Sukkot Notes

Sukkot is the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles and takes place in Autumn (Tishrei or September/ October) from the full moon.

Sukkot is plural for Sukkah, the tabernacle. It is "The Season of Our Rejoicing" and so is a happy time to follow the serious and sombre time of Yom Kippur. A Sukkah can start to be built at the end of Yom Kippur.

Sukkot is used to remember the time when the Israelites only had temporary shelters in the wilderness rather than permanent homes. So Leviticus 23:39-43 looks back to this time because it states:

39 "On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD seven days; on the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD seven days in the year; it is a statute for ever throughout your generations; you shall keep it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God."
44 Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed feasts of the Lord.

This is what Orthodox Jews believe, that Moses delivered these festivals as part of the Law, but Reform and Liberal Jews and others may enjoy the festival but have a more critical view of origins. Some say that in the Exodus they would have made tents not booths; the booths were harvest huts that protect from the midday sun when they had settled in Canaan and grew fruit in particular; this is after the wilderness and likely after returning from exile at Babylon (538 BCE), which was a different much later exile but one which recalled an earlier movement from slavery.

Biblical and Mishnah requirements for the booths:

Some people live in the Sukkah (like in warm Israel) for this time whilst others just have their meals there (like in Britain).

Flimsy accommodation somewhat open to the elements suggests:

Chol Hamoed is each day when prayers for rain are said every day except the sabbath leading up to Hoshana Rabba. One person in the congregation holds a Torah scroll and others move around him holding four species together:

The lulav, myrtle and willow are usually contained together in a specially prepared holder plaited from palm leaves with the etrog. Thus bound together they are shaken in a synagogue service so that the pointed ends of the palm leaves rustle, producing a sound like rain.

Hoshanah Rahhah is the last day of circling and praying for rain. There are seven circuits this day. Palm branches are beaten on the floor until the leaves come off. This could symbolise resurrection after death or simply represents autumn.