Monday, 1 October 2012

The Season of Our Rejoicing

Sukkot (in Hebrew)

...On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot, seven days for the L-RD. -Leviticus 23:34
Five days after the solemn holy day of Yom Kipper is the joyful Festival of Sukkot.
In fact, the morning after Yom Kipper (unless it is Shabbath) around the world, the sounds of hammers fills the air as Hebrews begin building projects, hurrying to get their booths up before on the 15th of Tishri.
We go from making peach with G-d and our fellowman to rejoicing, giving thanks for the blessing of the Creator.  Such is the joy of Sukkot is that it is commonly referred to in Jewish prayer and literature as Z'man Simchateinu Z'mn Simchateinu (in Hebrew), the Season of our Rejoicing.
Sukkot is the last of the  Shalosh R' galim or the three pilgrimage festivals. Like Passover and Shavu'ot, Sukkot has many layers: spiritual,  historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif Chag Ha-Asif (in Hebrew), the Festival of Ingathering. Spirituality, we are remind how temporal like is, that we are moral, moving from this life on earth to the next life, One with or without G-d.
The word "Sukkot" means "booths," and refers to the temporary dwellings that we are commanded to live in during this holiday in memory of the period of wandering.
Often translated "Feast of Tabernacles,"this translation is particularly misleading, because the word "tabernacle" in the Bible refers to the portable Sanctuary in the desert, a precursor to the Temple, which  is called in Hebrew "mishkan." The Hebrew word "sukkah" (plural: "sukkot") refers to the temporary booths that people lived in, not to the Tabernacle.
The celebration lasts for seven days. During this time we dwell in boothes. It is not uncommon for many to actually go camping for those seven days. No work is permitted on the first two days, treated like Shabbat. The last seven, work is permitted. But the joy remains. As long as the weather permits, we eat and fellowship in our handmade boothes. Amoung the joys (even commanded) is to invite others to come and dine with us, just as the tent flaps were open to the wander, so our dwelling is open.
O come and taste and see that the L-rd is good! This is the spirit behind the season of our rejoicing.
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