/Sukkot, Feast of the Booths, or of the Tabernacles (15th day of Tishrei)

Sukkot, Feast of the Booths, or of the Tabernacles (15th day of Tishrei)

The seven-day Sukkot (in Israel seven days and outside of Israel eight days) is one of three so-called pilgrimage festivals, each of which in its own way recalls the Israelites’ trek through the desert, known as the Exodus, after their release from captivity in Egypt some 3,400 years ago. Later, during the Temple Period, established some 3,000 years ago, Jews were required to try and go to the Temple in Jerusalem during each of the three pilgrimage festivals. The other two pilgrimage festivals are Passover, which falls in spring, and Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks. These three festivals are mentioned in the Torah.
One custom of Sukkot is to build a booth (a sukkah) in memory of the temporary shelters in which the Israelites lived during their 40-year trek across the desert.
But the festival of Sukkot has dual significance. Apart from the pilgrimage aspect, Sukkot is also a harvest feast. The holiday is timed to coincide with the gathering of the harvest, which is reflected in the Biblical name for Sukkot, Hag HaAsif, which means Feast of the Ingathering. Along with building a sukkah, part of the marking of Sukkot is the Blessing of the Four Species, etrog (citron), lulav (palm frond), avarah (willow) and hadass (myrtle). In blessing these four plant species, the whole year’s crop is blessed.
Together with Passover, Sukkot, is one of the longest festivals in Judaism. The day following Sukkot is called Shemini Atzeret (a holiday in its own right), the Eighth day of Assembly (outside Israel it is the ninth day). This holiday emphasises the harvest-nature of Sukkot, as from that day onwards a special prayer is added to the daily prayers, asking God to provide the right amount of rain until spring and Passover.