First Day Of Sukkot- History, Celebration & Traditions

The first day of Sukkot is the start of the Feast of Tabernacles period in Judaism. Many Jewish people around the world visit Jerusalem around this time. Sukkot is a seven-day period for reminiscence of the 40 year period of Israelites wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. 

The first day of Sukkot is a public holiday in Israel but not in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, many Jewish businesses, schools, and organizations may remain closed or have reduced timing.

When is the first day of Sukkot?

The festival starts on the 15th day of the month of Tishri (or Tishrei) in the Jewish calendar. This ranges from September to October. In 2021, the first day of Sukkot will begin on the evening of Monday, 20 September.

History of Sukkot

In biblical times, Sukkot was called “The Feast of Ingathering,” which marked the end of the agricultural year.

Sukkot reminds the observers about the Israelites’ unpleasant living conditions in exile. God punished the Israelites for their lack of faith and misgivings about the state of the Promised Land with forty-year exile. They started worshipping other gods and wished that they had stayed in Egypt.

According to Leviticus after the Israelites came out of exile, God commanded Moses to have the Israelites put branches and leaves on the Sukkah. Also, they were to live in the booths for a week in reminiscence of both the exile and the exodus.

In ancient times, many Jewish people made a pilgrimage (Hakhel) to the Temple in Jerusalem at Sukkot once every seven years as mandated by Moses. There they would listen to readings from the Torah by Solomon, the king of Israel. This custom stopped after the destruction of the Temple in the year 70 CE, however even today some people go to Jerusalem.

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Symbols and Traditions of Sukkot

Sukkah

An important symbol of Sukkot is the sukkah. This is a temporary structure and its roof is made of unfinished plant material, such as palm branches, bamboo poles, reeds, or even corn stalks. Most of its roof should be directly under the sky. Jews embellish inside of the sukkah is with extracts from the Torah, shiny decorations, and real or imitation fruit called the Seven Species. Seven Species are the seven fruits mentioned in the Hebrew Bible that grew in the Promised Land: grapes, figs, pomegranates, wheat, barley, olives or olive oil, and dates.

The Four Species

Another important symbol of Sukkot is the ‘Four Species’. These are lulav (a green, closed frond of a date palm tree), aravah (twigs and leaves from a willow tree), hadass (twigs and leaves from a myrtle tree), and etrog (a lemon-like fruit of the citron tree). They symbolize the blessings of nature.

How The First Day of Sukkot is celebrated?

On the first day of Sukkot, many people of the Jewish faith do not carry out many forms of work. They celebrate the first two days as full holidays like Shabbat (the Sabbath). However, they can work on the remaining days of Sukkot.

Celebrators feast and attend prayer services on the first day.

Before the first day of Sukkot, Many Jewish families build a temporary structure known as the sukkah, usually in a garden or on a balcony. Some people spend some or all of Sukkot in the sukkah. Many Orthodox Jews sleep there all week.

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Sukkot Greetings

 To wish someone a Happy Sukkot, you can say “Chag Sameach!” (Happy Holiday).

Significance

The Jews lived in sukkahs during the 40 years of travel through the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. Sukkot is the time to remember their hardships over their lack of faith in god. As a temporary dwelling, the sukkah also represents the fact that all existence is fragile. Sukkot is a festival of jews to appreciate the shelter of our homes and our bodies rather than the materialistic things.