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Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Monday, September 7, 2015


For 2017, from sunset Wednesday October 4 through sunset on Friday October 13 is a string of Jewish holidays including Sukkot, Shimini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Sukkot, the Festival of Booths or Tabernacles, is a major holiday in Judaism, celebrating the harvest. 

The major festival days of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah come at the close of the festival (although technically they are separate holidays).


Jews of all denominations who observe the holiday spend the first morning of Sukkot at synagogue  or temple services. Orthodox and Conservative Jews outside of Israel also spend the second morning in religious services.  

Jews of all denomination may also attend services on Hoshanah Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Many Jews of all denominations (especially those with children) may also attend celebrations and services at the synagogue or temple on the eve of Simchat Torah.  

For general purposes, we can view the week as having major celebrations at the beginning and end of the festival period. The breakdown for all of these dates is a bit complicated, so I have set these down in bullet points the days on which the different holidays fall in 2014 as follows:

Ø   Sukkot: Sunset Wednesday October 4 continuing through sunset on Wednesday October 11. NOTE: The first day is observed fully by many Jews of all denominations and the first two days by Orthodox and Conservative Jews as a major holiday

Ø   Hoshanah Rabah: Sunset Tuesday, October 10 continuing through sunset on Wednesday, October 11 (technically, the last day of Sukkot)

Ø   Shemini Atzeret: Sunset Wednesday, October 11, through sunset on Thursday, October 12. NOTE: Since this is one of the four times of years for formally remembering the dead who have passed away, this holiday may carry strong significance to those who have lost loved ones.

Ø   Simchat Torah: Sunset Thursday October 12 through sunset on Friday, October 13. This is a major celebration for many Jews, and seen as an important holiday by most Orthodox and many Conservative and Reform Jews.

Because the holiday of Sukkot continues for 8 days, throughout the week of Sukkot, evenings are often spent visiting the booths in other people’s houses. For planning purposes for those trying to accommodate employees or students, this should not interfere with evening schedules during the week, but might affect them on the key holidays noted below.

One should be careful not to assume that because one Jewish student or employee is not observing the holiday that this is the same with all of Jewish students and employees. While levels of observance vary on an individual basis, the fact that some Jews may not attend services does not diminish its importance as a holiday to those Jews who do observe the holiday.

For a more comprehensive discussion of the variations in practice see the “A More In-Depth Explanation” below.


There are several names for the holiday, which may be a bit confusing. In Sephardic Hebrew, Sukkot is pronounced “sue-COAT.” In Ashkenazic Hebrew, it is pronounced “sue-KOSE” (to rhyme with “two dose”). In Yiddish, the holiday is called Sukkos (to rhyme with “book us.”  

The spelling may also vary as the words are in Hebrew letters rather than Roman ones. Thus, some people may spell the same holiday Succot, Succos or Sukkes.


Sukkot is the Jewish Festival of Booths (or Tabernacles). The Bible indicates that Jews should dwell in booths during Sukkot:

“You will dwell in booths for seven days; all natives of Israel shall dwell in booths.” Leviticus 23:42

This practice is meant to recall the “sukkot” (Hebrew for temporary shelters or booths; singular “sukkah”) that the Israelites used during the Exodus from Egypt during their wandering in the desert on their way to the Land of Israel.  

This is one of the three major pilgrimage festivals of Judaism (when in the days of the Temple, Jews were required to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem). The holiday is especially closely associated with the Temple in Jerusalem as King Solomon dedicated the Temple on Sukkot.

Traditionally, Jews build their own sukkah outside their homes, temples and synagogues. The sukkah must be a non-permanent structure (so that it is a “temporary shelter”) and must have four walls at least part of which must include “schach” (plant material grown from the ground, such as branches, corn stalks, etc. with the requirement that the material not smell bad). It is also very common to decorate the sukkah (often with children’s artwork). Jews then spend all or part of their days in their Sukkot, and eat all or some of their meals in them.

Sukkot is a very festive and happy holiday, unlike the somber nature of the Jewish High Holidays which precede it. The holiday is a time for visiting friends in each other’s Sukkot, and many congregations have “sukkah hops” where people go from one sukkah to another over the course of one or more evenings during the holiday week.

At religious services in the synagogue or temple, Jews hold daily processions called “Hoshanot” in which they recite prayers for a good harvest while ritually shaking a lulav and etrog which make up the “four species” of plants. The lulav is comprised of three of these four plants: one palm branch, two willow branches and three myrtle branches that are bond together. The etrog is a specific type of yellow citrus fruit (Citrus medica) often called in English a citron. In Ashkenazic Hebrew, the fruit is called an esrog and in Yiddish, an esrig. Not all of these fruits are of equal value, and a perfect etrog is something many Jews highly value. There are many specifications on the nature of what is and is not a kosher etrog, and among those what does and does not constitute a perfect etrog. The use of the four species has a symbolic meaning as a way to rejoice in the harvest. The specific species themselves are symbolic of the whole person carrying them: the palm represents the spine;  the myrtle, the eyes (they have eye-shaped leaves), the willow the mouth (its leaves are thought to be mouth-shaped), and the etrog, the heart.

Variations on these basic customs exist from country to country among Jews. For example, Moroccan Jews often decorate their lulav with silk ribbons and a bell. Moroccan Jews traditional also have an empty chair in the sukkah for Elijah the prophet (who is supposed to announce the coming of the Messiah).

For a more comprehensive discussion of the variations in practice see the “A More In-Depth Explanation” below.


The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabah (literally, the “Great Hosannah”).  This last day of Sukkot has special prayers with a procession around the synagogue or temple that circles seven times followed by the beating of the willow branches of the lulav on the ground. Because of the special prayers, some Jews who may not have attended services on the interim days of Sukkot may attend on Hoshanah Rabah.


The day immediately following Hoshanah Rabah is a separate holiday called Shemini Atzeret (or Shemini Atzeres). This is the eighth day of Sukkot and the Shemini Atzeret actually means “eighth day of assembly). On this day, people leave their sukkot and eat in their houses again. This holiday also includes the prayer for rain Tefillat Geshrem. One of the four annual Yizkor services said by Jews to remember the dead are also said on Shemini Atzeret.


Literally meaning “rejoicing in the Torah,” Simchat Torah is one of the most joyous celebrations in Judaism. Traditionally, Jews read the first five books of the Bible (the Torah) from beginning to end in portions throughout the year.  This is the day that the end of the Torah is read and the beginning of the Torah is begun again.  It is a day of festive singing and dancing to honor the Torah.

Simchat Torah is celebrated with having as many people reading sentences from the end and beginning of the Torah scrolls and with singing and dancing with the Torah scrolls. In many cities, the celebrations are carried on with dancing and singing in the streets while holding the Torah scrolls. 

In Israel itself, Simchat Torah is combined with Shimeni Atzeret on the same day. Outside of Israel, the two holidays are celebrated separately one after the other.


In response to feedback from earlier holiday messages, I was asked to share that for all Jewish holidays, observance among the main Jewish religious movements varies both in level of practice and in interpretation of how long the main observance opening part of the holiday lasts. Generally speaking, though, the first day of Sukkot is a major festival day for all Jewish movements. I want to emphasize that, as with all of these religious postings and regardless of the religion involved, I am not passing judgment or suggesting as either correct or incorrect any practice of observance. The purpose of these religious observance posts is simply to give a bit of general background on our religiously diverse campus and to inform those who may not be aware of them so that can accommodate faculty, staff and students who wish to observe them. 

Regarding the differing stances for Sukkot, I will try to summarize some (though not all) of the major differences in observance.

For Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews, the first two days of Sukkot are observed as one long day (as with Rosh HaShanah). For most (although not all) Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, there is no "long day" so that the first day lasts one day only.  This long day does not apply to those celebrating the holiday in the land of Israel. In Israel, only one day is observed in place of the long day, regardless of denomination. 

For Orthodox Jews and many Conservative Jews, no manner of work can be done on the holiday.It should be noted that within the Orthodox community, length and manner of observance is not seen as a point of personal interpretation. For most Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, length and manner of observance, by contrast, may reflect personal interpretation. For many Conservative Jews, the length and manner of observance similarly are not seen as subject to individual interpretation, but considerable allowance is made for the actual (vs. the ideal) practice of observance.   

Most Orthodox and Conservative and some Reform and Reconstructionist Jews build their own personal sukkah by their home. Some Orthodox Jews interpret the commandment to dwell in booths literally and may actually spend all or much of the week in their sukkah, even sleeping in them  (barring inclement weather).  Many other Jews who build their own sukkot have one or more of their family meals there and spend as much time in them.

It should be noted that many Reform and Reconstructionist Jews do not build their own sukkot, instead using the sukkah build at their temple or synagogue. This is the case too for Jews of all religious streams who can not build a sukkah where they live for one reason or another. At many college campuses, for example, the local Hillel Jewish Student Association builds a sukkah for students living on campus.


Sukkot centers on eating something within the sukkah itself. As a result, several traditions have developed around special Sukkot meals.

Sukkot is a harvest festival. As a result, the foods eaten often reflect fruits and vegetables of some sort to symbolize the harvest. In particular, stuffed vegetables or main dishes and desserts made with fruit are common for the holiday.

Among the most common dishes of Eastern European origin are holishkes or meat-stuffed pepper. Holishkes are appropriate for two reasons. First, they make use of harvest vegetables. Second, when two holishkes are placed side by side, they look like the Torah scroll. A recipe for holishkes can be found on the Eastern European About.com site at


Among Turkish Jews, it is customary to eat bourekas, or oil-crisped pastry pockets stuffed with harvest vegetables. A particularly common version for Sukkot are borekas stuffed with sweetened squash or bourekas can be found on the Jewish Recipe Trader site at
pumpkin.  One recipe for pumpkin-stuffed


Etrog jam
Among Syrian Jews, the etrog is made into jam. Many Jews of Syrian origin still maintain this custom even after persecution and expulsion in the latter half of the 20th Century. Sadly, of the roughly 200,000 Jews who lived in Syria for 500 years from the time of the Spanish expulsion (1492) until the founding of the State of Israel (1948), only an estimated 80 Jews remain in Syria. Still, the thriving Syrian Jewish communities of New York (80,000), Israel (70,000) and Panama (10,000) carry on the customs of this venerable Jewish community. Indeed, within Israel, the use of etrog jam is becoming common throughout the country for many non-Syrian Jews as well. A recipe for etrog jam can be found at


Sukkot apple cake
A common Sukkot dessert among Jews is apple cake as the apples represent the harvest. In fact, eating apples themselves is also fairly common. One recipe for a traditional Sukkot apple cake can be found on the Kosher Food About.com site at 



As with all of the religious summaries provided in thes posts, I do not intend to indicate what is or is not a proper way to observe this or any other holiday. The intention here is merely to be superficially informative.

Chag Sameach! Happy Sukkot!


Sukkot on the Net

Judaism 101

About Judaism,com:

Union of Reform Judaism

Chabad .org

Board of Jewish Education (Australia).org


The clipart used here (unless noted otherwise) is free to download. You can find it at

Amazing Animations

and at
FREE-Bitsela.com at

The opening "Happy Sukkot" image is from

The closing Sukkot banner is from:

The Hoshana Rabbah image is from: http://www.yutorah.org/sukkot/

The food images are as follows:

Holishkes: About.com Eastern European Food: http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/maincourses/r/Jewish-cabbage-holishkes.htm

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