Immediately following the awesome days of Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur, we prepare for the joyous exuberance of Sukkot - the "Season of our Rejoicing."
After leaving Egypt, during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the Jewish people were surrounded by protective "clouds of glory." In commemoration and to enhance our awareness of G-d's all-embracing love and protection, we are commanded, "In Sukkahs (booths) you shall dwell, seven days" (Leviticus 23:42).
Eating festive meals and spending time in the outdoor Sukkah is a delightful and unique religious experience. The Sukkah is the only Mitzvah in which we are completely surrounded, from head to toe, by the Mitzvah itself -- enveloped, as it were, in the divine presence.
Another special mitzvah of Sukkot is the shaking together of the "Four Species" -- the etrog (citron), lulav (palm branch), three hadassim (myrtle branches), and two arovot (willow branches).
Each day of Sukkot (except the Sabbath), we shake the "four kinds" during the daytime.
Hold the lulav, hadassim, and arovot in the right hand, with the lulav's "spine' "facing you.
Say the appropriate blessing(s), then take the etrog in the left hand with the point, or "pitom," up, bring it together with the other three kinds, and shake it.
One explanation, among many, is that each of the four kinds represents a different type of Jew.
The fact that the mitzvah requires all four kinds symbolizes our oneness as a people: we all need one another. The four species are waved in all four directions and up and down, signifying that G-d is everywhere.
On Friday night, light the Shabbat and holiday candles at 6:24 PM. On Saturday night, light the holiday candles after 7:20 PM from a pre-existing candle. Sunday night at 7:19 PM starts “Chol Hamoed,” the intermediate days of Sukkot, which are followed by Simchat Torah next week.
To learn more about Sukkot and for times outside of NYC, please visit www.sukkot.org
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!