What Is Sukkot?
Sukkot is the fall harvest festival, a time to give thanks, as well as to commemorate the 40 years the children of Israel wandered in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt. In Hebrew, sukkot means “booths” or “huts,” and a replica of the shelters Jews lived in while harvesting and during their exile in the desert is at the heart of this joyous celebration.
The sukkah is a temporary shelter built for the holiday. Building and decorating the sukkah can be a fun family project. The commandment to “live in” the sukkah during the holiday can be satisfied by eating meals in it though, if weather and circumstances allow, families can sleep in it as well.
Though the sukkah can be framed with modern materials, such as PVC pipe, the roof must be covered in natural materials, such as cornstalks, bamboo or branches.
When Is It?
Sukkot begins five days after Yom Kippur, on the eve of the 15th day of Tishrei, the seventh month in the Jewish calendar, and lasts for seven days. It falls in September-October. It is customary to begin building the sukkah on the day after Yom Kippur.
What Do I Need to Celebrate Sukkot?
Sukkot typically is celebrated with several rituals:
Lulav is a bundle of branches made from three species of tree (myrtle, palm and willow). Etrog is a citrus fruit, similar to a lemon. Together, the lulav and etrog are known as the Four Species. The two are held together and shaken in six directions to symbolize that God is everywhere.
Ushpizin is the Aramaic word for “guests” and refers to the custom of inviting biblical guests into the sukkah to teach spiritual lessons. It’s also customary to invite friends and family to celebrate and share a meal in the sukkah.
Building the sukkah is a mitzvah, or commandment, and any mitzvah can be enhanced by beautifying the objects used to fulfill it. The sukkah is a place of celebration and can be decorated using paper chains, gourds, strings of uncooked pasta and colored pictures. And the crafts can be reused every year. Visit jHUB’s Pinterest board for ideas.
Books for Children:
The Big Sukkah by Peninnah Schram
Sammy Spider’s First Sukkot by Sylvia A. Rouss
Books for Adults:
Jewish Living by Mark Washofsky
The Jewish Festivals by Hayyim Schauss
Still Have Questions?
For more information about Sukkot, jHUB and interfaith programs or Jewish culture, contact us at jHUB@jecc.org or call us at 216-371-0446.
Blessings for Dwelling in the Sukkah To Be Said When Eating or Drinking in the Sukkah
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלהֵֹינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אַשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ לֵישֵׁיב בַּסֻּכָּה
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu leisheiv basukkah.
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made us holy through God’s commandments, and commands us to dwell in the sukkah.
Blessing for the Lulav and Etrog To Be Said Before Shaking the Lulav in 6 Directions and Smelling the Etrog
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵֹינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת לוּלָב
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav, v’tzivanu al n’tilat lulav.
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made us holy through God’s commandments, and commands us to take up the lulav.
Shehekhiyanu — Blessing for Reaching This Special Occasion
.בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵֹינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ וְקִיְּמָֽנוּ וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה
Barukh atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melekh ha’olam, shehekhiyanu v’kiymanu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us and for enabling us to reach this season.