How Many Days is Sukkot?

Last year Cantor Linda Hirschhorn of Beth Sholom in San Leandro explained the VERY confusing issue of HOW MANY DAYS IS SUKKOT? I saved her remarks to share with you at the appropriate time.

At services I was asked if Sukkot was seven or eight days and I first said eight and then immediately corrected myself and said seven.  But my misspeaking is understandable: In Leviticus it says:  For [the] seven days [of Sukkot] you shall bring a fire offering to G‑d. On the eighth day, it shall be a holy convocation for you… It is a [day of] ATZERET. This Shabbat morning we will celebrate Shmini Atzeret. Shmini means eighth. The Hebrew word atzeret is generally translated as “assembly”, but shares a linguistic root with the word atzor, meaning “stop” or “tarry”. Shemini Atzeret is characterized as a day when the Jewish people “tarries” to spend an additional day with God at the end of Sukkot. The Rabbis have clarified on the one hand that it is not part of Sukkot, though the two holidays share a focus on agriculture and Shemini Atzeret follows directly after the holiday of Sukkot. Others have said that as Sukkot is a time to commemorate dwelling in temporary structures as guests of the Eternal, Shemini Atzeret is a bonus round of sorts, a reminder that God is reluctant to let us go back to business as usual. While we no longer shake the lulav or mention Sukkot in our prayers some say that that we actually still do take a meal in the sukkah while others site a Talmudic discussion that says not to eat in the sukkah after the 7th day. Your choice!


Cantor Linda Hirschhorn