SUKKOT (Heb. סֻכּוֹת; "booths" or "tabernacles"), the festival, beginning on the 15th day of Tishre, which commemorates the sukkot in which the Children of Israel dwelt in the wilderness after the Exodus. The festival lasts for seven days, of which the first (and the second in the Diaspora) is a yom tov (a festival on which work is prohibited) and the other days ḥol ha-mo'ed (intermediate days on which work is permitted). Immediately after Sukkot, on the eighth day (and the ninth in the Diaspora), is the festival of Shemini Aẓeret ("the eighth day of solemn assembly") which is a yom tov.
In the Bible
Tabernacles, the "feast of ingathering" (Ex. 23:16ba; 34:22ba), was celebrated by the Israelites at the time of the ingathering from the threshing floor and wine press (Deut. 16:13; cf. Ex. 23:16b; Lev. 23:39a) "at the end of the year" (Ex. 23:16b; cf. "at the turn of the year," 34:22b). The last of the three Israelite feasts connected with the agricultural year (Ex. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 23:34–36, 39–43; Num. 29:12–38; Deut. 16:13–15), Tabernacles was from ancient times one of the most important feasts of the Israelites and is therefore called "the feast of the Lord" (Lev. 23:39; Judg. 21:19) or simply "the feast" (i Kings 8:2, 65; 12:32; Ezek. 45:25; Neh. 8:14; ii Chron. 5:3; 7:8). The seven-day feast (Deut. 16:13a; cf. i Kings 8:65 [= ii Chron. 7:8]) was originally – like *Passover – congruent with the period of a week; the date (in the month of Etanim, i.e., the seventh month (Sept./Oct.), i Kings 8:2) was determined by the end of the harvest. After the Exile (Ezek. 45:25) it was dated to the 15th to the 21st of the seventh month (Lev. 23:34–36a, 39–41; Num. 29:12–38) and prolonged by one day, the aẓeret, on the 22nd day of the month (Lev. 23:36b; Num. 29:35; Neh. 8:18; ii Chron. 7:9). The note that Jeroboam i celebrated this feast one month later, on the 15th of the eighth month (i Kings 12:32–33), did not have any climatic or calendaric reasons. It may be a Deuteronomistic reproach for the king's incorrect cultic behavior (cf. 12:33a). The third agricultural festival, like the other two, was taken over from the Canaanites. According to Judges 9:27, the Shekhemites celebrated a feast of joy at the end of the grape harvest; a similar Israelite feast in the vineyards, at which the girls danced, was celebrated every year in Shiloh according to Judges 21:19–21. Festival joy is shown in other places to be a main feature of the feast (Lev. 23:40; Deut. 16:14; Neh. 8:17). It is not yet mentioned in Judges 21:19–21, but later in the Bible the seven-day dwelling in booths became the central custom of the feast (cf. Lev. 23:42; in Jerusalem this was carried out at the Temple square according to Neh. 8:14ff.); hence the name "Feast of Booths" or "Tabernacles" (Lev. 23:34; Deut. 16:13, 16; 31:10; Zech. 14:16, 18–19; Ezra 3:4; ii Chron. 8:13). As the main feast of the year, Tabernacles was the occasion for the consecration of Solomon's Temple (i Kings 8). According to the Deuteronomistic construction, in every seventh year the law was to be read before the gathered people on the same occasion (Deut. 31: 10–11). At the end of days all the peoples would assemble for the feast in Jerusalem to worship the Lord (Zech. 14:16ff.). Unlike Passover and Pentecost the Feast of Booths was rather late, its connection with the Exodus was, therefore, forced. According to Leviticus 23:42–43, the Israelites were to dwell in booths as they did during the Exodus from Egypt; but in the wilderness at the time they did not have booths, but tents.
Critical Theories Concerning Origin
According to the Bible, the Feast of Booths was a thanksgiving festival. Recent information concerning cult and feasts in Mesopotamia has led biblical sholars to use new methods of research to gain further knowledge about this feast. P. Volz and – independently – S. Mowinckel tried to understand the Feast of Booths as an old Israelite New Year's festival. Through the cultic-mythic explanation of the so-called "Psalms of Enthronement" (Ps. 47; 93; 96–99) and a number of other psalms, Mowinckel reconstructed a feast of yhwh's enthronement which was celebrated every year at the time of the Feast of Booths (1922); from the structure of the Sinai pericope he derived the ritual of this celebration which centered around the reading of the law as the expression of the divine will and covenant between God and people (1927). British and Swedish scholars have interpreted the Israelite Feast of Booths as a New Year's festival by connecting it with a so-called "cultic pattern" which they suppose to have existed in the Ancient Near East. The object of the ritual in which the sacral king had a central part was the securing of life (Johnson, Widengren, and others). On the other hand, G. von Rad, going beyond Mowinckel, found the structure of the "feast of the renewal of the covenant" ("Bundeserneuerungsfest") in the Book of Deuteronomy and in Joshua 24 (in connection with Deut. 27). Because according to Deuteronomy 31:10–11 and Nehemiah 8 the law was read during the Feast of Booths, it has been concluded that this feast is identical with the Feast of Booths. As Mowinckel supposed the feast of enthronement, including the procession of the ark, to be the highlight of cultic life in Israel and the "Sitz im Leben" of most of the psalms and their literary forms, so A. Weiser maintained that the "feast of the covenant," including a cultic theophany of yhwh, was the highlight. H.J. Kraus assumed that a "feast of tents" had been celebrated as a nomadic forerunner of the Feast of Booths in a cultic camp around the tent sanctuary (possibly in Beer-Sheba), as a reminder of the march through the wilderness from Egypt to Palestine. For the pre-Exilic period, Kraus, referring to ii Samuel 6, 7 and Psalms 132, reconstructed a "royal Zion Feast" to be held on the first day of the Feast of Booths. This feast, held on the first day of the festival, which included a procession of the ark (cf. ii Sam. 6 and i Kings 8), celebrated the election of Jerusalem and of the Davidic dynasty. Under the influence of Deutero-Isaiah, this feast became a celebration of the beginning of the kingship of God over his people, and, thus, the Feast of Booths secondarily became a feast of yhwh's enthronement.
These theses have – to varying extents – influenced research, but all of them also called forth important objections. Nowhere in the Bible is it said that one of these subjects is always connected with the Feast of Booths. The feast of ingathering was celebrated, according to Exodus 23:16, "at the end [not at the beginning] of the year" (E. Kutsch, in: zaw, 83 (1971)). It was thought to be at the "beginning" of the year because it was dated on the 15th to the 21st of the seventh month, and the first day of this month – in the post-biblical period (rh 1:1, 2; but cf. already Lev. 23:24b, 25; Num. 29:1–6; Neh, 8:2) – became New Year's Day. The feast itself never was a New Year's feast; therefore it lacks any important equivalent in relation to Mesopotamian parallels. Further, the formula "yhwh malakh" (Ps. 93:1; 96:10; 97:1; cf. 47:9) does not mean "yhwh has become king" but "yhwh rules as king" (D. Michel, in: vt, 6 (1956), 40–68); it emphasizes God's kingship, but not an enthronement acted out in the cult. ii Samuel 6 and i Kings 8 report two different transfers of the ark (to the City of David, to the Temple), each of which took place only once, and therefore do not reflect a regularly held procession of the ark. A "feast of the covenant," or "feast of the renewal of the covenant," cannot have existed because berit in the Bible does not mean "covenant" (E. Kutsch, in: zaw, 79 (1967), 18–35), and because Israel did not interpret her relationship to yhwh as a "covenant" (E. Kutsch, in: Tuebinger Theologische Quartalschrift, 150 (1970), 299–320). Deuteronomy 31:10–11 prescribes a proclamation of the law before the people, which constitutes a statement of their commitment to yhwh (not a covenant), to take place – if at all – every seventh year on the Feast of Booths. After the Exile such an act could be dated to the first or second of the seventh month (Neh. 8:1ff.), to Pentecost (ii Chron. 15:10ff.; cf. Ex. 19:1), to the 24th of the seventh month (Neh. 10:1ff. in connection with 9:1), or the beginning of the first month (ii Chron. 29:10; cf. 29:3). Joshua 24:25 and ii Kings 11:17a; 23:3 do not give any fixed date. Such an act of commitment was at no time bound to a certain feast, therefore it was not bound to the Feast of Booths. Furthermore, it is impossible to derive (cf. Weiser) from Joshua 24 or the Psalms a connection between the commitment of the people and the proclamation of the divine salvatory acting ("Heilshandeln") as the contents of the Feast of Booths. Kraus wrongly presupposes that the "Tent of Meeting" and the Ark were jointly used in an early Israelite cult (according to pc) and that the "Tent of Meeting" stood at some time in Shiloh (i Sam. 1:7, 9, 24; 3:3, 15 against Joshua 18:1; 19:51 (both belonging to pc); i Sam. 2:22). On the other hand the basis of the "royal feast of Zion" (the parallelism between ii Sam. 6 and i Kings 8 (see above) and the traditional historical connection between ii Sam. 6 and 7) cannot be proved.
In the New Testament the Feast of Booths in John 7 is the background of Jesus' appearance in Jerusalem. The fact that according to 7:37, Jesus "on the last [i.e., on the seventh] day of the feast" calls the ones who thirst to come to him is connected with the custom of pouring water from the first to the seventh day of the feast that was common in the time of Jesus. On the other hand, no motives of the Feast of Booths are presupposed in Mark 9:2ff.
Sukkot in Rabbinic Literature
Two special observances are mentioned in the Book of Leviticus (Lev. 23:39–43): that the people should dwell in booths for seven days, so "that your generations may know that I made the Children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt," and that the people were to take on the first day "the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook" to "rejoice before the Lord." Rabbinic authorities named these the arba'ah minim, "the *four species" (of plant); the "fruit of goodly trees" is the citron (etrog); the "boughs of thick trees" are myrtle twigs (hadasim); the palm branch is the lulav; and the willows are aravot. In the Book of Nehemiah, it is said that from the days of Joshua to Nehemiah, the people had not dwelt in booths (Neh. 8:17), but in the same chapter it is stated: "Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths as it is written" (Neh. 8:15). There is no mention of olive branches in Leviticus and none of willows in Nehemiah. Moreover, from Nehemiah it would appear that the various plants were used to cover the booths (and this was, in fact, the interpretation of the *Sadducees) whereas in the rabbinic tradition, the command to dwell in booths and the command to "take" the four species are treated as two separate precepts. In Zechariah's vision all the nations of the world will come to Jerusalem in the new age to celebrate the festival of Sukkot (Zech. 14:16).
According to the rabbis, biblical law obliges every male Jew to take arba'ah minim in the hand on the first day of Sukkot (based on Lev. 23:40). The rabbis, however, understood the reference in the verse to "rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" to apply to the Temple, where the arba'ah minim had to be taken each day. After the destruction of the Temple, Johanan b. Zakkai ordained that wherever Jews celebrate Sukkot, the arba'ah minim should be taken in the hand for seven days in commemoration of the Temple (Suk. 3:12). The four species were to be held in the hand while Hallel (Ps. 113–8) is chanted and they were to be waved at the beginning of Psalm 118 and while reciting verse 25 of the Psalm (Suk. 3:9). The lulav was to be held in the right hand together with three hadasim and two aravot and the etrog in the left hand (Suk. 3:4). The lulav, the largest of the four species, gives its name to the four so that the benediction is: "Blessed art Thou… Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to take the lulav." (Suk. 46a; for laws concerning the sukkah, see *Sukkah.)
Rabbinic authorities mention a special ceremony of "water-libation" during the seven days of Sukkot (Suk. 4:9). The Sadducees rejected the ceremony because they could find no support for it in Scripture (Suk. 4:9 and 48b; Jos., Ant. 13:372). The special rites of "water-libation," accompanied by the playing of the flute, took place only on ḥol ha-mo'ed (except on the Sabbath), not on yom tov. The ceremony was known as Simḥat Bet ha-Sho'evah ("the rejoicing of the place of water-drawing"), based evidently on Isaiah 12:3 "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" (Suk. 5:1). There were said to be three huge golden candlesticks in the Temple court which were lit on these occasions "and there was not a courtyard in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light of the Bet ha-Sho'evah" (Suk. 5:2–3). "Men of piety and good works used to dance before them with burning torches in their hands, singing songs and praises" (Suk. 5:4). It was further said that whoever had not seen the Simḥat Bet ha-Sho'evah, had never witnessed real joy in his life (Suk. 5:1).
Laws and Customs of Sukkot
It is customary to use leaves or straw as the roof covering of the sukkah; the walls, however, may be of any material. The sukkah must be so well covered that there is more shade (i.e., covered space) than open space but the covering should not be so thick that even strong rain cannot penetrate. It must have at least three walls (the third need only be one handbreadth in width), and be beneath the open sky, not under a tree or inside a house. It should be decorated in accordance with the general rule that precepts be "adorned." On the first night of the festival, a person is obliged to eat at least the equivalent of an olive's bulk of bread in the sukkah but not during the remainder of the festival. If meals are eaten, they must be partaken of in the sukkah. In modern times, in colder regions, many do not sleep in the sukkah since the rules of sukkah do not apply where there is severe discomfort. The pious have heated sukkot so that they can fulfill the obligation of sleeping there. Not only is a person not obliged to sleep or eat in the sukkah when rain penetrates, but he is forbidden to do so, on the grounds that it is indelicate and presumptuous to insist on carrying out a religious duty from which there is exemption. It is customary to build a sukkah adjacent to the synagogue for the benefit of congregants who have no sukkah of their own. In some Reform congregations, a symbolic sukkah is erected in the synagogue itself, even though it has no validity as a sukkah in Jewish law. A custom, originating with the school of Lurianic Kabbalah in the 16th century, is to "invite" each day one of the biblical heroes to the sukkah. These *Ushpizin ("guests") are: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David; they correspond to the seven Sefirot of lovingkindness, power, beauty, victory, splendor, foundation, and sovereignty.
The lulav is held with the spine facing the holder. On the first day it is necessary for each person to take his own arba'ah minim, but on the other days of the festival they may be borrowed. Arba'ah minim purchased by the congregation can, however, be taken even on the first day, since each congregant has had a share in them. The arba'ah minim are waved while the Hallel is recited. They are waved first toward the east, then the south, the west, the north, above and below. Toward the end of the service in the synagogue, a scroll is taken from the Ark and the congregation walks in procession around the bimah holding the four species as a reminder of the processions around the altar in Temple times. In liturgy, Sukkot is referred to as zeman simḥatenu ("the season of our rejoicing").
The seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshana Rabba ("the Great Hoshana"); the name is taken from the word hoshana ("Save, I Pray") which is frequently used in the prayers of the day. The hoshana prayers for a good harvest in the year to come are recited during a procession seven times around the bimah after which five aravot bound together are beaten. In Temple times, aravot were carried around the altar seven times on this day (Suk. 4:5). In post-talmudic times, the day became a supplement to the *Day of Atonement, a special day of judgment on which God's decrees for the coming year are finalized. Consequently, it is the custom to spend the night of Hoshana Rabba in prayer and study, particularly of the Book of Deuteronomy.
"On the eighth day ye shall have a solemn assembly (aẓeret): ye shall do no manner of servile work" (Num. 29:35). The eighth day of Sukkot is treated by the rabbis as a separate festival, regel bifenei aẓmo. The Yizkor (Memorial service) and a special prayer for rain (Tefillat Geshem) are recited during *Musaf (in Israel before it), in the synagogue. The Book of Ecclesiastes is read in the synagogue on the intermediate Sabbath of Sukkot or, when there is no intermediate Sabbath, on this day. Among the reasons given for the reading are: Its melancholy nature which makes it appropriate reading for the autumn festival; and the verse: "Divide a portion into seven, yea, even into eight" (Eccles. 11:2) applied by the rabbis to the seven days of Sukkot and to this eighth day (see The Five *Scrolls).
The last day of the festival is *Simḥat Torah ("rejoicing in the Torah) which in Israel coincides with Shemini Aẓeret. On this day, the annual reading of the Torah from the scroll in the synagogue is concluded. Simḥat Torah is a post-talmudic festival, but was known in the geonic period. Over the years, a number of ceremonies have grown up around the day. The person called to the reading of the last portion of the Torah is known as Ḥatan Torah ("the bridegroom of Torah"). A new cycle of Torah reading is begun as soon as the old cycle is concluded. The person called to begin the new cycle is known asḤatan Bereshit ("the bridegroom of Genesis"). The "bridegrooms" invite their fellow-congregants to a party in honor of the day (see *Bridegroom of the Law). On Simḥat Torah eve, and again during the day, all the scrolls are taken from the Ark and carried in procession around the synagogue while songs of praise are chanted. In many communities it is the custom to dance with the scrolls.
Elongated receptacles for the lulav are traditionally made of knotted palm leaves; silver receptacles are also found, sometimes similar to the short-lived palm leaf holder, but they are comparatively late. The use of containers for the etrog is also late. These most frequently take the form of a rectangular box ranging in style from the simple to the baroque; there are others, more unusual, shaped like the fruit and usually featuring a stem, the reason being that the stem of the etrog must remain intact throughout the duration of the festival. In Eastern Europe the etrog was very often kept in a silver box originally intended to be used for some secular object such as sugar.
Despite its austere associations, the sukkah has in traditional practice always been richly decorated. Different fruits hang from its roof of foliage, and very often there are pictures and tapestries on the wall. Some of these pictures are called ushpizin.
Some sukkot are collapsible. One of the best known originates from Fischbach in southern Germany and dates from the early 19th century. It is now in the Israel Museum. The structure is complete with numbered boards and beams, and its walls are elaborately decorated with paintings depicting the city of Jerusalem, the Temple, the Western Wall, the Levites, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Elijah in the valley of Kerith, and a secular scene of a man going hunting while his wife waits for him outside their house.
On the last day of Sukkot, which is also Simḥat Torah, the Scrolls of the Law are carried around the bimah and the members of the congregation wave gaily decorated flags, which have constituted a very attractive form of folk art.
in the bible: P. Voltz, Das Neujahrfest Jahwes (1912); S. Mowinckel, Psalmenstudien, 2 (1922); idem, Le décalogue (1927); D.J. Bornstein, in: ej, 10 (1934), 681–6; G. von Rad, Das formgeschichtliche Problem des Hexateuch (1938); H. Riesenfeld, Jésus transfiguré (1947); A. Weiser, Die Psalmen (19503), 19636); H.J. Kraus, Die Koenigsherrschaft Gottes im Alten Testament … (1961); idem, Gottesdienst in Israel … (19622); A.R. Johnson, Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel (1955); G. Widengren, Sakrales Koenigtum im Alten Testament und im Judentum (1955); E. Kutsch, Das Herbstfest in Israel (1955); idem, in: Tuebinger Theologische Quartalschrift, 150 (1970), 299–320; E. Auerbach, in: vt, 8 (1958), 1–18; G.W. Mac-Rae, in: cbq, 22 (1960), 251–76; K.-H. Bernhardt, in: vts, 8 (1961); W. Michaelis, in: Theologisches Woerterbuch zum Neuen Testament, 7 (1964), 369–96; H. Cazelles, La Fête des tentes en Israel (1965), 32–44; H. Schauss, The Jewish Festivals (1938), s.v.; Y.T. Lewinsky (ed.), Sefer ha-Mo'adim – Sukkot, 4 (1952). general: J. Fabricant, A Guide to Succoth (1958); L. Finkelstein, The Pharisees, 1 (19623), 102–15; 2 (19623), 700–8; A. Yaari, Toledot Hag Simḥat Torah (1964); S.J. Zevin, Ha-Mo'adim ba-Halakhah (1967), 90–141.