Most of us are aware that Christianity has its roots in Judaism. One of many similarities in observing holidays and festivals was brought up recently, in an ecumenical faith sharing I attended. I became aware for the first time, of a Jewish holiday season called Sukkot (pronounced ‘Sue Coat’).
Sukkot is an eight-day holiday, with the first day celebrated as a full festival with special prayer services and holiday meals. The remaining days are known as Chol HaMoed (“festival weekdays”). The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah (“Great Hoshana”, referring to the tradition that worshippers in the Synagogue walk around the perimeter of the sanctuary during morning services) and has a special observance of its own. Outside Israel, the first two days are celebrated as full festivals. Throughout the week of Sukkot, meals are eaten in the sukkah and the males sleep there, although the requirement is waived in case of rain. [ A ‘sukkah’ is a temporary hut constructed for use during the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot. It is topped with branches and often well ]. Every day, a blessing is recited over the Lulav and the Etrog [ palm and citron bound together ]. Observance of Sukkot is detailed in the Book of Nehemiah and Leviticus 23:34-44 in the Bible, the Mishnah (Sukkah 1:1–5:8); the Tosefta (Sukkah 1:1–4:28); and the Jerusalem Talmud (Sukkah 1a–) and Babylonian Talmud (Sukkah 2a–56b).
The Festival of Sukkot begins on Tishri 15, the seventh month of the Jewish year, during which many important holidays occur. This holiday falls on the fifth day after Yom Kippur, one of the most solemn Jewish holidays. Yom Kippur is a day of atonement which includes fasting, depriving oneself of pleasures, and repenting from the sins of the previous year. This year, Sukkot begins at sundown on October 16th and ends at nightfall on Sunday, October 23rd. This holiday is also known as the Feast of Booths, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Ingathering.
In vivid contrast to the solemness of Yom Kippur, Sukkot is so joyful that it is considered the longest and happiest holiday season of the Jewish year. This ‘Season of our Rejoicing’ holiday commemorates the end of the Jews wandering in the desert. and finally reaching the land that God promised.
When they did finally reach the land that God promised them, they became farmers and grew olives, wheat and grapes. When they harvested their crop, they built wooden huts near their fields where they lived until the harvesting was completed.
Then and today, Sukkot is a celebration of the end of the 40-year wandering for the promised land, and for the harvest of their crops. Praising God for His protection and peace, the holiday was and is celebrated by a time of feasting and of thanking God for their harvest. Many historians believe that the Pilgrims fashioned their Thanksgiving from their readings of Sukkot in the Bible. The first Thanksgiving celebration fell in October and lasted for three days.
Marie Coppola Revised October 2016
http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday5.htm; The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays, M. Ducker.