The Festival We Forgot?!

Image:  Photo of sukkot on a Jerusalem street and apartment balcony. Photo by Yoninah.

(13) On the second day, the heads of the clans of all the people and the priests and Levites gathered to Ezra the scribe to study the words of the Teaching. (14)They found written in the Teaching, that the Eternal had commanded Moses, that the Israelite should dwell in booths during the festival of the seventh month, (15) and that they must announce and proclaim throughout all their towns and Jerusalem as follows: “Go out to the mountains and bring leafy branches of olive trees, pine trees, myrtles, palms, and [other] leafy trees, to make booths, as it is written.” (16) So the people went went out and brought them, and made themselves booths on their roofs, in their courtyard, in the courtyards of the House of God, in the square of the water gate, and in the square of the gate of Ephraim. (17) The whole community that returned from captivity made booths, and dwelt in the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day, Israelites had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing. (18) He read from the scroll of the Teaching of God each day, from first to the last day. The celebrated the festival seven days, and there was a solemn gathering on the eighth, as prescribed. – Nehemiah 8:13-18


What an amazing passage from the Book of Nehemiah! This action takes place in Jerusalem, after the Jews have returned from exile in Babylon. According to this, after the Israelites entered the land in the time of Joshua, they forgot to build the booths we call Sukkot.

Now, when they have RE-entered the Land, Ezra commands them to revive the practice, which we keep until this very day.

Have you ever built a sukkah, or had the opportunity to eat or sleep in one? Will you build a sukkah this year?

Are there ancient Jewish practices you’d like to revive? Which ones, and why?

Published by


Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

10 thoughts on “The Festival We Forgot?!”

  1. Sukkot is actually my family’s favorite holiday. In fact my older daughter (now an adult) requested having her Bat Mitzvah on Sukkot so she could recite the blessings during the service.

    We built a sukkah for many, many years when the kids were young. Ate in it any night it didn’t rain. They slept in it a few times.

    1. Sukkot really is a part of your family’s memories, isn’t it? Do you ever miss having a sukkah, or do you go somewhere else to sit in the sukkah now?

  2. Echoing OrganizingExpert to say that Sukkot was my favorite holiday while growing up. Decades later I have vivid memories of it meaning the official beginning of the new year even more so than Rosh Hashanah. We didn’t build one at home but our Reform movement synagogue had one and I remember hanging out in it. Many years later, a friend who went the Chabad route, built one adjacent to her home and I shared a meal there with her. I recently moved into a house that already has the makings of a sukkah, so I’m going to search for an epically humongous lemon!

  3. Feast of Booths, Feast of Tabernacles – the concept is the temporary dwelling. Would not a hotel room or suite serve as the “temporary dwelling” in this day and age? And then we can get on with the more serious business of daily teachings. What do you think?

    1. Sorry to ask, rockywritr, but what do you mean by “the more serious business of daily teachings”?

      1. To me, the teachings are most important. Of course, the time with family and food is memorable, but the teachings and reciting of our historical knowledge is both solemn and joyful. 😃

    2. What an interesting idea – you are right, today a hotel room has some of the aspects of a sukkah. Or maybe an RV?

      I have enjoyed studying the halakhah of Sukkot by building a sukkah and being informed by the texts – it’s also fun to study IN the sukkah, provided it isn’t raining.

      I agree that daily Torah study is important. I think that one of the benefits of hands-on mitzvot are that they make me look at the text differently than if I look only with my intellect. You have given me an idea for a blog post about the sukkah and the halakhah — thanks!

  4. Not Jewish, but I built one the last couple of years and have celebrated every year for many years. I was able to visit with a group in another state some of whom put up tents, some RV’s and some in the campground facilities as “temporary.” Tabernacles is always an incredibly blessed and fun time! Always special!

Leave a Reply