THE JEWISH FESTIVAL OF SUKKOT
By Caroline Donne
Date varies from year to year - please check the REonline Festivals Calendar
for Whole School
learn about the festival, focusing on two of the
festival's themes: (1) remembering (the time when
the Jews lived in temporary shelters in the desert
after their escape from slavery in Egypt), and (2)
giving thanks to God for the harvest. To build a
Sukkah (a temporary shelter).
Sukkot is plural for the Hebrew word Sukkah, which
has a number of meanings, including 'shelter'
or 'hut'. During the festival, Jewish families
and groups build Sukkot (temporary shelters) outside.
They often eat meals together in the Sukkah, entertain
friends and even sleep inside them. During Sukkot
the shelters can be seen against the outside walls
of houses, schools or synagogues, on the balconies
of flats, or against garden sheds or climbing
frames. The ceilings are decorated with branches
and leaves, but with gaps to see the sky. Inside,
the walls are decorated with flowers and fruit
hanging from the ceiling. The Sukkah is a reminder
of the temporary existence of the Israelites (the
ancient Jews), escaping from slavery thousands
of years ago. It is a reminder of the hardship
of their life in the desert and their dependence
assembly involves a simple telling of the story
of the festival. It can include the building of
a Sukkah, as a class or school activity, in order
to illustrate the story.
If you build a Sukkah outside you can use playground
equipment as the basic structure. Use material,
sheets of paper or cardboard to fill in three
sides, with one side open for the entrance. Hang
paper or real flowers, fruit and vegetables from
the ceiling. Make sure you can see the sky through
the ceiling. Ideally it should be big enough to
put a couple of chairs and a table inside. Alternatively
you can make a structure in the corner of the
classroom or hall.
Sukkot is also a special time when Jews remember
that everything comes from God. As a way of remembering
this they say prayers of thanks to God and wave
four plants in all directions: a citrus fruit
or branch, palm leaves, myrtle, and willow. These
plants represent the harvest. Children could do
some research in advance and draw pictures of
Ask if any of the children have ever slept outside.
Perhaps they've been on an organized camp with
other children, or on a camping holiday with their
families. Ask them to think of single words that
describe the feeling of sleeping 'outside', e.g.
cold, scary, lonely, exciting.
The Story of the Israelites in the Desert. Using
a children's Bible tell the story of the Exodus
from the point where the Israelites have escaped
from slavery in Egypt and begin their journey
through the desert to their new homeland (Exodus
15.22-17.16). Include the story of how God provides
their food (Manna) and water. You will need to
remind them that Moses was their leader.
Follow up the issues raised in the story. What
must it have been like to journey through the
desert? Explain that the desert can be very hot
during the day, but very cold at night. There
are often wild animals living there. Is it easy
to understand why the people grumbled at first?
Talk about how God provided food and water for
them - how might they have felt when they saw
how God was taking care of them?
Explain how every year Jews build temporary shelters
outside, called Sukkahs, to celebrate the way
in which God looked after their ancestors all
those years ago. They call the festival Sukkot,
the name for lots of Sukkahs. Refer to the one
you have built together. Adapt the background
information. In the Sukkahs the Jews eat meals
together. Sometimes they sleep in them. It is
a time to be happy.
Thank you for the food we have to eat and the fresh,
clean water we have to drink.
Thank you for our homes where we can shelter from
the rain and the cold.
We pray for all those people who will not have enough
food to eat today,
or homes to live in.
If you have built a Sukkah, small groups could
visit it at different times during the day and have
something to eat inside. Or you could leave the
Sukkah in place for a while as a quiet space for
children to think and pray.