Sukkot is a Jewish holiday that recalls the ancient
Israelites’ 40-year journey through the desert after they
fled Egypt, and the huts farmers built when they brought in the
harvest. It is also known as the "Feast of Tabernacles."
Jews around the world celebrate the festival, which is observed for
seven day starting on 15 Tishrei and concluding on 21 Tishrei.
Sukkahs are temporary structures that Jews are commanded to dwell in
during the holiday. Sitting
in a sukkah is a mitzvah, a commandment.
practice of building them goes back more than 2,000 years and
Jews construct them based on local conditions. Jews
living in Islamic countries often use colorful lightweight fabrics for
their sukkah walls but, out of respect for Islamic law, display no
images of people or animals. In Western countries, sukkahs are usually
constructed of wood with retractable roofs to keep out the cold and
rain and decorate
them with scenes
from the Bible.
According to the Torah, the roof of a sukkah must be made of branches,
wood, reeds or leaves, materials that grew in the ground. In Israel,
palm fronds are often used. The sukkah cannot be built under trees or
anything else that obstructs the sky.
In Israel, celebrations of Sukkat are so ubiquitous that almost every
kosher Israeli restaurant and Jewish-owned mall constructs a sukkah for
its customers. Hundreds of thousands of families
erect easy-to-build lightweight sukkahs that are sold in local
stores. Some prefer wooden sukkahs and sleep in them during
the entire holiday.
Inside, traditional foods such as pomegranates and honey cake are
served on folding tables under battery-operated lights.
Four plants mentioned in the Torah (Leviticus 23:40) are especially
relevant to Sukkot: etrog (אתרוג) – the fruit of a citron
tree; lulav (לולב) – a ripe, green, closed frond from a date
palm tree; hadass (הדס) – boughs with leaves from the myrtle
tree; aravah (ערבה) – branches with leaves from the willow
Some Jews build their Sukkot out of branches from the four specified
plants, while Rabbinic Jews take three types of branches and one type
of fruit which are held together and waved in a special ceremony during
the holiday. The waving of the four plants is a mitzvah prescribed by
the Torah, and contains symbolic allusions to a Jew's service of God.
Each day of Sukkot (excluding the Sabbath), the Four Species
lulav and etrog are set three times in each of six directions
immediately after reciting a blessing.