As promised Chuck, we'll talk about the seven-day Sukkot festival, because today is it's first day of celebration.
Sukkot is the holiday that commemorates the Hebrew exodus with Moses from slavery in the Land of Egypt out into the 40 years of wandering in the desert until the taking of the Promised Land with Joshua.
The Biblical origins of the celebration can be found in Leviticus 23:34-35 and 23:39-43.
Today, all seven days of the holiday are marked by special prayers and scriptural readings – including the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is read on Shabbat.
Sukkot is a joyful, family oriented holiday. In a way it provides a bit of a contrast to the very somber, introspective and private character of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
Is the public off of work for seven straight days? Not really – but the kids are out of school, and most businesses open for half days during most of the holiday. There are all kinds of gatherings and festivals – and here in the Old City – it becomes hard to move around because the streets swell with people.
Sukkot is characterized by two main practices. First, there is the building of the temporary huts called Sukkas that are typically made from wood and topped with thatch or palm fronds. Jews try and eat all of their meals within these structures that are placed outside their homes or upon their roofs. Some also try to sleep in them to remind them by seeing the stars above at night that they were transients having no home till they reached the promised land.
Thus these huts commemorate the portable dwellings in which their forefathers lived during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness that followed their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
The second main Sukkot observance is a special bouquet made up of a closed palm frond, a citron, a myrtle branch and a willow branch. This arrangement, that is held during morning prayers on each of the seven days, except the Sabbath, can be shown to have its origins from Leviticus 23:40. But today there are many traditional explanations of its symbolism.
Hope this helps you understand a bit more about one of the major holidays here in the land of Israel.
See you latter in the week,