The seven-plus-one Sukkot holiday, which begins Monday night, features temporary dwellings, Four Species, and much rejoicing. As per Biblical law, it lasts for seven days, and is followed immediately by a one-day holiday known as Shmini Atzeret-Simchat Torah. The first and eighth days are full-fledged holy days, while on the Six Intermediate Days most work activities are permitted.
Outside Israel, however, due to uncertainty regarding the precise dates during Talmudic times, the holiday lasts for nine days: Two full-fledged holidays from Monday night until Wednesday night, four Intermediate Days, and then two more holiday of Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.
The four days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot are replete with diligent and enthusiastic preparations for the various commandments and customs of the Sukkot holiday:
- Building the Sukkah - a temporary dwelling in which to eat, sleep and essentially live for most of the holiday - and collecting and placing the s'chach (branches or the like with which to cover it);
- Decorating it;
- Finding, examining and purchasing the Four Species - lulav (palm branch), etrog (citron), hadassim (three myrtle branches) and aravot (two willow branches);
- Celebrating and commemorating the traditional Simchat Beit HaShoevah (Water Drawing Festival) ceremony of the Holy Temple;
- Studying the many facets of the Sukkot holiday, such as the Seventy Sacrifices for the Nations, visiting Jerusalem, and - this year - re-enactments of the dramatic Hak'hel (Gather the Entire Nation) ceremony;
- The Book of Kohelet (Eccelesiastes), which is read aloud on the Sabbath of Sukkot;
- Water and prayers for rain;
- Ushpizin - the special Sukkot guests;
- Completing the year-long cycle of the public weekly Torah readings on Simchat Torah;
- General rejoicing.