DAYS: A Spiritual Guide to the High Holidays
Now, we are ready to celebrate. Now we are ready
to unleash all the energy of Tishrei into a celebration
of joy and unity on Sukkot.
Sukkot (Festival of Booths) is a
name for a period of time beginning on the night of the 14th
of Tishrei and officially ending on the 21st
of Tishrei (but really extending until the 23rd)
which is best known for its joy.
During this time, we dwell in little huts (or
booths) with a roof of palm fronds, branches, reeds, or bamboo
in which we are eat all our meals and conduct all the activities
of the day which we regularly would do at home.
These huts remind us of our total dependency
on G-dthat our seemingly sturdy man-made shelters are
nothing in the absence of His care. These huts also remind
us of the Clouds of Glory which hovered over and
protected the Israelites as they wandered in the desert on
the way to the Land of Israel.
During this time, we also have the custom to
wave in six directions (after having pronounced the proper
blessing) the four kindsnamely, three myrtle
branches (hadassim), two willow twigs (aravot),
a palm frond (lulav) and a citron (etrog).
These four kinds remind us of the
four kinds of people who comprise and are essential to the
Nation of Israel. (See the essay for the 13th
of Tishrei for more on this subject).
During this time, we also observe the festivities
~ Simchat Beit HaShoeva (Happiness of
the House of Water Drawing) when we commemorate with
great joy and celebration the ceremony of water libations
in the Temple.
~ Hoshana Rabba (the day of Great Salvation
when the verdict written on Rosh Hashana and sealed on Yom
Kippur, is made final). We recite the complete Hoshanot, prayers
in which the word hosha-na (save us please)
is repeated over and over.
~ Shemini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Assembly)
an extra day added after the seven days of Sukkot when we
celebrate alone with G-d because we and G-d cannot bear to
say goodbye after the long holiday season. It
is also the day when the messengers go out to deliver the
judgement issued on the High Holidays.
~ Simchat Torah (Happiness of/with Torah)
when we dance with the Torah in our arms, celebrating the
second tablets that we received on Yom Kippur, as we finish
reading the last chapter of Deuteronomy and we begin anew
with the first chapter of Genesis.
EVEN MORE THAN THAT
With all that happening, there is
even more to Sukkot.
It is a holiday when we celebrate
the unity of the Jewish people and the unity of the people
all over the world. It is a holiday when we integrate the
awe of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur into our livesby
bridging the Divine energies of makif (surrounding
light) and pnimi (internal light).
The special joy of Sukkot derives from its coinciding
with the appearance of the full moon in the middle
of Tishrei. Rosh Hashana, which began Tishrei,
coincided with the birth of the new moon. Sukkot, when the
moon is fully visible, represents the revelation of what was
hidden and concealed on Rosh Hashana.
Revelation makes us joyful. There is no
greater joy than the resolution of doubt, says the Talmud.
Before the revelation we might have possessed all the ingredients
of happiness, but without clear vision of how to direct our
potential, we could not experience true joy. Sukkot is the
time of our rejoicing because it brings with it the
full revelation of what we have experienced and achieved during
the first half of the month of Tishrei.
On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we touched base
with the very quintessence of our souls and bonded with G-d.
In those Days of Awe we crowned G-d the King of the Universe,
actualized the power of teshuvah to transform the past
and invigorate the future, and drew forth from heaven: life,
sustenance, and well-being for the year to come.
But the trepidation in standing before the Divine
throne eclipsed the joy we felt. On Sukkot, the veil of trepidation
recedes and the Days of Awe erupt into a week-long Festival
of Joya joy that reaches its climax in the celebrations
of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
Tishrei 15, 1st day Sukkot
MARCH OF CONQUEST
Earlier (on Tishrei 13) we examined the
meaning of the four kindsmyrtle branches
(hadassim), willow twigs (aravot), the palm
frond (lulav) and the citron (etrog)which
we bind together and then wave in six directions every day
during Sukkot week. Another way of understanding the four
kinds is to compare them to the human body:
~ the citron resembles, in its shape, the heart,
the driving force behind all our actions
~ the palm frond resembles the spine, which
holds the body together and creates balance without which
we would be unable to move
~ the myrtle leaves resemble, in their almond-shape,
the eyes with which we behold G-ds world
~ the willow leaves resemble the lips, with
which we give expression to our thoughts and feelings
By holding these four together, we show that
a person should devote all of his or her strengths and capacities
to the service of G-d.
During the recitation of Hallel, the
psalms of praise we recite on holidays, these four kinds
are held together and waved in six different directions of
space (south, north, east, up, down, west) for a total of
eighteen movementsthree times to and fro in each of
the six directions. These movements manifest the unity of
the four kindsand the Divine unityin
all the parameters of space in the entire universe, which
it is our responsibility to elevate.
After we raise the four kinds upwards
we then lower the bundle somewhat earthwards before bringing
it back to touch the chest, suggesting drawing Divine light
downward into this world. When we lower the four kinds
down, we first extend it somewhat upwards before bringing
it back, suggesting elevating worldliness heavenward.
Following Hallel, on each day of Sukkot,
we recite Hoshanot, prayers in which the word hosha-na
(save us please) is repeated over and over. As
we do so, we circle the platform (bimah) where the
Torah is read.
The circling is a march of conquest, compared
to the circling of the city of Jericho in order to conquer
the city. We march with the four kinds, armed
with our spiritual arsenal resolute to fight and win any battle.
The honored guest for the first day of Sukkot
is Abraham. (See explanation for Erev Sukkot.) Abraham
represents loving-kindness (chesed). He blesses us
with the words from Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 58:14): I
will take pleasure with G-d. This is the theme to focus
on today: love, kindness, and bringing pleasure to each other.
And you shall take for you on the first
day, the fruit of a beautiful tree and branches of date palms,
and twigs of the plaited tree, and willows of the brook, and
you shall rejoice before G-d, seven days. (Leviticus
First day implies a new beginning:
After we have completely wiped clean the slate of the past
year, the first day of Sukkot begins a new year of accounting
Laws & Customs:
Continue to eat all your meals in the sukkah
Bless and wave the four kinds
Celebrate with great joy
Each morning of Sukkot we take the four
kinds make a blessing on them, preferably in the sukkah
in the morning before prayers. Two blessings are said the
first day; on subsequent days the second blessing, Shehecheyanu,
is omitted: Blessed Are You, O G-d, King of the Universe,
who sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us
to raise the lulav.
Blessed are You, O G-d, King of the Universe,
Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this
After morning (Shacharit) prayers, Hallel
(the special hymn of praise to G-d) is recited during
which we perform the mitzvah of naanuim (movements)waving
of the four kinds. This is done on each day of
Sukkot (except Shabbat when the "four kinds" are
not taken; Shabbat compensates for the energy of this mitzvah).
For the Torah reading of every day of Sukkot,
two Torah scrolls are taken out. In the first we read the
portion about holidays in Leviticus (11:26-23:44). In the
second scroll we read for Maftir, the portion about
Sukkot in Numbers (29:12-16).
The Haftorah is the last chapter of the Book
of Zechariah. It discusses the transformation of the world
and its nations in the End of Days. This Haftorah identifies
Sukkot as the time when the ultimate redemption of the world
will take place. An essential part of this redemption will
be the gathering of all of the nations of the world in Jerusalem
where all of the nations will announce their acknowledgment
On the second night of Sukkot a special celebration
began in the Temple, called Simchat Beit Hashoeva, the great
joyous celebration that took place nightly when they drew
water to pour on the altar. It is therefore customary to celebrate
every night of Sukkot with dance and song. (See tomorrow).
 Talmud, Sukkah 28b; Rambam, Laws of Sukkah
6:5; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 639:1. This also defines
when a person is not obligated to do something in
the sukkah: one is not obligated to eat or sleep
in the sukkah when, under similar conditions, one
would not do so in ones own home (Talmud, ibid.; Shulchan
Aruch, ibid., subsections 2 and 5).
 The four species are like spiritual weapons
which we use to conquer and sublimate the world. (Midrash
Rabba Vayikra, 30:2). See Tishrei 18, facts.