Succot: The Jewish Holiday
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Succot: The Jewish Holiday
After the Exodus from slavery in Egypt, the wandering Jews lived in tents
or booths, called Succots. They were pitched wherever they happened to stop for
the night. Today it is called the Succot the festival of booths remembering both
the ancient agricultural booths and those of the Exodus. The harvest festival of
thanksgiving, Succot, begins five days after Yom Kippur, and lasts for eight
days. The first two days are the most holy, during which most Jews do not work.
The families construct the booths and decorate it with branches, and leaves,
fruits, and other designs. The roof is covered lightly, so the stars and the sky
can still be seen. Most Jewish families eat all their meals in the Succot, while
some even sleep in them.
During the Succot festival, thanks are given for all growing plants by using
four plants which are symbolic of all the rest. These four plants also represent
the Jewish people. The Etrog, or the citrus fruit, stands for the people who are
educated in the Torah and who do good deeds. The Lulav, or branch of the date
palm, stands for the Jewish people who have knowledge but no good deeds. The
Hadas,or myrtle, symbolizes the people who do good deeds, but are not educated.
The Aravah, or willow, stands for the people who have no good deeds and no
education. These plants are carried around the synagogue in a procession while
prayers are recited for blessings on the land and fruit of Israel. In biblical
times, the willow, the palm, and the Etrog were used in decorating the Succot.
At the end of the Autum harvest, on the fifteenth day of Tishri
(September-October) Succot is celebrated. It is believed that the festival
originated with the ancient Canaanite celebration after the grape harvest at the
end of the annual dry season. During this time rites were performed to incourage
the rains. Boughs of fruit trees and evergreens were made into little booths
which the early Jewish farmers lived during the festival.
The last day of Succot is called Simhat Torah. It means the "rejoicing of
the Torah." On this day, the reading of the Torah is completed, and is then
immidiately begun again. This symbolizes the fact that the study of the Torah
has no beginning and no end. Children are given the honor of being called to
read the Torah along side their elders. Generally only adults are called up to
the Torah. In a series of seven processions around the synagogue,called Hakafot,
the rabbi leads the congregation carrying the Torah. The procession goes seven
times around in honor of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David.
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