The Festival of Succot
The Jewish festival of Succot is in the autumn and is similar in many ways to the Christian Harvest Festival.
Sukkot, Succot or Sukkos is the Feast of Booths (Feast of Tabernacles). It is a biblical Jewish holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei (varies from late September to late October).
Succot is a Jewish festival. It lasts eight or nine days. Jews build a hut called a Succah; they stay in there and bring tables and chairs, even beds during the time. The Succot festival is actually thanking God for giving them, food, shelter, and safety.
It is a time to thank God for providing for them. It is also a time to remember the time that the Jewish people spent in flight from Egypt when they lived in the desert. To remember this time Jews build a succah – a hut often having a wooden frame and a roof of branches and leaves which they can see the stars through. It is decorated with fruit and candles. During the festival, Jews spend as much time as they can in their succah, they have meals, talk, tell stories and sing out there. If they live in a hot country then they will often sleep there.
There are generally four items used in the blessing at Succot: palm, a willow twig, myrtle and an etrog (citrus fruit) are bound together and waved at the blessing. The Jews say: The palm has taste but no smell. The etrog has taste and smell. The myrtle has a smell but no taste. The willow has no smell and no taste. They say: Taste represents learning and that smell represents good deeds or work.
Another explanation given for these symbols is in the earth, fire, air and water that make up our world. Etrog is yellow for fire, a palm grows up into the sky, it represents air, myrtle grows close to the ground symbolizing earth and willow growing beside water represents water.
The last day of the festival is always the Shabat (Jewish Sabbath) and has a special name, it is called the Simchat Torah. This is the day the yearly reading of the Torah scrolls is finished. The scrolls are carried around the synagogue in a very joyous, happy procession to show how much they rejoice in God’s commandments.
Last Day Readings
During the last day of the festival of Succot, the favourite readings are from the book of Ecclesiastes. It celebrates the end of one cycle and the start of a new, and ponders on the uncertainty of life.
For everything, there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to reap;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep , and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace.
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