on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the beginning of the construction of the Holy Tabernacle in Sinai. Sukkah (סכה) and Sukkot (סכות) are named after the first stop of The Exodus – Sukkota  (סכותה).  The Hebrew root of Sukkah (סכה) is “wholesomeness” and “totality” (סך), the “shelter” of the tabernacle (סכך), “to anoint” (סוך), “divine curtain/shelter” (מסך) and “attentiveness” (סכת).

6.  The Sukkah symbolizes the Chuppah – the Jewish wedding canopy – and the renewed vows between God and the Jewish People. While Yom Kippur represents God’s forgiveness of the Golden Calf Sin, Sukkot represents the reinstatement of Divine Providence over the Jewish People. Sukkot is called Zman Simchatenou – time of our joy - and mandates Jews to rejoice (והיית אך שמח). The numerical value of the Hebrew word for “mandates” – “ach” אך – is 21, which is the number of days between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Sukkot. It is the first of the three Pilgrimages to Jerusalem: Passover – the holiday of Liberty, Shavuot (Pentecost) – the holiday of the Torah and Sukkot – the holiday of Joy.

7.  The House of David is compared to a Sukkah/tabernacle (Amos 9:11), representing the permanent vision of the ingathering of Jews to the Land of Israel, Zion. Sukkot is the holiday of harvesting – Assif ( (אסיף) – which also means “ingathering” (אסוף) in Hebrew. The four sides of the Sukkah represent the global Jewish community, which ingathers under the same roof/shelter.  The construction of the Sukkah and Zion are two of the 248 Jewish Do’s (next to the 365 Don’ts). Sukkot – just like Passover – commemorates Jewish sovereignty and liberty.  Sukkot highlights the collective responsibility of the Jewish people, complementing Yom Kippur’s and Rosh Hashanah’s individual responsibility. Humility – as a national and personal prerequisite – is accentuated by the humble Sukkah. Sukkot provides the last opportunity for repentance.

8.  Sukkot honors the Torah as the foundation of Judaism and the Jewish people. Sukkot reflects the 3 inter-related and mutually-inclusive pillars of Judaism: The Torah of Israel, the People of Israel, and the Land of Israel. The day following Sukkot (Simchat Torah – Torah-joy in Hebrew) is dedicated to the conclusion of the annual Torah reading and the beginning of next year’s Torah reading. On Simchat Torah, the People of the Book are dancing with the Book/Torah scroll.

9.  The 7 days of Sukkot are dedicated to the 7 Ushpizin, distinguished guests (origin of the words Hospes and hospitality): Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. They defied immense odds in their determined pursuit of ground-breaking faith and principle-driven initiatives. The Ushpizin should constitute role models for contemporary leadership.

10. The 7-day duration of Sukkot – celebrated during the 7th Jewish month, Tishrei –highlights the appreciation of God for blessing the Promised Land with the 7 species (Deuteronomy 8:8): wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and dates – 3 fruits of the tree, 2 kinds of bread, 1 product of olives, 1 product of dates – totaling 7.  The duration of Sukkot corresponds, also, to the 7 day week (the Creation), the 7 divine clouds which sheltered the Jewish People in the desert, the 7 blessings that are read during a Jewish wedding, the 7 rounds of dancing with the Torah scroll during Simchat Torah, the 7 readings of the Torah on the Sabbath, etc.

11.  ”On the first day, you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the Lord, your God, for seven days (Leviticus 23:40).” Sukkot’s four Species (1 citron, 1 palm branch, 3 myrtle branches and 2 willow branches – 7 items) – which are bonded together – representfour types of human-beings: people who possess positive odor and taste (values and action – citron); positive taste but no odor (action but no values – palm); positive odor but no taste (values but no action – myrtle); and those who are devoid of taste and odor (no values and no action – willow).  However, all are bonded (and dependent upon each other) by a shared roots/history.

The Four Species reflect – and are shaped like – prerequisites for genuine leadership: the palm branch (Lulav in Hebrew) symbolizes the backbone, the willow (Arava in Hebrew) reflects humility, the citron (Etrog in Hebrew) represents the heart and the myrtle (Hadas in Hebrew) stands for the eyes. The four species represent the centrality of water: willow – stream water, palm – spring water, myrtle – rain, and citron – irrigation.

Sukkot in general, and a day following Sukkot – Shmini Atzeret – in particular, are dedicated to thanking God for water and praying for rain. The four species symbolize the roadmap of the Exodus: palm – the Sinai Desert, willow – the Jordan Valley, myrtle – the mountains of the Land of Israel, and the citron – the coastal plain of the Land of Israel.

12.  The Sukkah must remain unlocked, and owners are urged to invite (especially underprivileged) strangers in the best tradition of Abraham, who royally welcomed to his tent three miserable-looking strangers/angels.

13.  Sukkot is a universal holiday, inviting all peoples to come on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as expressed in the reading (Haftarah) of Zechariah 14: 16-19 on Sukkot’s first day. It is a holiday of peace - the Sukkah of Shalom (שלום). Shalom is one of the names of God. Shalem (שלם) – wholesome and complete in Hebrew – is one of the names of Jerusalem (Salem).

2 Comments

  • Cyndi Mettler

    It seems that if one wants the “God of the Jews” one must also pay close attention to the “instruction of the God of the Jews” It is crazy to say that God’s instructions are “only for the Jews” . . . Certainly they are for anyone who wishes to have a relationship with God.

    Excellent reading: introtogod.org

    Shalom

  • I think Guide for the Perplexed is correct. ‘Cos if you do not know a lot about the Jewish religion, it is a lot to take in at first. But with time, it all make sense. I learn more every day.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Education Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    Why We Should Invest in Jewish Children

    JNS.org – My wife Suzy and I will never forget our wedding day. It was not just the uplifting ceremony and beautiful party that left an indelible mark. Some life-altering advice that we received from one of our guests informed and shaped our lives from that day forward. My high school teacher, Rabbi Moshe Yagid, pulled us aside just before the chuppah and challenged us to choose one mitzvah that would be the foundation of our marriage and our lives. He explained [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.