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In the Torah it seems like a few of the Hagim get some special status as being particularly significant. Pesah gets a lot of attention and a lot of rituals, Rosh Hashannah seems barely worth mentioning, and Yom Kippur seems much more tied into the temple than to a synagogue service. But Sukkot is a Hag that seems like it's rather important as it's one of the Shalosh Regalim, and as the Tankah continues it is referred to as "THE" Hag. Not only that, in the end times it's the one hag that the entire world will celebrate.

Zecharia 14: 16

טז וְהָיָה, כָּל-הַנּוֹתָר מִכָּל-הַגּוֹיִם, הַבָּאִים, עַל-יְרוּשָׁלִָם; וְעָלוּ מִדֵּי שָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה, לְהִשְׁתַּחֲוֺת לְמֶלֶךְ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, וְלָחֹג, אֶת-חַג הַסֻּכּוֹת. 16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.

Even in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah there seems to be a special status given, like how the entire Torah was read to the people throughout the 7 days

Nehemiah 8

יז וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כָל-הַקָּהָל הַשָּׁבִים מִן-הַשְּׁבִי סֻכּוֹת, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ בַסֻּכּוֹת--כִּי לֹא-עָשׂוּ מִימֵי יֵשׁוּעַ בִּן-נוּן כֵּן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, עַד הַיּוֹם הַהוּא; וַתְּהִי שִׂמְחָה, גְּדוֹלָה מְאֹד. 17 And all the congregation of them that were come back out of the captivity made booths, and dwelt in the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. יח וַיִּקְרָא בְּסֵפֶר תּוֹרַת הָאֱלֹהִים, יוֹם בְּיוֹם--מִן-הַיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, עַד הַיּוֹם הָאַחֲרוֹן; וַיַּעֲשׂוּ-חָג שִׁבְעַת יָמִים, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁמִינִי עֲצֶרֶת כַּמִּשְׁפָּט. {פ} 18 Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the Law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the ordinance. {P}

So my question is...What happened to the status of Sukkot? We seem to have lost any connection to the reading of the entire Torah, and now have "Simhat Torah" which is the finishing of the reading of the Torah...but this only happens because now we have two days of Hag. So that seems accidental rather than purposeful.

Also most Jews seem to clock out of Sukkot altogether, it's like they are too exhausted from Yom Kippur to give sukkot any thought. And the Jews who manage to make it to sukkot often celebrate it in a much diminished form, no longer sleeping/dwelling in the Sukkah and instead viewing it as a place that one is merely required to snack in. The Talmud also talks about the great parties and antics that would happen during sukkot, and all that seems to not exist anymore as well. We have Selihot festivals, special hazzanim for the "High Holydays," ans a litany of other stuff that we don't have for Sukkot. Heck, there aren't even very many sukkot specific songs, whereas there are all sorts of special songs and melodies for every other hag.

So my question is, when did Sukkot lose its status among religious Jewry to the point that it seems like the least of the Holydays.

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    It seems like the least of the holidays? Since when? Doesn't seem that way to me. – Heshy Oct 10 at 21:35
  • Offhand, I think its privilidged status was linked to the pilgrimage, and when we lost the latter it lost the former – Josh K Oct 10 at 21:48
  • @Heshy I mentioned some of the things that make it seem like it lost its status. There are no songs for it, no special hired hazzanim. And in an era where there are special Pesah vacations where you can be in a fancy hotel with a Rabbi, you literally have a Holiday that seems more linked to that idea and yet it's nonexistant – Aaron Oct 10 at 21:59
  • I think Peaah vacations make sense because the primary work for Pesah is cleaning and cooking, which (a) scales well and (b) is something that hotels have the infrastructure for. Sukkot has the same cooking, but hotels are not really equipped to provide a sukkah for hundreds of people to spend most of their time in for 7-8 days, with backup indoor facilities in case it rains. Pesah vacations are expensive enough. – Heshy Oct 10 at 23:16
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    I would just observe that, in Israel, Soukot is a "big deal". Maybe because weather is still warm at this time of the year, many will build their own souka (even if it means converting your parking space in one), lulav/etrog markets are on every street corner, the week is vacation for all so spent inviting friends. It is very very different from what I used to see in Europe – mbloch Oct 11 at 3:21
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I think that many of your assumptions are incorrect. It's hard for me to offer the most appropriate reaction without knowing where you live and what you have experienced. But, I have lived in about 5 different communities and I have spent Succot in Israel. I can tell you from personal observance that Succot has far from lost its status and a big deal is made of it, but in different ways than you or the Talmud describes.

Much energy is spent on selling, selecting and buying 4 minim. I know someone who buys and sells these items. He prepares about 6 months in advance. It is arduous work viewing some of the produce, dealing with sellers, getting a good pre, getting the inventory, arranging it, packing it for shipment, and loads of other things that you and I as an average consumer wouldn't care to do, and we know little about what happens behind the scenes.

From the consumer aspect - people are happy and excited when they buy their 4 minim. OK, they may not always be thrilled about the expense, but, they spend what they can afford (most - some, agreed will overspend beyond their means, but if they do, this is what makes them joyful.)

I put up my succah and it gives me much pleasure, even if it is getting a bit more physically difficult to do so. People spend hundreds of dollars on a nice suitable succah and more money decorating it. And, they do it joyfully. Some people still sleep in the succah, but, again, one is exempt from doing so if it cause "stress" such as sever cold or rain, etc. I don't sleep, but, I do my work there. I sit there with my laptop and phone and books and whatever I need to write papers, articles and such.

I shop and I cook - a lot. I plan the menu in mid-Elul and try to determine who is coming, what they like, what allergies their kids or hey have, etc. That's a big deal and quite some effort. Certainly sounds like it's getting its due prominence.

I got your point about the special Chazannim. I can't completely argue with that. My shul has a year-round chazzan, so it's not agood comparison. But, even within the frum community, on Rosh Hashannah, even with a professional chazzan, they have their limit. You want to be done by 1 - 1:30 PM (Chaba"d and a few others have their own deal, here.) Point is, people, are looking to get out at a decent time, even on Rosh Hashanna. Moreso, on 3 Regalim, so they're not really hiring a special chazzan. Besides, most of the people there can do the job, themselves. And, many shuls have limited budgets, too. Otherwise, they would probably have hired a year-round chazzan. In short, not a good criteria to judge this in your question.

About Simchat Torah - there's a long history as to how that occurred, which I don't want to get into, here. And, in Israel it occurs together with Shmini Atzeret, so the "two day" claim is only outside Israel. I don't think it's gotten any less notice than the rest of Succot. It's just a different type of Simcha going on. I don't think your making a good comparison or claim. The joy on Simchat Torah doesn't diminish from the importance of the rest of Succot.

I've made my "counter" claims. Rather than offer rebuttal, maybe you can edit your question so that we can get a better sense of what you have actually seen in your community. I think the historical aspect you have put in is irrelevant to the essence of your question.

  • I appreciate your counterpoint. But would you call Sukkot Judaism's main holiday? How about second main? Possibly third? I'm thinking you would put it very much toward the bottom of that list. – Aaron Oct 11 at 0:29
  • @aaron depends what you include on the list. By any standard other than "we want to be inclusive so let's find a Jewish holiday that we can vaguely compare to Christmas", it's way above Chanukah and Purim. For the Biblical ones, I don't even know how to rank them. They're all special in different ways. – Heshy Oct 11 at 0:47
  • Before I counter your last question / comment, I have to see what is actually meant by the Talmud calling it "Chag". All the word means is "holiday" and the word "main" is not necessarily implied. But, at this point, I don't have enough info to agree or disagree. I'm just pointing out that it seems that in your question, you've assumed that it does mean "main" or "most important" without sufficiently backing up that assumption. If you ask my own opinion, I think Yom Kippur is #1. But, that by no means makes Succot a low priority. – DanF Oct 11 at 2:04

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