Succoth - The Feast of Booths    Return to home page.

Succoth (Hebrew for "booths") is the third of the three annual harvest festivals described in the Torah, the others being Passover (Pesach) and the Feast of Weeks (Shavuoth).  By all descriptions, it was the most important of the three - in fact, in the ancient world, more important than Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur.  According to the Torah and the practices of Ezra, it was the time of the year in which the Torah was read publicly.  The holiday is celebrated beginning the 15th day of the 7th Month (Tishrei on the Jewish calendar), which is the night of the full moon and lasts for seven days.

During Succoth, those who observe the holiday live in temporary shelters - or at least have their meals in them.  The booth is not entirely enclosed - the sky is visible through the ceiling, which is decorated with fall produce.   We invite guests to dine in our booths and celebrate the harvest.  According to the Zohar (the Kabbalistic handbook) there are even seven spiritual guests associated with Succoth: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and  David.

Among the elements the Succoth celebration are the four species of plant - the Etrog (a large citrus), and the Lulav (which comprises the other three - the palm, myrtle, and willow).  The leader holds the Etrog and Lulav and shakes them in all four compass directions, as well as up and down, reciting certain prayers to the glory of G-d.

The eighth day of Succoth is actually a different, but related holiday, Shemini Atzeret (Day of the Solemn Assembly).  The Torah links these two.  Modern Jewish practices adds one more day - Simchas Torah (Rejoicing of the Torah), which celebrates the annual completion of the reading of the Torah and the beginning of reading it again.

List of References to Succoth in the Torah

Exodus 23:16 And the feast of harvest, the first-fruits of your labors, which you sow in the field, and the feast on ingathering at the end of the your, when you gather in your labors from the field. (Torah Portion Mishpatim)  

Leviticus 23:33 And YHVH spoke to Moses saying: 34 “Speak unto the children of Israel saying: ‘On the 15th day of this 7th month is the feast of Succoth for seven days unto YHVH.  35.  On the first day shall be a holy convocation, you shall do no manner of servile work.  36.  Seven days you shall bring a fire offering unto YHVH, on the 8th day shall be a holy convocation unto you, and you shall bring an offering made by fire unto the Lord, it is a day of solemn assembly [Shemini Atzeret], all work of service you will not do. (Torah Portion Emor)

Leviticus 23:39 However, on the 15th day of the seventh month, when you gathered the produce of the of the land, you will celebrate the feast of YHVH for seven days on the first day a Shabbaton [solemn rest] and on the eight day, a Shabbaton.  40. And you will take for yourselves on the first day fruit of the glorious tree, branches of palms and a bough of the thick tree, and wills of the brook, and you will rejoice before YHVH your Elohim for seven days. 41. You will celebrate it a feast to YHVH for seven days in the year; it is an eternal statute for your generations, in the seven thou will celebrate it. 42. In a Succah [booth] you will celebrate it. 43. So your generations will know that in Succoth [booths] I caused the children of Israel to dwell when I brought them from the land of Eygpt ; I am YHVH your Elohim. (Torah Portion Emor).

Numbers 29:12 And on the 15th day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no manner of servile work, and you shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days.  (Note: verses 13 through 34 list all the animals to be sacrificed for Succoth  with verse 35 listing the sacrifices for Shmini Atzeret). (Torah Portion Pinchas)

Deuteronomy 16:13 – When you bring in the products of your threshing floor and wine vat, you will celebrate the festival of Succoth for seven days.  14.  You will rejoice on your festival along with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite, sojourner, orphan, and widow from your settlements.  15.  Seven days you will celebrate to YHVH your Elohim in the place that YHVH will choose, YHVH your Elohim will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands and you will be so happy. (Torah Portion Re’eh)

Deuteronomy 31:10 – And Moses commanded them saying, “At the end of seven years, at the appoint season at the year of the Shemita (land restoration to its original owners) at the Festival of Succoth, 11. When all Israel comes to see the face of YHVH your Elohim in the place that He chose, you will read this Torah facing all Israel in their ears.” (Torah Portion Ve’yelech).


Note: There are many names for G-d in the Torah.  In order for the reader to be able to distinguish which is which, I transliterate the 4-Letter Name of G-d as YHVH (traditionally translated as The Lord), as well as the use of the word Elohim (usually translated as G-d).

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