What is Sukkot?
The Feast of Tabernacles, or the Festival of Booths, is a holiday in which Jews build huts and reside in them for seven days. More commonly known as Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the time when the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt. During this time, they lived in temporary shelters or booths known as sukkot. As a result, the Sukkah represents the temporary shelters that the Jews lived in during their journey. Jews live as much as possible in the Sukkah during the week of Sukkot in order to pay respects to the journey of our ancestors out of Egypt. It is necessary to eat all food inside of the Sukkah, and some even sleep in it if weather conditions allow.
The act of dwelling in the sukkah during Sukkot is a mitzvah, a commandment, mandated by the Torah. It is customary to decorate the sukkah with fruits, vegetables, and other decorations. The sukkah should also have a roof made of natural materials such as branches, leaves, or bamboo. This roof is known as the s'chach, and it must be open enough to allow for the view of the stars.
What is the Feast of Tabernacles?
During the Sukkot holiday, on the first and second nights, a feast is held for family and friends in the sukka. On these nights, Jews invite all kinds of guests to the Sukkah to enjoy the festive meal together. The Feast of Tabernacles is a joyous and communal holiday, and inviting guests is customary, whether friends, family, or strangers. This is why it is critical to have a spacious sukkah that can accommodate plenty of guests! If your sukkah is in need of expansion, worry no more because The Sukkah Store’s modular Sieger Sukkah is completely customizable and fully expandable year-to-year!
Moreover, Sukkot is not only about inviting guests and sharing food with them, but it also serves as a reminder of the Jewish people's history and traditions. More commonly known as Sukkot, is also known as the Festival of Booths or the Feast of Tabernacles, commemorating the time when the Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years after leaving Egypt. During this time, they lived in temporary shelters or booths known as sukkot. As a result, the Sukkah represents the temporary shelters that the Jews lived in during their journey.
One beautiful aspect of Sukkot is the custom of inviting the less fortunate to partake in the feast. This is considered an act of kindness that not only benefits the recipient but also brings joy and blessings to the host. Inviting the needy is an important mitzvah (good deed). The Rambam (Maimonedes) wrote “someone who eats and drinks with their family, and doesn't provide food or drink to the poor and depressed, is not participating in the joy of God's commandments but rather the joy of the stomach” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Yom Tov, 6:18).
Along with physical guests at the table, Jewish tradition holds that every night of the holiday, one of seven holy guests visits the sukka, called Ushpizin. The Ushpizin are heroes of Jewish history and folklore. In order, they are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. These guests are sometimes reserved a seat of honor at the table. A prayer may be said to invite the Ushpizin into the sukkah. It is common to reserve a seat of honor in the Sukkah and even a cup of wine for the exalted guest.
The tradition of the Ushpizin provides a special opportunity for Jews to connect with our past and honor the legendary figures who shaped our history. Each of the seven Ushpizin contributes a unique quality and message to the Sukkah. Abraham represents faith, Isaac represents restraint and discipline, Jacob represents wisdom, Joseph represents resilience and endurance, Moses represents humility and leadership, Aaron represents love and peace, and David represents the unity of the Jewish people under one kingdom. Each night, Jews symbolically invite the spiritual essence and teachings of these figures into their presence by inviting one of the Ushpizin into the Sukkah. Additionally, the act of reserving a seat of honor at the table for the Ushpizin reflects the respect and admiration that Jews hold for these historical figures. This tradition is a beautiful way to connect the past and present, and it is a testament to the enduring legacy of the Jewish people.
If you are interested in learning more about Sukkot and Israeli culture in general, I highly recommend the movie Ushpizin, starring talented Israeli singer and actor Shuli Rand. The movie revolves an orthodox Jew celebrating the Sukkot holiday, and the miracles and misfortunes that befall him. It is extremely well made and accurately represents the Feast of Tabernacles and the way that it is celebrated.
Sukkot 2023 will begin in the evening of Friday, September 29th, and end in the evening of Friday, October 6th.
Now you’re all ready to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot!
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