Sukkot in Israel begins on Tishri 15, the fifth day after Yom Kippur. 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. Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals). The holiday lasts seven days in Israel and eight in the diaspora.
Like Passover and Shavu’ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural.
- Living in temporary shelters during the 40 years in the desert (Leviticus 23:42-43)
- A harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif , the Festival of Ingathering (Exodus 34:22)
Sukkot in Israel
Sukkot in Israel is vacation time – the first and last days are national holidays when most businesses will be closed (similar to a regular Shabbat), while the intermediary days are normal business days. Even so many Israelis take the the whole week off to be the family during school vacation. There are loads of activities for Sukkot across Israel so it is a great time to be visiting. National parks, museums in Israel, beaches, and other heritage sites become incredibly busy. It is a popular time to go hiking and biking.
Sukkot – A Celebration for Every Nation!
Sukkot has a universal element. The Rabbis teach that the allocation of water for the year for all nations takes place on Sukkot.
The Talmud teaches:
Rabbi Eliezer said: “Why are 70 offerings brought on Sukkot? For the (merit of the) 70 nations of the world.” (Sukkah 55b)
To bring forgiveness for them (the 70 nations which comprise the world), so that rain shall fall all over the earth.
In the aftermath of apocalyptic battles, the vanquished nations will celebrate Sukkot.
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations who came up against Jerusalem, shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the God of Hosts, and to keep the holiday of Sukkot. And whoever does not come … to Jerusalem … upon them there will be no rain. (Zechariah 14:16)
What is a Sukka?
Sukkot” means “booths,” and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering. The sukka is a temporary walled structure ,made of wood or canvas, covered with s’chach (plant material such as overgrowth or palm leaves). The sukka refers to the clouds of glory with which God protected the Jews.
Arba Minim: The Four Species
Jews are commanded to take four plants (Lev. 23:40) and “rejoice before the Lord.” The four species in question are an etrog (a citrus fruit similar to a lemon; in English it is called a citron), a palm branch (lulav), two willow branches (aravot) and three myrtle branches (hadassim).
Sukkot on Israeli Stamps
Sukkot in Christianity
Several Christian denominations observe Sukkot and other holidays from the Old Testament. They base this on the fact that Jesus celebrated Sukkot (Gospel of John 7). They celebrate according to the Hebrew calendar. The first mention of observing the holiday by Christian groups dates to the 17th century, among the sect of the Subbotniks in Russia. In the Orthodox Church, the holiday is said to correspond to the new covenant Feast of the Transfiguration.