Sukkot - and its connection with the rain

Term Paper 2009 10 Pages

Jewish Studies







The Jewish Calendar of the Festive Days hews to the moon, therefor are there no fixed dates in the year. The Jewish Festive Year is characterised as on the Nature Year bounded and historically determined. Traditional events from the history of the people were dedicated to certain feasts. Thereby bring they the historical action of God to his people in mind. Every year hopes the people on new actions from God now and in the future. The Jewish Calendar is divided in 12 months: Tišri, Hešram, Kislew, Tebet, Šebat and Adar are part of the autumn, and Nisan, Tyyar, Sinan, Tammuz, Ab and Ellul are part of the spring. The Jewish Year began originally in autumn, the natural orbits of the moon form the basis of the year. The twelve months begin each with the appear of the crescent. Later the beginning of a year was installed of the first day of the new moon after the equinox in spring.1 All feasts begin with sunset, on the eve of the actual day.2

Sukkot is one of these feasts, it takes place in the month Tišri and in the following excerpt will be told of it and its connection with the rain.


A few days after the highest feast Jom Kipur is Sukkot celebrated, the Feast of Tabernacles. Sukkot is last of the three of the Feasts of Pilgrimage in the months Tišri. Pilgrimages were essential to the survival of Judaism. In the absence of synagogues and schools it was important to maintain physical contact between the people and the leadership of the Temple. Jerusalem was not only the religious and cultural capital of the nation but also its political center. The pilgrimages helped keep ancient traditions alive and also enhanced national solidarity.3 All of them refer to the history of the Jewish Community, remind the crucial experience of the people of Israel, of the exodus from Egypt.4 It is a feast of the national memory, it is about the special relationship of God to his people. A memory of the liberation of God from the bondage of the people. It looks back on the fourty years lasting journey through wilderness and the sorrow with that God had accompanied. 1

At Sukkot Salomo had adepted the temple which has symbolised the presence of God. The obviously ritual of the feast is the tabernacle, which gave him his name. A housing that gives not much protection against wind and rain. It must not be a constant building and has to build-on new every year. It remembers the instability of the human existence. This device is underlined by the reading from the book Kohelet, which is attributed to Salomo. Sukkot is also a harvest festival, Chag haKazir.5 Many Jews are sitting in their tabernacles and capture their daily meals there, their are those cottages recreated in whose the Israelits lived in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. Essential as decoration are palm leafs, citrus fruits (Etrogim), myrtle- and wicker branches.

After the actual feats day is Sukkot celebrated for another six half feast days (Chol haMo'ed). In this week are all schools closed and also some shops and companies, at least for half a day. Each day is half working day and half feast day.6 The last day of Sukkot is Hoshana Rabba due to the multiple prayers of Hoshana recited at the conclusion of the morning service. No feast is richer in mizwot as Sukkot. To the mizwot belong: the requirements of the Tora, building of a Sukka and living in it, the four species, the libation, the taking of the wicker branch (Arawa) on Hoschana Rabba („great help“)7 and the requirement: You shall cheer at your feast (Dwarim 16,14). The Jews want to achieve the sake of their Creator and to expiate their sins and the sins of the humanity.8

Long time ago, the people of the Israelites were farmers and shepherds. While the growing season, on the day they worked on the fields and in the night they came back to their houses. And during the harvest the fruits grew up and would rot if they would not picked up in time. Because there was no time to return to the houses, the farmers built tabernacles on the fields to rest and for protection. When the harvest was finished, all came back home, celebrated and were thankful that the harvest brought enough food for the following winter. So building a Sukka is a celebration of nature.9

One speciality of Sukkot are the four plants which were bound together to a feast bouquet: the glorious and good smelling Etrog (a citrus fruit), the beautiful, but smell-less Lulav (a date 2 palm branch), the modestly, but good smelling myrtle and the stream willow. Together they are a symbol for whole Israel, which consists of people who are both expert in Tora and perpetrate good doings as well as those who indicate one, and also of some who grace none of this. And they also represent different parts of the human body, the Etrog is like the heart, Hadas is like the eyes, Aravah is like the mouth and Lulav is like the tail. When all four species are together in devotion to God, so is every part of the body dedicated to God. All of the four species need rain to thrive and if they were gathered around one demonstrate the hope for blessings in the coming year.10 On each day of Sukkot, except for Shabath, is the bouquet taking in the hand, the blessing spoken and it is jogging three times in the six directions of the Sukka, that is to clarify the position of the human in the universe. The waving is demonstrativeof one's prayer to God to keep out damaging winds from any direction and harmful deposites of dew.11 At the end of the feast the dry branches of Sukkot were burned.12 The symbols of Sukkot, the Sukka and the bouquet, are both agrarian derivation. The Sukka was built in the older days on the field to protect against the midday heat, to celebrate and to sleep in them during the harvest.13 A Sukka is build of three or four walls and a roof (S'khakh) of growing plants. The walls may be of every material, they only have to be strong enough to stand normal wind. The walls have to be build before the roof is constructed. If there are two walls, the third one handwide (Tefach) wide and a door so the Sukka can be used. But four walls are better than three. The S'khakh can't be build of every material, it has to be herbal source, fresh from earth and it shouldn't be used for another purpose before. It may never be a commodity, an apparat or ritualistic tainted. Furthermore may the material not be eatable. The S'khakh has to be close enough to eliminate the sunlight from the Sukka. But not as close as you can, because there are stars at night that should be seen. During the days of Sukkot shouldn't the material of the Sukka be used for other purposes.14 Each Israelit has to build the Sukka of its own hands. It is customary to light the holiday candles in the Sukka and to remove them into the home after they are lit.15 While lasting the seven days of the feast there were all meals taken in the Sukka. It is laudable to decorate the Sukka with fruits, pictures and 3 also tapestries.

On Sukkot there aren't only the owners of the tabernacle celebrating in the Sukka, there are also guests. These are heavenly guests (Ushpizin) like Aharon, Moshe, King David or Josef. So the Israelites reinforce the awareness of the tremendous devotion to God and the deep contribution to humankind. Avraham demonstrated hospitality, sacrifice, humility, passion and loyalty, Aharon and Moshe exemplified intense dedication to God and David taught courage by establishing a kingship guided by the principles of the Torah. In the newest time there are also some female heavenly guests (Ushpizot) invited to the Sukka. They are selected as part of a pair out of men and women, so are for example Sarah and Avraham a pair as parents of the faith, Moshe and Mirjam as leaders of the freedom, Aharon and Deborah as harbingers of peace and David and Ruth as living legacies of Israel for the past, the present and the future. The leadership of the heavenly delegation changes every day. Avraham heads the group on the first day and the others so on until it is David's turn on the seventh day. Before these celestial guests can appear, they must be invited with the following words: „Let us invite our guests. Let us prepare the table. [...] Be seated guests, from on high, be seated!“16 One should rejoice on each of the seven days, and cheerfully welcome these guests to stay. All of the other days of the year, the heavenly guests are not able to descend to the lower world, this happens only in a Sukka. Therefore, everyone who fulfills the Mitzvah of the Sukka becomes a partner with God in the work of creation. No matter who are invited the house owners of the Sukka use the guests to try to become better people. It is said that those who welcome the heavenly guests into their Sukka will rejoice with them both in this world and in the next. They give them inspiration from their spiritual presence of hope, faithfulness and the pursuit of freedom.17 It is a good manner to invite also human guests to eat with in the Sukka and to give the heavenly guests pleasure. If there are no poor men found, should one support indigents or organistations which help them, so they can celebrate the feast joyfully in their own Sukkas. The house owner is sitting in the middle, to his right side the heavenly guests, to the left side the human guests and above him the presence of God.18

Sukkot is a feast of the inner unity of the jewish people. The Sukka symbolises the whole thing that engulf us. In its inside one is surrounded of the walls and the leafage of the roof.

Each Jew can enter the Sukka.


1 Karl-Heinrich Bieritz, Das Kirchenjahr: Feste, Gedenk- und Feiertage in Geschichte und Gegenwart, Verlag C. H. Beck 2001, 6. Ausgabe, hier: S. 42/43.

2 http://www.hagalil.com/judentum/feiertage/, Das jüdische Jahr, hier: Was ist eigentlich ein Feiertag?.

3 Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and historical background of Jewish customs and ceremonies, 1980, hier: S. 184.

4 http://www.hagalil.com/schweiz/israelit/sukkot-0.htm, Rabbiner Macel Marcus, Sukkoth, hier: Erinnerung an unsere gemeinsame Geschichte.

5 http://www.hagalil.com/schweiz/israelit/sukkot-0.htm, Rabbiner Macel Marcus, Sukkoth, hier: Erinnerung an unsere Wanderschaft.

6 http://www.bfg-bayern.de/ethik/Realschule/juedische_feiertage.htm#Sukkot, Jüdische Feier- und Festtage, hier: Sukkot.

7 Sol Scharfstein, Understanding Jewish Holidaysand Customs: Historical and Contemporary, KTAV Publishing House Hoboken 1999, hier: S. 43.

8 http://www.de.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5252/jewish/Die-Mizwot-des-Festes.htm, Sukkot Studium, Gebote und Traditionen, hier: Die Mizwot des Festes.

9 Judyth Saypol Groner & Madeline Wikler, All about Sukkot, Kar - Ben Copies Rockville 1998, hier: The festival of the harvest..

10 Paul Steinberg, Celebrating the Jewish Year: The Fall Holidays: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, The Jewish Publication Society Philadelphia 2007, hier: S. 125.

11 Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and historical background of Jewish customs and ceremonies, hier: S. 192.

12 Alan David Crown, The Samaritans, Gulde - Druck Tübingen 1989, hier: S. 688.

13 http://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/wibilex/das- bibellexikon/details/quelle/WIBI/referenz/37040///cache/04ff0df298/, Laubhüttenfest, hier: Sukkot, Name und Datum des Fest.

14 http://www.de.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5255/jewish/Das-Bauen-der-Sukka.htm, Die hohen Feiertage, hier: Sukkot, Das Bauen der Sukka.

15 Abraham P. Bloch, The Biblical and historical background of Jewish customs and ceremonies, hier: S. 196.

16 Howard Schwartz, Tree of souls: the mythology of Judaism, Oxford University Press New York 2004, hier: S. 299.

17 Paul Steinberg, Celebrating the Jewish Year, hier: S. 129/130.

18 http://www.de.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/5262/jewish/Gste.htm, Die hohen Feiertage, hier: Sukkot, Gäste.


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Title: Sukkot - and its connection with the rain