What is Sukkot, the Jewish holiday of booths?

The Hebrew Bible asks the children of Israel “to live in huts for seven days” (Leviticus 23, 42-43). This commandment is at the origin of the Jewish festival of Sukkot, which runs until Sunday evening, October 16. The word “sukkah” means “hut” and its plural, “sukkot”, gave the name to this holiday.

It was once one of the three “pilgrimage” times, along with Passover and Pentecost. In ancient times, before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70, Jews went to Jerusalem on these occasions and brought sacrificial animals to the Temple.

If Easter marks the anniversary of the exodus from Egypt, and Pentecost that of the gift of the Torah, the festival of Sukkot, celebrated in early autumn, has a commemorative, agricultural and spiritual significance.

What historical event does Sukkot commemorate?

The fact of living for a week under simple branches reminds the Jewish people of forty years of wandering in the desert, under the protection of divine clouds, after the exodus from Egypt, the founding element of their identity. However, commentators have questioned the date chosen for this holiday, early autumn, the 15th of the month of Tishri, just after the solemn New Year holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

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If the Jews wandered for forty years, another time of the year might have been chosen. Moses Maimonides, great Jewish philosopher of the twelfth centuryAnd century, believes, on the one hand, that in this period it is neither too hot nor too cold – an ideal climate for living in a hut – and, on the other, the exegete recalls that, in all the nations of the world, large harvests agricultural festivities are followed by celebrations.

What is its agricultural significance?

Joy plays a central role in the Sukkot festival, also called “the time of our joy”. Originally it was probably the joy of the farmer: “You will celebrate the feast of booths for seven days, when you bring the products of your farmyard and your press (…). You shall celebrate these seven days in honor of the LORD your God in the place he chooses, for he will bless you, the LORD your God, in all your income, in all the toil of your hands. be very happy “ (Deuteronomy 15, 13-15).

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The joy of the celebrations increased further on the eighth day, a holiday like the first two of the feast. On this day called “closing” a prayer for rain is said. According to the Talmud, while the rain always ends up falling by virtue of the laws of nature, the timing of its fall can in fact be influenced by the behavior of men.

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