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The Yom Tov of Sukkot (rhymes with "Sue COAT," and in Yiddish, "Sukkos" rhymes with "BOOK us,") begins at sundown of the 14th day of Tishrei, five days after Yom Kippur. And what a change it is. We go from the most solemn day of the year to one of the most joyous times.

This year (2021), Sukkot, also called Zman Simchateinu, (the time of our gladness), starts at sundown, Monday, September 20, and lasts for seven days. Sukkot is immediately followed by two separate Yomim Tovim (holidays), Shemini Atzeret on Tuesday, September 28, and Simchat Torah on Wednesday, September 29, but we commonly think of them as part of Sukkot.

In Eretz Yisroel, The Yom Tov of Sukkot lasts for seven days followed by one separate Yom Tov, - Shemini Atzeret onTuesday, September 28.


The Yom Tov of Sukkot is mentioned in Vayikra, Parshat Emor 23:34, in Bamidbar, Parshat Pinchos 29:12, and in Devarim, Parshat Re'eh 16:13. No work is permitted on the first and second days of the Yom Tov, and on the last days, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

The "work" prohibited on Sukkot is the same as that prohibited on Shabbat, except that cooking, baking, transferring fire and carrying, all of which are forbidden on Shabbat, are permitted on Sukkot. When Sukkot falls on Shabbat, all bets are off, and all Shabbat restrictions must be observed.

Work is permitted on the intermediate days, days 3 thru 7 (except Shabbat of course). The intermediate days are called Chol Ha-Mo'ed. In Eretz Yisroel, The first and last day of the Yom Tov, are days on which no work is permitted. Work is permitted on the intermediate days, days 2 thru 7 (except Shabbat of course).



When Sukkot falls on Thursday and Friday, in order to be able to cook on Friday for Shabbat, an Eruv Tavshilin is made.

It is usually forbidden to prepare food on Yom Tov for another day, even for the Shabbat. However, if someone began preparing food for Shabbat before Yom Tov, it is permitted to continue on Friday (even though it is Yom Tov). This is known as 'Eruv Tavshilin,' literally, 'mingling of cooked foods,' since these foods become part of the Shabbat food, whose preparation has already begun BEFORE the Yom Tov started, and may therefore be continued on Friday.

Some food (a matzah and a cooked food, such as an egg, fish or meat) is prepared on the afternoon before Yom Tov (Wednesday), and set aside to be eaten on Shabbat. When we set this food aside on Wednesday afternoon, we recite the following blessing:

"Blessed are You, Hashem, our God, King of the universe, Who has made us holy with His mitzvot, and commanded us about the mitzvah of Eruv.'

We now explain why we are making an Eruv, so we say the following paragraph. Someone who does not understand the text should recite it in English:

"With this Eruv, may we be allowed to bake, to cook, to fry, to insulate, to light a flame, to prepare for, and to do anything needed on Yom Tov for the sake of Shabbat [for ourselves and for all the Jews who live in this city]."


NOTE: This is just a very basic introduction. There are many complex laws involved in the building of a Sukkah, and a competent authority should be consulted with any questions.

"Sukkot" means "booths," and refers to the temporary dwellings that Hashem commands us to live in during this Yom Tov ( see Vayikra, Parshat Emor 23:42-43) as our ancestors, the Bnei Yisroel wandered through the desert for forty years, living in temporary shelters.

A Sukkah should have four walls. The side of a building can be considered a wall. The walls must be made from any material that will withstand an ordinary wind. A commonly used material here in the United States is canvas, tied or nailed down so that it does not flap in the wind. The material may be borrowed, but not stolen. The area of the Sukkah can be any size, so long as it is large enough for you to fulfill the Mitzvah of dwelling in it (the minimum size is approx. 23-28 inches by 23-28 inches.

The covering (roof) of the Sukkah, or the S'chach (literally, covering) must be a material that grew from the earth, was cut off from the earth, and not susceptible to Tumah (contamination). This includes tree branches, corn stalks, bamboo reeds, and sticks. But metals, leather, growing trees and foodstuffs are excluded. S'chach must be left loose, not bundled together or tied down. S'chach must be placed sparsely enough that rain can get in, and preferably sparsely enough that the stars can be seen, but not so sparsely that there is more sunlight than shade, and not more than ten inches open at any point. The S'chach must be put on last.

It is a Mitzvah, and of course, a lot of fun, decorating the Sukkah. A favorite decoration is drawings or charts of the Ushpizin (guests), the seven eminent biblical guests we invite to honor us by visiting our Sukkah. They are: Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, Moshe, Aharon, Yosaif and Dovid.

Others hang live fruit like apples and grapes from the S'chach. (Sit under them at your own risk). Bees like to visit the Sukkah too. Honor the Sukkah by bringing in your finest utensils, but never any pots and pans. A Sukkah must be treated with respect.


The Mitzvah to "dwell" in a Sukkah means to live there, and includes sleeping in the Sukkah. The Talmud states, Tayshvu K'ain Taduru. ("Dwell in the Sukkah as you would live in your home.") However, if the weather, climate, and one's health precludes sleeping in the Sukkah, one can fulfill the Mitzvah by simply eating all of one's meals there. One should however, make an effort to live in the Sukkah as much as possible, including sleeping in it.






For sequence
of Lulav wavings, click here.

The Torah commands us to "take for yourselves on the first day (of the Sukkot Yom Tov),.... The Four Species." (Except when Sukkot Falls on Shabbat).

The Arba Minim (Four Species) are the:

  • Etrog (citron),
  • Lulav (a date palm branch),
  • three Hadassim (myrtle twigs), and
  • two Aravot (willow twigs).

We are commanded to take these four plants and use them to "rejoice before Hashem." The three branches are bound together and referred to collectively as the Lulav.

The etrog is held in the left and the Lulav in the right hand. With these four species in hand, one recites a Bracha (blessing) and waves the species in all six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down, symbolizing the fact that Hashem is everywhere).
For sequence of Lulav wavings, click here.


The four species are also held during the Hallel, a special prayer in the morning Yom Tov services, and are held during Hoshanot, a procession around the Bimah (the Table from where the Torah is read) each day during the Yom Tov. (Except on Shabbat).

These Hoshanot processions were made around the Mizbayach (Altar) of the Bait Hamikdash in Yerushalayim. The processions are called Hoshanot, because while the procession is made, we recite a prayer with the refrain, "Hosha Na!" (please help us!). On the seventh day of Sukkot, seven circuits are made. For this reason, the seventh day of Sukkot is known as Hoshanah Rabba (the great Hoshana).



The evening of the seventh day of Sukkot, (Hoshanah Rabba), starts the Yom Tov called Shemini Atzeret. This year (2021), Shemini Atzeret, starts at sundown, Monday, September 27, Tishrei 21.

In Eretz Yisroel, where Shemini Atzeret is only one day, (Tuesday, September 28, 2021, Tishrei 22), it is also the Yom Tov of Simchat Torah. Outside of Eretz Yisroel, it is the second day of Shemini Atzeret, (Wednesday, September 29, 2021, Tishrei 23), that is the Yom Tov of Simchat Torah.
As mentioned earlier, these Yomim Tovim (holidays) are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot, but that is not so; Shemini Atzeret is a Yom Tov in its own right and does not involve the special observances of Sukkot. (the four species and Sukkah).

Shemini Atzeret literally means "the assembly of the eighth (day)." Rabbinic literature explains the Yom Tov this way: Hashem is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed Himself so much that He asks us to stay another day.


The last day of Yom Tov - Simchat Torah   "(Rejoicing in the Torah)" is the time we complete the annual cycle of weekly Torah Parsha readings. We read the last Torah portion, Devarim, Parshat V'zot Habracha, and then proceed immediately to the first Parsha of Bereishit, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, which never ends.

Torah DanceThis completion of the readings is a time of great celebration for all ages. There are processions called Hakafot around the synagogue carrying Torahs and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing. Children come to Shul with their own toy torahs and/or flags, and help celebrate by dancing with their fathers.

As many people as possible are given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll in these Hakafot. For the reading of Parshat Vzot Habracha, every male (including boys under Bar Mitzvah age), are called to the Torah for an Aliyah.

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