“Chag Sameach” is the appropriate greeting during any of the three festival holidays on the Jewish calendar. The first and last days of festivals are usually observed with typical holiday observances: services, festive meals, and days of rest. The days in-between are referred to as Chol HaMo-eid. Yet, for Sukkot, the festival of booths, we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah during all seven days of the holiday, reminding us of the 40 years of the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings.
Sukkot is also a harvest festival, and is sometimes called Chag Ha-asif (which literally means “festival of in-gathering”) and is the name used when Sukkot is referred to in the book of Exodus. A festival during which we rejoice over the bounty of the harvest is also an opportunity to express gratitude to God for all the blessing in our lives.
The third name for this festival comes from a reference in Deuteronomy. In the retelling of the laws of Sukkot, it states “you shall rejoice in your festival.” Therefore we also refer to these days as Z’man Simchateinu, the time of our rejoicing. The rabbis teach that if we are dining in the sukkah, and it starts raining, and raindrops come through the roof and fall into our soup pot, we are commanded not to remain in the sukkah, in order that our joy not be diminished.
May the holiday of Sukkot be a joyful one for all of us!
Rabbi Sandra M. Bellush