From: jewishvirtuallibrary.org and chabad.org
Leviticus 23:34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD.”
Sukkot is a seven-day holiday that arrives during the Hebrew month of Tishrei. The holiday takes place 15 days after Rosh Hashanah, and five days after Yom Kippur. It is a drastic transition from one of the most solemn holidays in the Jewish calendar to one of the most joyous. The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshaana Rabbah (“Great Salvation”) and closes the period of Divine judgment begun on Rosh Hashanah.
Sukkot is also known as the Festival of Booths and the Feast of Tabernacles. It was to be an annual reminder of God’s provision during the 40 years of the Israelites’ wandering in the wilderness.
In Biblical times it was required that the Israelites would dwell in tabernacles, or temporary shelters, during the holiday and rejoice before the Lord.
In Leviticus, God told Moses to command the people:
You are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days… Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt (Lev. 23:40-43).
Like Passover and Shavu’ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Besides commemorating the forty-year period of wandering in the desert and living in temporary shelters, Sukkot is also a harvest festival, and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif, the Festival of Ingathering.
No work is permitted on the first and second days of the holiday.
And in celebration of the bounty of the Holy Land, on each day of the holiday it is mandatory to perform a waving ceremony with the ‘Four Species’, consisting of palm, myrtle, willow, and citron.
Today, in observant Jewish homes at the completion of Yom Kippur, temporary booths are constructed in yards and on patios. The booths are made with no fewer than three walls and intertwined with branches. The booths are decorated with colorful fruits and branches. Some Jewish families eat their meals in them and the most observant sleep in them.
The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah (“Great Salvation”). According to tradition, the verdict on each individual for the new year – which is written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur – is not handed down by the Heavenly Court until Hoshanah Rabbah.
Coming as it did at the completion of the harvest, the agricultural origin of Sukkot was a general thanksgiving to the LORD for the bounty of nature in the year that had passed.
Our American pilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, were deeply religious people. When they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for an appropriate way of celebrating and based their holiday in part on Sukkot.
The Feast of Tabernacles points to the Lord’s promise that He will once again “tabernacle” with His people when He returns to reign over the entire world.
The Bible speaks of the final judgment as a harvest. When Messiah sets up His Millennial (1000 year) reign to fulfill the Davidic Covenant, He will gather the remnant of Israel back to her land. Isaiah 27:12-13 describes this event as the harvesting of the Jewish people one by one.
“And it shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will thresh, From the channel of the River to the Brook of Egypt; And you will be gathered one by one, O you children of Israel.
So it shall be in that day: The great trumpet will be blown; They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria, And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt, And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.”