What is Sukkot, the Jewish Festival of Cabins?

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

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

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

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If the Hebrews wandered for forty years, any other time of year could have been chosen. Moses Maimonides, an important Jewish philosopher of the 12th century.me century, considers, on the one hand, that in this period it is neither too hot nor too cold – an ideal climate to live in a hut – and, on the other hand, the exegete recalls that, in all the nations of the world, the great agricultural harvests are followed by festivities.

What is its agricultural importance?

Joy plays a central role in the festival of Sukkot, also called “the time of our rejoicing.” Originally, it was probably the peasant’s joy: “The party of the cabins you will celebrate for seven days, when you bring the products of your era and your press (…). You will celebrate these seven days in honor of the Lord your God, in the place that he chooses; for he will bless you, Jehovah your God, in all your income, in all the work of your hands. Be very happy” (Deuteronomy 15, 13-15).

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The joy of rejoicing increased even more on the eighth day, a feast like the first two of the feast. On this day called “closure” a prayer is said for rain. According to the Talmud, although the rain always ends up falling by virtue of the laws of nature, the moment of its fall can be affected by the behavior of men.

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