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Thursday, October 13, 2011

'Book a' Sukkah for Sukkot

Sukkot in Jerusalem (Photo by Yoninah)

In Latin, the word tabernaculum means “tent, booth, shed.”
Wiktionary further traces this term back to the Hebrew Bible,
where the word “tabernacle” is used like this:  …So Moses
finished the work.  Then a cloud covered the tent of the
congregation, and the glory of the LORD filled the
tabernacle…  And when the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward
in all their journeys…  For the cloud of the LORD was
upon the tabernacle by day, and fire was on it by night,
in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys…  (Exodus 40:33-38 KJV) tells us that the joyous holiday Sukkot – coming five days after the solemn Yom Kippur - is not
only a harvest festival, but also a commemoration of the 40-year Exodus period during which the Israelites
were living in “booths” (“temporary dwellings”).  Therefore, during the seven days of Sukkot, Jews are instructed to “dwell in booths” (Leviticus 23:42 RSV). also importantly points out that these “booths” are not to be confused with the aforementioned “tabernacle” - since that “tabernacle” refers only to “the portable sanctuary in the desert, a precursor to the Temple,” and not to “the temporary booths that people lived in.”  According to, the translation that is often  used for Sukkot – “Feast of
Tabernacles” – is therefore a misnomer.

The word Sukkot (pronounced in Hebrew as “Sue COAT,” or in Yiddish to rhyme with “BOOK us”) is actually the plural of the Hebrew word Sukkah (pronounced in Hebrew as “Sue-KAH,” or in Yiddish to rhyme with “Book-a.”  Both refer to these “temporary booths” that the Israelites lived in.  Nowadays, the commandment to “dwell in booths” is fulfilled by eating all meals inside the sukkah.  However, spending more time within the sukkah is preferable, including sleeping there if possible.

“Booking a” sukkah for Sukkot often involves building your own. points out that this can be as
much fun as building a backyard fort to camp in, and then adds:  It is a sad commentary on modern American Judaism that most of the assimilated Jews who complain about being deprived of the fun of having and decorating a Christmas tree have never even heard of Sukkot.


Copyright October 13, 2011 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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