The Festival of the Tabernacles

Sukkot is a Jewish festival that marks the gathering of the autumn harvest. It recalls God’s protection of the Israelites during their wandering in the wilderness, when they lived in temporary dwellings, over a long period described as forty years.

The festival’s origin can be seen in Leviticus (23) “Ye shall dwell in booths seven days…” Many families build a little hut called a sukkah in their garden or on their balconies to remind them of God’s protection during those historic wanderings. The roof is made of branches and leaves, with sufficient spaces for the stars to be seen as a symbol of God’s continuing protection. The sukkah is decorated with leaves and fruit and, here, meals are taken during the seven-day festival. The first two days are the most important. Schools are closed, no ordinary work is done and synagogue services are longer and more colourful. After that, normal working days are resumed, but families continue to sit and eat in the sukkah to say special prayers.

During the festival, blessings are made to God with a symbolic selection of leaves and fruit known as the Four Species:

Lulav- the shoot of a young palm tree
Etrog- a citron (large lemon)
Hadas- myrtle leaves
Arava- willow leaves

During the synagogue service, the Torah, the holy scroll containing the law, or teaching, of the Jews, is taken out of the Ark and carried in procession to the accompaniment of singing and dancing.

The children are going to be introduced to the festival at circle time, shown a small sukkah, and a Jewish hat called the kippah, and they are going to act out the story behind the festival: how Moses lead his people from Egypt to the promised land. During the week, they will make decorations for our large sukkah: paper-chains and water-colour painted fruits. Our large sukkah was painted by “Lunch Bunch” children, then set up in the classroom. For creative activities, the children will decorate our sukkah: the morning children will stick different coloured materials on to CDs, and the afternoon children will apple-print on to apple-shaped card.

Home ideas:

Make a sukkah
Explore vegetables and make a delicious harvest meal (e.g. vegetable tagine with couscous)