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Sukkot

Answer By: 
Rabbi Mark Washofsky
fall harvest

Sukkot, the Jewish festival of booths (a harvest holiday of thanksgiving), begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Tishrei and lasts for seven days. The first day of Sukkot is a festival day; the second through seventh days are known as chol hamo-eid (intermediate days) of Sukkot. The day after Sukkot ends is Sh’mini Atzeret (literally, the assembly of the eighth day), on which Simchat Torah (the Festival of rejoicing in the Torah) also is observed. This day, too, is a festival day.

This year, Sukkot begins on the evening of Wednesday, October 4. Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah begin on the evening of October 11.

Adapted from: Jewish Living: A Guide to Contemporary Reform Practice

Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

It is a mitzvah to build a sukkah and to welcome guests to the sukkah.  It is also a mitzvah to celebrate Sukkot by spending time in the sukkah. We do this primarily by eating meals in a sukkah during Sukkot. Of course, not everyone has the space to build a sukkah. Most synagogues make their sukkot available for visitors. Find a local synagogue from the Reform Congregational Directory. Consider making plans to have lunch during Sukkot in a nearby sukkah. Inviting a friend and enjoying a leisurely lunch in the shade of the sukkah on an autumn day is a lovely way to spend an hour. If you are not a member of a congregation, this is a great way to get to know a local temple and meet some of their members and staff.

Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

The etrog is the citron fruit used as a component in the arba minim, the four species. Along with the lulav (palm) branches, these represent the agricultural aspect of Sukkot. Great care is given to selecting a blemish free etrog and caring for it during Sukkot.

There are a number of uses for the etrog. Insert cloves all over the etrog, covering it completely. Once done, you have a fragrant spice box for Havdalah. It will smell wonderful and last a long time. This is a great family activity and can be the impetus for adding the ritual of Havdalah to your observance of Shabbat.

The etrog, like other citrus fruits, can be used to make a flavorful jam or marmalade.  The latest trend is to make etrog infused vodka. Enjoy the fragrant etrog during Sukkot and for many weeks after.

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Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor Appell

At Sukkot, it is a mitzvah to build a sukkah and to celebrate in a sukkah. The Torah (Leviticus 23:42-43) tells us that we are to live in a booth for seven days. Of course, it is not always possible to build a sukkah of one's own. Those who live in apartments may not have the outdoor space necessary for a sukkah. We are also instructed (Deuteronomy 16:14-15) to celebrate in the sukkah. We do this by eating our meals in a sukkah. Synagogues and Jewish community centers often have sukkot (plural of sukkah) that are open to the public, where one can eat a meal. Even if we dine outdoors often, eating a meal in a sukkah is a wonderful reminder of the fall harvest and our connection to the world around us. Like Thanksgiving, it is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for all that sustains us.

Find a congregation near you and get in touch about how to participate in Sukkot activities. Even if there is no sukkah near you, consider ways to celebrate the change of seasons and how the bounty of the harvest can be shared with others. A donation to a food pantry or to a shelter for the homeless is a wonderful way of celebrating Sukkot.

One of the mitzvot of Sukkot is to rejoice during the holiday. Another tradition, ushpizin, involves inviting symbolic guests to the sukkah. Plan a festive meal, inviting family and friends, featuring food common to the fall harvest. Another important mitzvah of Sukkot is the gathering of the four species represented by the lulav (palm branches) and the etrog (a citron). There are many lovely stories associated with these symbols, which help to emphasize the agricultural basis of this holiday.

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