The first month of the Jewish year (Tishrei) is also the busiest month of the Jewish year. Immediately following Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is the week-long holiday of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles. It is called in the liturgy Zman Simchatainu, the time of our rejoicing.
Now that the Jewish people have repented on Yom Kippur and, hopefully, received Divine forgiveness, Sukkot follows as the time for celebrating G-d’s presence in the world. By living in temporary dwellings and taking the four species (the two primary mitzvot of Sukkot) Jews acknowledge that G-d provides for our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.
During the week of Sukkot, when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, 70 oxen were sacrificed. The rabbis taught that these 70 oxen represent the original 70 nations of the world. The priests offered sin offerings for the nations, invoking a desire for universal atonement, peace and harmony. Sukkot, therefore, is actually a truly universal holiday. The holiday, however, does not end abruptly since G-d commanded that an eighth day be added which will also be Yom Tov, a festival day, specifically for the Jewish people. This holiday, known as Sh’mini Atzeret, the Gathering of the Eighth, is seen as the holiday which demonstrates G-d’s especial love for the Jewish people – comparable to a host asking his/her best friend to stay after everyone else has left, in order to share a private moment.