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Sukkot begins on the 15th of Tishrei and concludes on the 22nd. Sukkot, a fall harvest festival, has retained its agricultural character more than any other pilgrimage festival. It also commemorates the Jews' journey from Egypt through the wilderness toward the land of Israel. The Torah identifies the sukkah (booth) with the temporary dwellings in which the Israelites lived during that journey (see Leviticus 23:42).
The Bounteous Fall Harvest
Sukkot symbolizes the bounty of the successful harvest and the beauty of autumn. Its celebratory nature provides a welcome change from the solemn days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Sukkot is Zeman simchatenu, the season of our rejoicing. Yet, even while we rejoice, the temporary and fragile nature of the sukkah reminds us just how precarious life can be.
The Lulav and Etrog
On Sukkot we think about the wonder and the beauty of the world, our responsibilities as caretakers, and our obligation to share with others, because God is the true owner of the land and its produce. The lulav and etrog remind us of how dependent we are upon God for the food we eat. Unlike the early Israelites who were farmers, we live in an urban environment and may easily forget that human labor and divine blessing make the world fruitful.
The Festival's Mitzvot
Mitzvot during Sukkot are observing Sukkot, rejoicing during this season, giving tzedakah, building a sukkah for your home or congregation, blessing the lulav and etrog, celebrating in the sukkah, welcoming guests to your home for a meal, and reciting Yizkor.
The Sukkot Table
As we do for the Temple sukkah, decorate your family's table with many varieties of fruits and vegetables from the local fall harvest. Visit the farmers' market in your area to view new varieties you have not seen or tasted before. Check the grocery for new fruits, and commit to tasting each one at a family dinner during the holiday. Bring a picnic lunch or dinner and lawn chairs, and eat with family or friends in the Temple Israel sukkah.
When eating a piece of bread or cake, recite the following blessing:
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech haolam, asher kideshanu, bemitzvatov vetzivanu, leshev basukkah.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to sit in the Sukkah.