the Orthodox and 7 days by Reform Jews. Sukkot is a Thanksgiving holiday
held after the crops have been harvested. As a matter of note, the American
holiday of Thanksgiving was influenced in part by the Jewish Festival of
A sukkah or booth is set up, roofed with branches, and decorated inside
with flowers and fruit. The sukkahs are built to remind the Jews of the
makeshift shelters they lived in and the hardships they endured during the
40 years they wandered in the desert before reaching the Promised Land.
It is considered very important by most Jews to enter a sukkah or booth
during this festival period. Many Jews try to eat at least one meal in a booth.
Other Jews spend an entire day and night in a booth. Many Jewish commu-
nities hold contests each year to determine who has created the most interest-
ing or beautiful booth.
Traditionally inclined Jewish personnel will want to attend synagogue
services on the first 2 days and the 8th day of Sukkot. Nontraditional
observers are likely to attend services on the first and last days, or just 1 day.
The RP may be called upon to assist in the construction of the sukkah or
booth. Public Works or Seabee personnel will often construct such a booth if
the request comes from the command chaplain. Details on constructing a
booth can be found in a book entitled the Jewish Catalogue
published by the Jewish Publication Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The sukkah is dismantled at the end of the 9-day period which is concluded
on the Feast of Simchat Torah.
SIMCHAT ATZERETH AND SIMCHAT TORAH. -On the eighth
day of Sukkot, the festival called Simchat Atzereth or the Eighth Day of
Solemn Assembly is celebrated. Several special features mark the morning
service. Yizkor or memorial prayers are said for the dead, and a prayer called
Geshem (rain) is recited. God is asked to provide rain to the Holy Land of
Israel where rain is both scarce and precious.
On the ninth day of Sukkot, the festival of Simchat Torah, which means
Rejoicing in the Law, is celebrated. It is a holiday dedicated to the
greatest Jewish book of allthe Torah.
On this occasion, the last chapter of the five books of Moses is read, and
the cycle of reading the Torah begins anew. On this occasion, all of the
Torah Scrolls are taken out of the Ark and lovingly carried around the
synagogue seven times in a procession. Before the end of the festival, candy,
cakes, fruits, and refreshments are distributed to the children. Simchat
Torah brings the High Holy Day season to a close.
HANUKKAH (The Feast of Lights). This 8-day holiday usually falls in
December. It commemorates the victory of the Jewish Maccabees over
Syrian despots (167 B.C.) in a fight for religious freedom that saved
Judaism, as a culture, from annihilation.
Each Hanukkah, Jews light candles for 8 daysone on the first evening,
adding one more each evening until all eight candles are lighted. A ninth
candle, called the Shpmmes (servant), stands taller than the rest in the
menorah (candelabrum) and is used to light the others. This shows that
one can give love and light to others without losing ones own radiance.
Hanukkah is observed with parties, games, and gifts to the children.