1. Rediscovering Sukkot
From the book of Nehemiah:
"And they found written in the Law, how that the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month; and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying:
(Neh. VIII, 14-17)
Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim."
2. An Unusual Sukkah
From the Talmud:
"If one erects his sukkah on the top of a wagon (though it is on the move) or on the deck of a ship (where it is exposed to gales), it is valid and they may go up into it on the festival. If he made it on the top of a tree, or on the back of a camel, it is valid, but they may not go up into it on the festival . . . .(Sukkah 2.3)
This is the general rule: whatever can stand by itself if the tree were taken away is valid, and they may go up into it on the festival.
3. Eat and be Merry
From the Talmud:
"Rabbi Eliezer said, A man is obliged to eat fourteen meals in the sukkah (during the seven days of the festival). One on each day and one on each night.(Sukkah 2.6)
The sages however say, there is no fixed number except on the first night of the festival alone (when one must eat a meal in the sukkah). R. Eliezer said in addition, If a man did not eat in the sukkah on the first night of the festival, he may make up for it on the last night of the festival."
4. Holy guests in the Sukkah
When a man sits in this abode of the shadow of faith, the Divine Presence spreads her wings over him from above and Abraham and five other righteous ones make their abode with him.
R. Abba said, "Abraham and five righteous ones (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Aaron) and David with them. Hence it is written:
'You (plural) shall live in booths seven days'(Leviticus 23.42)...
and a man should rejoice each day of the festival with these guests who abide with him."
R. Abba further pointed out that first it says "you shall live" and then "all citizens in Israel (they) shall live in booths" (Leviticus 23.42).
The first refers to the guests, and therefore Rab Hamnuna the Elder, when he entered the booth used to stand at the door inside and say,
"Let us invite the holy guests and prepare a table"
and he used to stand up and greet them, saying,
"You shall live in booths seven days. Sit, most exalted guests, sit; sit, guests of faith, sit."
He would then raise his hands in joy and say,
"Happy is our portion, happy is the portion of Israel, as it is written:
'the Lord's portion is His people'(Deuteronomy 32.9)"
and then he took his seat.
The second "live" refers to "all citizens in Israel"; for he who has a portion in the Holy Land and holy people sits in the shadow of faith to receive the guests so as to rejoice in this world and the next.
He must also gladden the poor, because the portion of those guests whom he invites must go to the poor . . . . R. Eleazar said, "The Torah does not demand of a man more than he can perform, as it says:
'Each with his own gift, according to the blessing that the Lord your God has bestowed upon you.'(Deuteronomy 16.17)
A man should not say, I will first satisfy myself with food and drink, and what is left I shall give to the poor, but the first of everything must be for the guests. And if he gladdens the guests and satisfies them, God rejoices with him."(Zohar 103b-104a3)
5. The Sayings of our Sages
"Whence do we know that great jubilation used to take place at the Water Libation?"
Rabbi Illa replied: Because it says (Isaiah XII, 3):
"`And ye shall draw water in joy.'"(Sukkah 48b)
The supply of water (for Eretz Israel) is ordained during Sukkot. Why did the Torah order the libation of water during the festival? Rabbi Judah in the name of Rabbi Illa explained that G-d told Israel:
`Make libation of water before Me during Sukkot, so that the rains of the year may be plentiful to you.'"(R. Hash. 16a)
6. Meditation on Entering the Sukkah
This meditation or introductory prayer is recited as one enters the sukkah, to invoke God's acceptance of the performance of this commandment.
Lord God, and God of our fathers, this command of dwelling in the Tabernacle we are fulfilling with reverence and love for the Divine unity of Thy holy name, blessed be Thou.
May it be Thy will that in Thy recognition of this Thou wilt set Thy Divine Presence among us and spread over us They Tabernacle of Peace. As the eagle stirs its nest, so mayest Thou in the empyrean o'er our heads strengthen us from the sublimity of Thy pure and hallowed glory.
For those who know hunger and thirst mayest Thou give food and drink that shall not fail. Implant in me, Thy servant, the desire to follow the tenor toward life.
"Wash me thoroughly from guilt and cleanse me from sin." I have gone forth from my home to this Tabernacle because I would walk firmly in the way of Thy commandments wherever they may take me.
Lord, pour out on me Thy great blessings and give me life, and when the time must come that I shall leave this world, may mine be the merit of dwelling in the cover of Thy protecting wings.
Yet may it be my lot to be sealed in the Book of Life on earth for many days to come, and living in the Holy Land in reverent service of Thee. Blessed evermore be the Lord, Amen. Amen.
7. A Sukkah Tale
Every year Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol invited many simpletons and ignoramuses to his sukkah.
When asked why he extended hospitality to such people, the sage replied,
"In the future world, where the righteous will dwell in the Tabernacle of Eternal Peace, I will also want to be among them. I fear that I may not be permitted to enter the Tabernacle, because it is unseemly that a lowly person like me can be on the same level as the righteous; therefore, I am establishing a just claim for myself. If the angels ask me, "How can you, an ignorant man, expect to be admitted into the Sukkat Shalom?" I will be able to reply, 'I welcomed simple people into my sukkah.'"
8. The Way of the Jews
The Duke of Mannheim once asked Rabbi Tzvi of Berlin, "What is the reason that children ask the 'Four Questions' on Passover and not on Sukkot? After all, on Sukkot you have more customs than on Passover, especially since you leave your permanent homes and live in temporary booths."
"Let me explain it to you," replied Rabbi Tzvi. "On Passover a child sees the family seated around a table with many tempting dishes, and they are freely relaxed in a way we Jews are not always permitted to enjoy. Therefore the child is surprised and asks the questions. But what does the little one see on Sukkot? The people of Israel leave their homes and sit outside without a roof over their heads. This is no surprise, for even a child knows that is the way for Jews in the Diaspora."
The materials in this file have been adapted from the "SUCCOT" folder written and produced by the former Publications Division of the Youth and Hechalutz Department, WZO and from "SUKKOT", a leaflet by the American Zionist Youth Foundation, WZO, New York.