Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret


Who should celebrate Sukkot?
Leviticus 23:42-43
Ye shall dwell <03427> in booths <05521> seven <07651> days; <03117> all that are Israelites <03478> born <0249> shall dwell <03427> in booths: <05521>
That your generations <01755> may know <03045> that I made the children <01121> of Israel <03478> to dwell <03427> in booths, <05521> when I brought them out <03318> of the land <0776> of Egypt: <04714> I am the LORD <03068> your God. <0430>

Many people use these verses to say that only those who are native to Israel should celebrate Sukkot, but that isn’t what this passage is stating, because the “native” Israelite has already been defined:

Exodus 12:48-51

And when a stranger <01616> shall sojourn <01481> with thee, and will keep <06213> the passover <06453> to the LORD, <03068> let all his males <02145> be circumcised <04135>, and then let him come near <07126> and keep <06213> it; and he shall be as one that is born <0249> in the land: <0776> for no uncircumcised person <06189> shall eat <0398> thereof.

One <0259> law <08451> shall be to him that is homeborn, <0249> and unto the stranger <01616> that sojourneth <01481> among <08432> you.

Thus did <06213> all the children <01121> of Israel; <03478> as the LORD <03068> commanded <06680> Moses <04872> and Aaron, <0175> so did <06213> they.

And it came to pass the selfsame <06106> day, <03117> that the LORD <03068> did bring <03318> the children <01121> of Israel <03478> out of the land <0776> of Egypt <04714> by their armies. <06635>


Here we see that all who celebrate Pesach are considered home born or native Israel. This is confirmed for us in multiple locations: Num 9:14, 15:15-16,15:29; Lev 24:22; Eze 47:21-23


What is a Sukkah?
From the words below, a sukkah is defined as a temporary shelter or tabernacle. However this is not to be confused with the Tabernacle of the Testimony which is a Mishkan, not a sukkah.

Genesis 33:17 is the first use of the word sukkah.(H5521)
And Jacob <03290> journeyed <05265> to Succoth, <05523> and built <01129> him an house, <01004> and made <06213> booths <05521> for his cattle: <04735> therefore the name <08034> of the place <04725> is called <07121> Succoth. <05523>

This first sukkah was built for sheltering animals. We might consider this, today, a stable or covered feeding area, although the cattle at this time were not fed grain, they ate the grass of the plains as YHWH intended them to. A better analogy might be to see this as a covered area to protect them from a storm.

These booths were made from surrounding materials and often used grasses and branches to make a roof or cover for them. The passage in Leviticus 23 and Nehemiah 8 describes the sukkahs that we are to build:

Leviticus 23:40-41

And ye shall take <03947> you on the first <07223> day <03117> the boughs <06529> of goodly <01926> trees, <06086> branches <03709> of palm <08558> trees, and the boughs <06057> of thick <05687> trees, <06086> and willows <06155> of the brook; <05158> and ye shall rejoice <08055> before <06440> the LORD <03068> your God <0430> seven <07651> days. <03117>

And ye shall keep <02287> it a feast <02282> unto the LORD <03068> seven <07651> days <03117> in the year. <08141> It shall be a statute <02708> for ever <05769> in your generations: <01755> ye shall celebrate <02287> it in the seventh <07637> month. <02320>


Nehemiah 8:14-16

And they found <04672> written <03789> in the law <08451> which the LORD <03068> had commanded <06680> by <03027> Moses, <04872> that the children <01121> of Israel <03478> should dwell <03427> in booths <05521> in the feast <02282> of the seventh <07637> month: <02320>

And that they should publish <08085> and proclaim <05674> * <06963> in all their cities, <05892> and in Jerusalem, <03389> saying <0559>, Go forth <03318> unto the mount, <02022> and fetch <0935> olive <02132> branches, <05929> and pine <08081> branches <05929> * <06086>, and myrtle <01918> branches, <05929> and palm <08558> branches, <05929> and branches <05929> of thick <05687> trees, <06086> to make <06213> booths, <05521> as it is written <03789>.

So the people <05971> went forth <03318>, and brought <0935> them, and made <06213> themselves booths, <05521> every one <0376> upon the roof of his house, <01406> and in their courts, <02691> and in the courts <02691> of the house <01004> of God, <0430> and in the street <07339> of the water <04325> gate, <08179> and in the street <07339> of the gate <08179> of Ephraim. <0669>


While we are not given specific instructions as to how to build the sukkah, we are told what to build the covering/sukkah with. These are the four species. The passage in Nehemiah gives us an idea as to what they understood Leviticus 23 to mean.

05521 סכּה cukkah sook-kaw’
from 05520; n f;

AV-tabernacle 12, booth 11, pavilion 5, cottage 1, covert 1, tents 1; 31


1) thicket, covert, booth

1a) thicket

1b) booth (rude or temporary shelter)





05520 סך cok soke


from 05526; n m;

AV-den 1, pavilion 1, tabernacle 1, covert 1; 4


  1. thicket, lair, covert, booth

05526 שׂכך cakak saw-kak’ or סכך sakak saw-kak’


Ex 33:22 And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:


a primitive root; v;

AV-cover 15, covering 2, defence 1, defendest 1, hedge in 1, join together 1, set 1, shut up 1; 23


1) (Qal) to hedge, fence about, shut in

2) to block, overshadow, screen, stop the approach, shut off, cover

2a) (Qal)

2a1) to screen, cover

2a2) to cover oneself

2a3) protector (participle)

2b) (Hiphil)

2b1) to screen, cover

2b2) to cover, defecate (euphemism)

3) (Qal) to cover, lay over

4) to weave together

4a) (Qal) to weave together

4b) (Pilpel) to weave, weave together





In taking the word sukkah back to its root and understanding what the function of the sukkah is, we see that the sukkah from the ancient Hebrew was to cover in order to reveal who was really protecting them. Getting to the root of the word, we see that when we build the sukkah we are protected and have a double covering – 1 physical and 1 spiritual.




Total KJV Occurrences: 31

booths, 9

Gen_33:17, Lev_23:42-43 (3), Neh_8:14-17 (5)

tabernacles, 9

Lev_23:34, Deu_16:13, Deu_16:16, Deu_31:10, 2Ch_8:13, Ezr_3:4, Zec_14:16, Zec_14:18-19 (2)

pavilions, 3

2Sa_22:12, 1Ki_20:12, 1Ki_20:16

tabernacle, 3

Job_36:29, Isa_4:6, Amo_9:11

booth, 2

Job_27:18, Jon_4:5

pavilion, 2

Psa_18:11, Psa_31:20

cottage, 1


covert, 1


tents, 1





Total KJV Occurrences: 4

covert, 1


den, 1


pavilion, 1


tabernacle, 1


שׂכך / סכך

sâkak / śâkak

Total KJV Occurrences: 23

covered, 8

Exo_37:9, Exo_40:21, 1Ki_8:7, 1Ch_28:18, Psa_139:13, Psa_140:7, Lam_3:43-44 (2)

cover, 5

Exo_33:22, Exo_40:3, 1Sa_24:3, Job_40:22, Psa_91:4

covereth, 2

Jdg_3:24, Eze_28:14

covering, 2

Exo_25:20, Eze_28:16

defence, 1


defendest, 1


hedged, 1


join, 1


set, 1


shut, 1


Shemini Atzeret

The “8th day” of this 7 day Festival is a day of rest called in the Torah “Shemini Atzeret”. This holiday is widely known today by the Rabbinic misnomer “Simhat Torah” (“Celebration of the Torah”). The Rabbanites made up this name which refers to their annual reading of the Torah in weekly portions which ends on Shemini Atzeret. Neither the annual reading of the Torah nor the name Simhat Torah appear in the Bible and these are later Rabbinic corruptions of God’s law. Shemini Atzeret is not part of Sukkot and the laws of Sukkot do not extend to this day (i.e. Pilgrimage, dwelling in a booth). As a day of rest all work is forbidden on Shemini Atzeret.


Below you will find a couple excerpts from Jewish sites and teachings about Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Level: Basic

…On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot, seven days for the L-RD… on the eighth day, there shall be a holy convocation for you. -Leviticus 23:34

Tishri 22, the day after the seventh day of Sukkot, is the holiday Shemini Atzeret. In Israel, Shemini Atzeret is also the holiday of Simchat Torah. Outside of Israel, where extra days of holidays are held, only the second day of Shemini Atzeret is Simchat Torah: Shemini Atzeret is Tishri 22 and 23, while Simchat Torah is Tishri 23.

These two holidays are commonly thought of as part of Sukkot, but that is technically incorrect; Shemini Atzeret is a holiday in its own right and does not involve some of the special observances of Sukkot. We do not take up the lulav and etrog on these days, and our dwelling in the sukkah is more limited, and performed without reciting a blessing.

Shemini Atzeret literally means “the assembly of the eighth (day).” Rabbinic literature explains the holiday this way: our Creator is like a host, who invites us as visitors for a limited time, but when the time comes for us to leave, He has enjoyed himself so much that He asks us to stay another day. Another related explanation: Sukkot is a holiday intended for all of mankind, but when Sukkot is over, the Creator invites the Jewish people to stay for an extra day, for a more intimate celebration.

Simchat Torah means “Rejoicing in the Torah.” This holiday marks the completion of the annual cycle of weekly Torah readings. Each week in synagogue we publicly read a few chapters from the Torah, starting with Genesis Ch. 1 and working our way around to Deuteronomy 34. On Simchat Torah, we read the last Torah portion, then proceed immediately to the first chapter of Genesis, reminding us that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

This completion of the readings is a time of great celebration. There are processions around the synagogue carrying Torah scrolls and plenty of high-spirited singing and dancing in the synagogue with the Torahs. Drinking is also common during this time; in fact, a traditional source recommends performing the priestly blessing earlier than usual in the service, to make sure the kohanim are not drunk when the time comes! As many people as possible are given the honor of an aliyah (reciting a blessing over the Torah reading); in fact, even children are called for an aliyah blessing on Simchat Torah. In addition, as many people as possible are given the honor of carrying a Torah scroll in these processions. Children do not carry the scrolls (they are much too heavy!), but often follow the procession around the synagogue, sometimes carrying small toy Torahs (stuffed plush toys or paper scrolls).

In some synagogues, confirmation ceremonies or ceremonies marking the beginning of a child’s Jewish education are held at this time.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are holidays on which work is not permitted.

Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah

Since the completion of the annual cycle of Torah readings occurred around the time of Shemini Atzeret, a rabbinical tradition developed in the Middle Ages to celebrate the Torah on Shemini Atzeret. This celebration came to be known as Simchat Torah. Simchat Torah celebrates – with joyful processions, singing and dancing – the ending of one cycle of Torah reading and the beginning of a new cycle.

Today in the Diaspora, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the second day of Shemini Atzeret. It is common for Jews in the Diaspora to refer to the first day as Shemini Atzeret and to the second day as Simchat Torah.

In Israel, Simchat Torah is celebrated on the first and only day of Shemini Atzeret. The holiday is referred to as both Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.




In Hebrew, the word ‘Atzeret’ (תרֶצֲע) means not just ‘an assembly,’ but a very special kind of assembly. It indicates that one’s host is not letting one go home. Rather, one’s host is ‘holding one over’ for an extended period of time. Strong’s Concordance defines the word atzeret (תרצע) in this way:

OT:6116 `atsarah (ats-aw-raw’); or `atsereth (ats-eh’-reth); from OT:6113; an assembly, especially on a festival or holiday.

When we look up the root at Strong’s OT:6113, we get: OT:6113 `atsar (aw-tsar’); a primitive root; to enclose; by analogy, to hold back; also to maintain, rule, assemble: KJV – be able, close up, detain, fast, keep (self close, still), prevail, recover, refrain, reign, restrain, retain, shut (up), slack, stay, stop, withhold (self).

Shemini Atzeret, then, shows us that YHWH intends to hold us back, to detain us, or to ‘close us up’ in some fashion for the eighth day. But in what way does YHWH intend to ‘detain us’, or to ‘hold us over’?

Could this be the additional day that we rule and reign with Him?

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