Celebrate Sukkot at Beth David September 24 - 30, 2018 (15 - 21 Tishri 5779)
Sukkot is celebrated on September 24 – 30, 2018 (15 – 21 Tishrei 5779)
Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavuot, 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. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif , the Festival of Ingathering.
The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. It is a transition from one of the most solemn holidays in the Jewish year to one of the most joyous. Sukkot is so unreservedly joyful that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z’man Simchateinu, the Season of our Rejoicing.
The festival of Sukkot finishes the holiday season with Hoshana Rabbah (the prayers asking for the final sealing in the book of life). Then, Shemeni Atzeret follows, when Yizkor is recited and last, Simchat Torah during which we complete the annual reading of the Torah.
The word “Sukkot” literally means “booths,” referring to the temporary dwellings we are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering. Sukkot lasts for seven days, with no work permitted on the first and second days of the holiday. In honor of the holiday’s historical significance, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one’s health permit, one should spend as much time in the Sukkah as possible, including sleeping in it.
We are commanded to take four plants and use them to rejoice before God. The four species are: the etrog (a citrus fruit similar to a lemon and native to Israel); a palm branch (in Hebrew, lulav); two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim). The six branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav. With these four species in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down), symbolizing the fact that God is everywhere. The four species are also used during the religious prayers of Hallel and in procession around the synagogue, commemorating similar processions around the altar of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem.
Beth David Services
Sukkot, First Day, Tuesday, September 25, 9:00 am
Sukkot, Second Day, Wednesday, September 26, 9:00 am
Shemeni Atzeret/Yizkor, Monday, October 1, 9:00 am
Erev Simchat Torah, Monday, October 1, 6:30 pm
Simchat Torah, Tuesday, October 2, 9:00 am
Sukkot Foods, Activities and Symbols
The only traditional Sukkot food is kreplach (stuffed dumplings). But Sukkot meal inspiration can come from the harvest origins of the holiday; meals can include fresh fruits and vegetables, or other harvest-related ingredients. One traditional way we symbolically honor the overflowing abundance of the harvest season on Sukkot is to serve stuffed foods. Cabbage, grape leaves, zucchini, squash, and peppers stuffed with rice, meat and herbs are common. Some families also prepare strudel, a Hungarian dish that rolls a sweet or savory filling inside a thin layer of dough.
Build, dwell (or take meals) in a temporary shelter, a sukkah. The sukkah walls can be constructed of any material (wood, canvas, aluminum siding, cloth). The walls can be free-standing or include the sides of a building or porch. The roof must be of organic materials, known as s’chach; leafy tree overgrowth or palm fronds, so you can see the stars at night. It is customary to decorate the interior of the sukkah with hanging decorations of the four species that compose the lulav as well as harvest fruits and vegetables.
The following blessing is recited when eating a meal in the sukkah:
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu leisheiv basukkah
Perhaps the best known symbolism is that there are four types of Jews: the etrog, which possesses both taste and fragrance and symbolizes those who possess both learning and good deeds. The palm branches possess taste but no fragrance, symbolizing those who possess learning but do not perform good deeds. The myrtle is the inverse of the palm, possessing no taste but having a pleasant fragrance; this is likened to those who are not learned but do good deeds. Finally, the willow has neither taste nor fragrance, symbolizing those who possess neither learning nor good deeds. We, of course, wish to be the etrog, possessing both learning and good deeds. But the reality of life is that our communities are made of all four types of people and because the community is such a high priority in Judaism, we bind all four species together, as we ought to bring together all Jews in one community.
Another famous interpretation of the four species likens each to a body part: the etrog is the human heart; the palm fronds are the spine; the myrtle is the eyes; the willow is the mouth. Just as one waves all four species before God on Sukkot, so too one uses all the parts of one’s body to worship and serve God: heart, spine, eyes, and mouth.