Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the World, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the World, who chose us from all peoples and made us holy with Your commandments. You have graciously given us festive seasons for joy, especially this Feast of Sukkot, our festival of rejoicing: Blessed are You, Lord, who hallows Israel and the festivals.
2. HA LACHMA ANYA
This is the tabernacle in which our ancestors dwelt in the wilderness. All who yearn for world peace, come, join us in prayer that the tabernacle of peace be spread over all mankind.
This year the nations are divided; next year may all nations go up to Jerusalem for Sukkot and God’s Name be glorious in all the earth.
3. MAH NISHTANAH
How different this night is from all other nights!
On all other nights we may sit in strong, safe spacious houses – this night it must be a frail, cramped sukkah.
On all other nights we may feel secure in permanent homes – this night it must be in a temporary, portable abode.
On all other nights we may sit in houses where by day the sunlight exceeds the shadow – this night it must be in a sukkah where the shadow exceeds the light.
On all other nights we may sit surrounded by sophistication and comfort – on this night it must be by fruit, foliage and gifts of nature.
4. AVADIM HAYINU
We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and the Lord redeemed us and brought us through the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land. Dwelling for forty years in makeshift tabernacles, we were kept alive by His beneficent Providence.
Therefore, even if we are well-endowed and well-educated, it is our duty to recall the experiences of our ancestors, as it is written: “You shall dwell in tabernacles, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in tabernacles when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Lev. 23:43).
5. FIVE RABBIS
A tale is told of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Eliezer and sages of that time, that they were sitting at the festive Sukkot table discussing the tabernacles of our ancestors in the wilderness. Said Rabbi Akiva, “These were real tabernacles, physical and tangible”; but the view of Rabbi Eliezer was that they were metaphorical, made out of pillars of cloud to signify that God’s protection is ever with His people.
6. FOUR SONS
The selfish son: what does he say? “Why should I worry about others? I’m all right, Jack!” To him shall you say, “Go out of your secure, spacious home into the frail, cramped sukkah, and taste for yourself what it is to suffer without a proper roof over your head – then you will be moved to concern for others!”
The foolish son: what does he say? “Why should I think about tomorrow? My life is my own to enjoy today!” To him shall you say, “Sit in the temporary sukkah, ponder its lessons. Here learn that we have only a leasehold upon life, not a freehold: and the Divine Landlord will call you to account if you fail to care for His property!”
The frivolous son: what does he say? “Why should I be serious? Life is a big joke!” To him shall you say, “Spend time in the shady sukkah. Here you will discover that life is varied, sometimes sunny and sometimes in shady gloom, and one must have a balanced approach and be neither excessively morbid or over-frivolous!”
The son who is self-indulgent: what does he say? “Why should I not indulge my appetites and eat, drink and be merry?” Take an initiative, lead him away from pampered hedonism into the festival tabernacle with its foliage, flowers and fruit, there to learn enjoyment of the simple things, of pleasures in moderation.
7. YACHOL MEROSH CHODESH
It is possible that one should have sat in the sukkah in Nisan, the northern hemisphere month of spring when the children of Israel first lived in the tabernacles. But the Torah said, “In the seventh month”. This is because it is no hardship to sit in a sukkah in spring or summer; the mitzvah has meaning with the coming autumn as the days become shorter and colder.
8. RABBAN GAMLIEL
Rabban Gamliel said, He who has not taken four kinds of plant on Sukkot has not carried out his obligation, and these are they: lulav, etrog, hadassim and aravot – palm, citron, myrtle and willow.
These four plants, what do they symbolise?
The lulav has taste but no fragrance, as some people have learning but no piety. The etrog has taste and fragrance, as some having learning and piety also. The hadassim have fragrance but no taste, as some have piety without learning. The aravot have neither fragrance nor taste, as some have neither piety nor learning. All are taken together, to teach that a community is composed of many kinds of people.
Brought to its end, our sukkah ceremonial,
All its requirements now complete;
As we have merited to follow its ritual,
Thus may we ever its lessons repeat.
You Pure One, in Heaven sublime,
Raise up our people, a numberless throng;
Speedily lead them, soon in our time,
Dwelling, redeemed, in Zion, with song!