Sukkot: Sukkot is a joyful celebration of the fall harvest that also commemorates the time our Israelite ancestors spent in the Sinai wilderness.
Sukkot means “booths,” to call attention to a central feature of the holiday: We eat our meals outside in a makeshift booth called a Sukkah.
Another symbol of the holiday consists of the lulav and etrog. For this, we join palm fronds with willow and myrtle branches, along with an etrog, a citron. We join these disparate elements together to represent both the strengthening of our communities when we come together, and the inner wholeness each of us can achieve.
The holiday culminates in a special celebration on Hoshanna Rabbah, the seventh day of Sukkot. In many communities, this day not only celebrates the culmination of joy, but represents an end to the High Holy Days.
At CAH, we hold special services on the first evening and first morning of Sukkot, with a joyful, musical Hallel (psalms of joyous praise) and other holiday singing, special readings, marching around the synagogue with the lulav and etrog, and more
Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah:
The Sukkot holidays have a two-day conclusion. The first day is Shemini Atzeret. On this day, we recite Yizkor (memorial service) for our deceased loved ones, chant Geshem (to inaugurate the rainy season in Israel), and bid farewell to our Sukkah. At CAH we have developed our own special Yizkor service, in addition to Hallel, singing, study and more.
The second day is Simchat Torah. On this day we formally conclude the reading of the Torah by finishing the book of דברים, Deuteronomy. Yet we also emphasize that we always have more to glean from our Torah by also beginning the cycle of Torah readings with בראשית, Genesis. Before these special readings, we take out all the Torah scrolls and sing and dance with them, making seven circuits around the synagogue. This most joyous end to the fall holidays is replete with refreshments, singing, special readings, and more.