Introduction to Sukkot, Feast of Tabernacles (Booths)

This is a confusing holiday, since most English Bibles call it the Feast of Booths. Yet it is more popularly known as Tabernacles. In Hebrew it is Sukkot (soo-KOAT), or as Ashkenazi Jews refer to it Sukkas (SUH-kuss).

It is a seven-day holiday with an eighth day attached to it (and isn’t that confusing).

It begins Monday night, October 13, at sundown. Here is an excerpt from my book Feast which may give you some idea of the holiday and what we do on it. To see more of my Feast book, go here.

Over the years, we have built many kinds of booths for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. My first ones were made from 1 x 2 planks and drywall screws. Unfortunately, I’m no carpenter and they would fall over in a stiff breeze, but you don’t have to be an expert to make a sukkah or “booth” for the feast. It’s pretty basic—the sukkot needs to have three walls (or four if you are capable enough to add a doorway) but no roof.

Instead of a roof, our plan was to tie a net of twine. On top of the twine, our family planned to pile fresh-cut branches from the yard. Living in Georgia, we didn’t have the customary palm branches, but maple, oak, and beech looked very nice.

The rabbis say that you have to leave holes in the roof large enough to see the stars shining through. I remember laying on my back and peering through the web of green leaves at the first stars of the evening. Looking up at the sky, we could really sense the presence of God.

We put our dining table in the sukkah and decorated the walls with fruit hung on strings. To add to the ambiance, the kids cut fruit shapes out from paper and hung them. We decorated the table with our best tablecloth, candles, plates, and glasses.

From this setup, you can see how Sukkot is the blending of the sacred and the ordinary—it’s fine dining in the back yard. It may not compare to camping in booths around the temple thousands of years ago, but for our family, it continues to give us a sense of dining in God’s presence.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Derek's Writings, Holidays, Judaism, Messianic Jewish. Bookmark the permalink.

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