The depth of meaning of Sukkot can be hard to access without understanding the climate and agriculture of the land in which the holiday originated (the land of Israel). Sukkot was originally associated with two critical turning points in the year, which coincided. The first was the conclusion of the annual harvest. Would there be enough food to make it through the winter? Only on Sukkot would the community know the answer. The rabbis taught, "Why are there three rejoicings on Sukkot [instead of none on Passover and only one on Shavuot/Pentecost]? Because both the grain has been harvested and the fruit of the trees have been harvested, therefore three rejoicings are written" [Midrash Yalkut Shimoni, Emor]. The second turning point was the beginning of the rainy season [no rain falls in the region between Passover and Sukkot]. When the Temple stood, the start of the rainy season was celebrated with a massive Water Drawing Ceremony, a joyous celebration of ritual, giant oil lights, dancing and music. Today, the procession of "hoshanot" with the lulav and etrog, and the prayer for rain, replace that ceremony in the synagogue. These two turning points, the end of the harvest and the beginning of the rainy season, emphasize the critical moment in time that Sukkot represented to ancient Israelites. With enough food to feed the community for the months to come, and the renewal of rain which would water the next season's crops, the community could express their fullest joy of the year.
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