Below is a collection of Sukkot lesson plans, videos, and articles created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
- What? Sukkot is a seven-day Jewish holiday. It is one of the three major holidays in Judaism called the Shalosh Regalim when the Jewish people would pilgrimage to Jerusalem for festivities and worship during the times of the Temple. Immediately following Sukkot are two other holidays called Shemini Atzeret (lit. The Eighth [day] of Assembly) and Simchat Torah (lit. Joy of Torah). Although they are separate holidays (and celebrated as one day in Israel), they are generally regarded as part of Sukkot.
- When? Sukkot begins on the fifteenth of the month of Tishrei, five days after Yom Kippur.
- Why? Sukkot has three names, each of which corresponds to a different reason for celebration, historical, agricultural, and theological. These three names are: Sukkot – סוכות – Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths; Chag Ha-Asif – חג האסיף – Festival of The Gathering; and Zman Simchateinu – זמן שמחתינו – Time for Celebration. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty years in which the Israelites wandered around the desert. They had left slavery in Egypt, but had not yet entered the Land of Israel, and therefore did not have a permanent dwelling place. In memory of this time, we build temporary huts, similar to the ones our ancestors lived in during their wanderings. Sukkot was celebrated immediately after the gathering of the harvest. It was a festival to thank God for the bounty of nature. During the High Holidays, our slates are wiped clean by God. Immediately following this period, we are commanded to be joyous in celebration of this dependence on God. We move into flimsy sukkot, which teaches us that nothing in life is permanent, so the key is living life properly.
- How? Some of the traditions of Sukkot include:
- Building the Sukkah: On Sukkot, we are instructed to live in a sukkah, a temporary shelter similar to the ones our ancestors lived in during their travels in the desert. Living within a sukkah has been understood to mean eating meals there, although there are some people who sleep inside, depending on their health and the weather. A sukkah is required to have at least two and a half walls that will not blow away in the wind—these are usually made of canvas or wood. The “roof” should be made of sechach (lit. cover), something that grew from the ground and was cut off (e.g. palm branches, bamboo reads, wooden slats), but visitors in the sukkah should still be able to see the stars and feel rain if it falls. It is a tradition to decorate the sukkah. Generally, it is decorated with homemade garlands, posters, and pictures.
- Special Prayers: On Sukkot, Mussaf and Hallel are said daily as well as additions to the Amidah prayer and Birkat HaMazon. There are also blessings said on the arba minim and for dwelling in the sukkah.
- Ushpizin: On Sukkot, it is customary to perform the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim, hospitality, by inviting friends and family over for festive meals in the sukkah. One key tradition is the ushpizin (lit. guests), a mystical prayer in which symbolic guests are invited to leave heaven and grace us with their presence in our sukkah. Traditionally the symbolic guests invited were the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and King David), but some add the matriarchs/prophetesses as well (Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, Esther).
- Arba Minim (the Four Species): On Sukkot, we are instructed to bless the arba minim in the sukkah every day of Sukkot, except for Shabbat. The arba minim are also held and waved during Sukkot prayers. The four species are the Lulav לולב – palm branch; Aravot ערבות – willow branches; Hadassim הדסים – myrtle branches; and Etrog אתרוג – citron fruit.
Festival of Booths
Festival of the Gathering (one of the names for Sukkot)
Time of Celebration (one of the names for Sukkot)
The Eighth [Day] of Assembly
The Joy of Torah
|Sechach||Cover (the branches that serve as the roof for the sukkah)||סכך|
|Arba Minim||Four Species||ארבע מינים|
|Ushpizin||Guests (traditionally invited into the sukkah)||אושפיזין|
|Hachnasat Orchim||Hospitality||הכנסת אורחים|
Sukkot Educational Themes
- Appreciation of our homes and the environment
- Permanence versus transience
- Rootedness versus wandering
Quick Educational Activities for Sukkot
- Model Sukkot: Build model sukkot with recycled materials, such as shoe boxes, tree branches, egg cartons, old computer parts, etc., or design one online.
- Decorate a sukkah: Create sukkah decorations using recycled materials or with harvest foods like pumpkins, gourds, and cranberry/popcorn chains. If there is no sukkah in your home, school, or synagogue, decorate homes and classrooms with a “sukkah feeling,” using Fall decorations and colors.
- Arba Minim: Demonstrate how to shake the lulav and etrog online or in person. Have students practice the motions and recite the blessings.
- Ushpizin: Read stories about the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs of the ushpizin. What special qualities did they have? Why were these individuals chosen for the ushpizin? Alternatively, students can study the original ushpizin prayer and write a personal ushpizin prayer for an individual who they would like to invite to their sukkah.
- Sukkot and Hospitality: Study hospitality in different cultures today and compare it to hospitality as practiced in Tanach. Invite parents, other students, community members into your sukkah for a meal made out of harvest foods.
- Sukkot Charades: Play charades with your class – act out building a sukkah, wandering in the desert, shaking the arba minim in the synagogue, etc.
- Sukkot and Homelessness: On Sukkot, we leave our homes and live in temporary huts, where we are exposed to the elements. Use this as a way to raise awareness about homelessness/inadequate housing.
LESSON PLANS AND RESOURCES
Why the Arba Minim? – This Sukkot lesson plan for upper elementary school students teaches students about the meaning and symbolism of each of the Four Species and is adaptable to both online and in-person classroom settings. From The Lookstein Center.
Sukkot: Land of Israel and the Rain – This Sukkot lesson plan for middle school and high school students provides an analysis of the connection between the High Holidays and rainfall, through the use of text and maps and is adaptable to both online and in-person classroom settings. From The Lookstein Center.
Independent Study for Sukkot – This Sukkot lesson plan for middle and high school students explores Jewish texts in-depth and is adaptable to both online and in-person classroom settings. From The Lookstein Center.
Celebrating Sukkot – These resources from PJ Library include stories, videos, crafts, activities, and more to teach younger students about Sukkot.
Sukkot: The Festival of Booths – These resources from Reform Judaism include family activities, recipes, and more.
Sukkot Arts – These craft ideas from the Israel Forever Foundation connect the holiday of Sukkot to the Land of Israel.
Sukkot and Simchat Torah – These resources from Aish include discussion topics, videos, and more on the holidays of Sukkot and Simchat Torah.
Sukkot Photo Challenge – Enjoy a short activity for every day of the holiday in the framework of a fun photo challenge from Little Compass.
Sukkot and Simchat Torah Activities – These activity pages from the National Library of Israel include lessons, crafts, and more.
Jerusalem Craft for Sukkot – This craft activity for young children from Olam Shalem teaches students about the connection between Jerusalem and the holiday of Sukkot.
VIDEOS AND SONGS
The LEGO Sukkot Movie – This video for young children from Bimbam reviews the basics of building a sukkah and the Four Species, through LEGO animation.
Sukkot: Ecclesiastes Reimagined in Animation – This video from Bimbam provides an overview of the Book of Ecclesiastes (Megillat Kohelet), which is read on Sukkot.
Building My Sukkah – This video from Mayim Bialik reviews the mitzvah of building a sukkah.
Sukkot Medley – This animated video from Micha Gamerman includes a medley of popular Hebrew songs for Sukkot.
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