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    A Sukkot alphabet

    ANANEI KAVOD – “Clouds of glory” with which God protected the Israelites in the wilderness.

    ANI VAHO – “I and He”, a phrase in the prayers for Hoshana Rabbah (see below); probably a version of Ana HaShem, “Please, O Lord” (Psalm 118:25).

    ARAVOT – willow twigs: see arba’ah minim. Generally called weeping willow because of their sad look; also known as Babylonian willows: see Psalm 137:2.

    ARBA’AH MINIM – “Four Kinds (of plant)” – a lulav, an etrog, 3 hadassim and 2 aravot (see note on each one) taken during services in thanksgiving for the harvest; waved in all four directions and up and down to mark God’s presence. All are held together: “Israel can only be redeemed when they are united” (Yalkut Shim’oni 188a). Symbolising the diversity of a community, the etrog has taste and smell, the lulav taste but no smell, the myrtle smell but no taste, and the willow neither taste or smell. Standing for the unity of the human body, the etrog symbolises the heart, the lulav the spine, the myrtle the eyes and the willows the lips (Rosh to Suk. Chap. 3). (See also here and here.)

    B’TZILA D’MEHEMNUTA – “In the shadow of faith”, an expression for Divine protection.

    CHAG HE’ASIF – “Festival of Ingathering”, a Biblical name for Sukkot (Ex. 23:16, 34:22).

    CHOL HAMO’ED – intermediate days of the festival when business activities are kept to a minimum. Most people do not lay tefillin on Chol HaMo’ed.

    D’FANOT – “walls”: see “sukkah”. 4 walls are not essential; 3 or 2 and a half are acceptable so long as the structure can stand.

    ESROGIM NACH SUKKOS – Ashkenazi Hebrew/Yiddish phrase for “Etrogim after Sukkot”, i.e. something that comes too late.

    ETROG – citron: see arba’ah minim. Extra effort is needed to acquire a beautiful etrog. In some places an etrog was so rare and expensive that there would be only one for the whole community. (See also here and here.)

    HADAR – “splendid”; the etrog is called “fruit of a hadar tree” in the Torah.

    HADASSIM – willows of the brook: see arba’ah minim.

    HAKAFOT – circuits of the synagogue carrying arba’ah minim.

    HALLELpsalms said on festivals (Psalms 113-118).

    HE-CHAGthe festival: Talmudic name for Sukkot.

    HIDDUR MITZVAH – beautifying the commandment, e.g. with a handsome sukkah or lulav. Noy sukkah, “sukkah decoration”, includes fruit, flowers, pictures, texts, etc.

    HOSHA-NA – “Save, please”, liturgical refrain: see Psalm 118:25.

    HOSHANA RABBAH – “The Great Hoshana“, 7th day of Sukkot (Num. 29:32), marked with solemn prayers for forgiveness, reminiscent of Yom Kippur. A Mishnaic name is yom sh’vi’i shel aravah, “the 7th day of the willow”: see hoshanot. Pious people stay up on the previous night to study Torah, also customary on Erev Shavu’ot. (See also here.)

    HOSHANOT – popular name for willow twigs beaten on Hoshana Rabbah to symbolise shedding one’s sins.

    IS’RU CHAG – “Bind the festival offering” (Psalm 118:27): a name for the day after a festival.

    KOHELET – Ecclesiastes, read at the end of Sukkot. The cynicism of the book fits in to the autumnal mood of this time of year. (See also here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

    KOL M’VASSER V’OMER – “A voice calls and says”, a refrain on Hoshana Rabba.

    LEVIATHAN – a huge sea creature whose hide will cover the tent for a messianic feast where its flesh will be eaten.

    LULAV – palm branch: see arba’ah minim. Tall and straight, the lulav stands for righteousness and courage but not for egotism and pride.

    LULAV HA-GAZUL – ‘Stolen Lulav”, not to be used on Sukkot: in Lev. 23:40, “You shall take lachem (unto yourselves) the fruit of a goodly tree etc.”; lachem = shelachem, “your own”.

    NA’ANU’IM – “movements”, waving the arba’ah minim in the four directions of the compass plus up and down.

    NISSUCH HA-MAYIM – “Water Libation”, understood by the Pharisees as replacing the wine libation. When a Sadducee high priest showed his disdain for this ritual, the populace pelted him with etrogim.

    PITTOM – button-like protrusion on one end of an etrog. If the pittom is broken off, the etrog is no longer kosher, but kosher etrogim can also grow without a pittom.

    REGEL BIF’NEI ATZMO – “An independent festival”: rabbinic description of Sh’mini Atzeret (outside Israel, Simchat Torah is its 2nd day).

    S’CHACH – “Covering” (usually foliage) for the sukkah. It must grow from the ground, be detached from the soil (a trailing vine is not acceptable), and not be a manufactured article susceptible to ritual contamination. The usual s’chach is leaves or branches, though bamboo matting is often used. S’chach must not be so thick that the sun or stars cannot be seen, nor so thin that there is more light than shade. Last year’s s’chach may not be used unless it is shifted around a little.

    SHILO’ACH (“sent”) = SILO’AM – a fountain in a valley on the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem; the site of the water-drawing (see below). The root “to send” is because the fountain emits water.

    SH’MINI ATZERET – “8th day festival”: see regel bif’nei atzmo. There is a custom to eat in the sukkah on this day but without the sukkah benediction.

    SIMCHAT BET HA-SHO’EVAH – “Festival of the Water-Drawing”, celebration and carnival which was so exciting in 2nd Temple times that “Whoever did not see the joy of the water-drawing has never seen real joy” (Mishnah Sukkah 5:1).

    SIMCHAT TORAH – “Rejoicing of the Torah”, celebrating the conclusion and recommencing of the annual Torah readings (in Israel, combined with Sh’mini Atzeret).

    SUKKAH – “covering” (Lev. 23:42-43: symbolic of the portable dwellings of the Israelites in the wilderness). Though the term is usually translated “hut” or “booth”, the essential feature is the covering. The walls may be of any substance. A sukkah may be of any shape but must be big enough for one person sitting at a small table. Maximum height is 20 cubits (about 30 feet); minimum is 10 handbreadths. A sukkah should not be built under the overhanging branches of a tree or inside a building: see s’chach. A removable rainproof covering may be placed above the s’chach but must be taken off when the sukkah benediction is said. The obligation of sitting in the sukkah can be fulfilled in someone else’s sukkah; one may borrow but not steal a sukkah (Deut. 16:13 says that a sukkah must be l’cha, “yours”;borrowing is regarded as “yours”). (See also here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

    SUKKAT DAVID HA-NOFELET – “David’s fallen tabernacle” (Amos 9:11), the royal dynasty or the Temple which will be restored in messianic times.

    SUKKAT SHALOM – “Tent of peace”; the sukkah symbolises the prayer that the Divine protection of peace may cover all Israel and mankind.

    SUKKOT – “Huts, Booths, Tabernacles”, 7-day festival (Lev. 23:40) marked by the sukkah and the arba’ah minim. Sh’mini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are popularly but wrongly regarded as the 8th and (outside Israel) 9th days of Sukkot: see regel bif’nei atzmo. Both Temples were dedicated on Sukkot (I Kings 8, Ezra 3:1-5). The original Chanukah was an eight-day celebration postponed from Sukkot of that year (II Maccabees 10). (See also here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

    TA’ASEH V’LO MIN HE-ASUY – “Make (it) and not (use) what is made”: the sukkah must be specially made (Deut. 16:13). A ready-made sukkah may be used if a human being erects it; an old sukkah may be used if a human being moves the s’chach around.

    USHPIZIN – “Guests” (from Latin “hospes”, “lodging”) who visit the sukkah each evening – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David (though the sequence differs). The idea, from the Zohar, was promoted by the Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria, 16th cent. Many invite the wives of the guests: Sarah as well as Abraham, etc. There is a belief that the Ushpizin will not enter the sukkah unless hospitality is also extended to guests who need company, support and food.

    V’ZOT HA-B’RACHAH – “And This is the Blessing”; final section of the Torah (Deut. 33-34) read on Simchat Torah. Taking one year to read the Torah became the widespread usage by the 9th century, overtaking the alternative three-year cycle.

    WATER DRAWING – see Simchat Bet Ha-Sho’evah. According to the Mishnah, on Sukkot we are judged concerning water (RH 1:2), because this is the beginning of the wintry period in Israel and because water symbolises redemption (“You shall draw water in joy from the wells of salvation”: Isa. 12:3).

    YIZKOR/MAZKIR/HAZKARAT N’SHAMOT – memorial prayers on Sh’mini Atzeret.

    Z’CHUT AVOT – “Merit of the Patriarchs”, a liturgical theme. Jewish belief is that our destiny is created by our own deeds but the thought of our ancestors comes to our credit.

    Z’MAN SIMCHATENU – “Our time of joy”, a description of Sukkot deriving from Deut. 16:15, “You shall be extremely joyful”. Sukkot was more joyous than the other festivals in ancient times because it marked the successful end of the year’s crops. (See also here and here.)

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