Sukkot Vocabulary

Key words and phrases for Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.


Here are some important Hebrew words and terms you may need to know over the week of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.

Arava—literally “willow,” one of the four species.

Arba minim—literally, “four species,” a quartet of plants used in Sukkot rituals: lulav, etrog, hadas, and aravah. They symbolize joy for life and dedication to God. The four species are held and shaken during the Hallel service.

Etrog—literally “citron,” one of the four species.

—literally, “rain,” additional prayer for rain read on Shemini Atzeret in the fall, introduced in the poetic form of an alphabetic acrostic.
Hadas—literally, “myrtle,” one of the four species.

Hakafah—literally, “circuit”, a celebratory processional  around the room done on Sukkot and Simhat Torah. On Sukkot hakafot (pl. of hakafah) are done holding the four species, except on Shabbat. On Shemini Atzeret the hakafot are done while singing, dancing, and carrying Torahs.

Hallel—literally, “praise” this short service is a collection of Psalms and blessings recited on festivals and Rosh Hodesh as a display of joy and gratitude.

Hatan/Kallat Bereishit
—literally, “Groom/Bride of Genesis,” this is a designation of honor for the person who is called up to the very first aliyah of the Book of Genesis on the morning of Simhat Torah.

Hatan/Kallat Torah
—literally, “Groom/Bride of the Torah” this is a designation of honor for the person who is called up to the very last aliyah of the Book of Deuteronomy on the morning of Simhat Torah.

Hol hamoed
—literally, “the mundane of the festival,” the intermediary days falling between the most sacred days of the festivals of Sukkot and Passover. These days have fewer prohibitions and commandments associated with them than the first and last days of the festivals.

Hoshanah Rabbah
—literally, “the Great Call for Help,” The seventh day of Sukkot during which hakafot are made and Hoshanot are recited. According to one tradition, it is the very last day for God to seal a judgment.

Hoshanot—prayers of salvation that are chanted on Hoshanah Rabbah while holding the four species. At the end of the hakafot, each person takes a bundle of willow twigs and strikes it on the ground for symbolic purposes. Each prayer begins with the word hoshanah, which means, “Save, I pray.”

Kohelet—The Book of Ecclesiastes, a collection of wisdom, traditionally attributed to King Solomon. It is one of the five megillot from the part of the Bible called the Writings and is read on the intermediary Shabbat of Sukkot.

Lulav—literally, “palm branch,” one of the four species. It is also the name given to the general bundle of willow, myrtle, and palm branches.

Pitom—literally, “protuberance,” the bulging tip at the blossom end of the etrog. If it falls off naturally, the etrog is considered to be kosher. If it has been knocked off, the fruit is considered to have a blemish and thus be unfit for ritual use as one of the four species.

Shalosh regalim
—literally, “three pilgrimages,” the three major festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. On these occasions during biblical times Jews went on pilgrimages to Jerusalem to make special offerings at the Temple.

Shemini Atzeret
—literally, “the Eighth Day of Gathering,” the eighth day of Sukkot, which holds special significance as its own holiday. Jews thank God for the harvest and ask for winter rain to prepare the ground for spring planting.

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