SUNSET WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12: In a dramatic transition from the recent solemnity of Yom Kippur, Jewish families today begin the joyous, weeklong festival known as the Feast of Booths—or Sukkot. For one week, Jews remember the fragile living quarters their ancestors endured during 40 years in the desert by building their own booths and inhabiting them. (Learn more from the Jewish Virtual Library.)
In this reconnection with nature—recalling harvest seasons and thanksgiving—Jews build temporary shelters for Sukkot covered with leafy materials to form a loose roof. The goal is to see the night sky through the boughs. Since work is not permitted at the beginning of Sukkot, Jews use the time to relax with family and friends, eat in one another’s sukkahs and read the Torah.
Many families decorate their sukkahs with harvest vegetables such as corn—and some believe seven guests enter the sukkah throughout Sukkot: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David. (Get a Sukkot Study Guide, interactive tools and more at Chabad.org.)
The sukkah may seem like a simple concept, but that doesn’t mean the festival behind it is: Sukkot is often referred to as “the Feast of the Lord.” (Wikipedia has details.) Several noted historical events occurred during Sukkot. Customarily, observant Jews gather Four Species—etrog (a fruit), a palm branch, a myrtle branch and a willow branch—and use them to rejoice during Sukkot.
Many Jews travel at this time of year. For those staying home during Sukkot, the Green Prophet advises thinking of future harvest festivals by considering yearlong water conservation. Without water, the season of harvest and thanks would be much more bleak. (Get easy tips on how to conserve water at GreenProphet.com.)