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September 27, 2013

Harvest festival recalls Jews' exodus from Egypt

UPPER JAY — “On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot, seven days for the L-RD,” Leviticus 23:34 reads.

Wilmington resident Robert Segall, an observant Jew, just finished celebrating the Festival of Sukkot, also called Succos, a harvest festival.

This year, Succos was observed from sunset Sept. 18 to nightfall on Sept. 25.

“The Israeli pronunciation is ‘Sukkot,’” said Segall, who attends an Orthodox synagogue in Montreal.

“Instead of an ‘s,’ there is a ‘t,’ so a lot of people pronounce it that way. It actually means ‘booths.’ It describes this as a temporary shelter,” he said.

“In the Torah, it describes the holiday. You have to have seven days. It’s in the Book of Leviticus. It describes the various holidays, starting with the Sabbath. You have six days you work, and on the seventh day you rest. On the 15th day of the seventh month is the Succos Festival for seven days. Then the eighth day is another holy convocation. It’s called Shemini Atzeres (Atzeret).”

It is written in the Torah:

“On the 15th day of the seventh month when you gather in the crop of your land, you are to celebrate God’s festival for seven days.”

“So, it’s a harvest festival,” Segall said. “On the first day, you are to take for yourself the fruit of the citron tree. It’s called an esrog (etrog), branches of the date palm, twigs of a plaited tree (myrtle) and brook willows. There’s an importance to this.”

Known as the Four Species, “Arba Minim” in Hebrew, the plants are waved when reciting specific prayers.

“The esrog is a citrus fruit,” Segall said. “It’s similar to a lemon, but obviously it’s not. It doesn’t have the same flesh as a lemon. It’s very bitter (with a) fibrous core. The symbol of the esrog, it has both taste and smell. The myrtle has smell but no taste. The palm has taste but no smell. The brook willow has neither taste nor smell. So these symbolize the four natures of human beings.

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