Feast of Sukkot, Tabernacles, Booths, or Ingathering

LEVITICUS 2333 Adonai said to Moshe, 34 “Tell the people of Isra’el, ‘On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the feast of Sukkot for seven days to Adonai. 35 On the first day there is to be a holy convocation; do not do any kind of ordinary work. 36 For seven days you are to bring an offering made by fire to Adonai; on the eighth day you are to have a holy convocation and bring an offering made by fire to Adonai; it is a day of public assembly; do not do any kind of ordinary work.

 39 “ ‘But on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered the produce of the land, you are to observe the festival of Adonai seven days; the first day is to be a complete rest and the eighth day is to be a complete rest. 40 On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches, and river-willows, and celebrate in the presence of Adonai your God for seven days. 41 You are to observe it as a feast to Adonai seven days in the year; it is a permanent regulation, generation after generation; keep it in the seventh month. 42 You are to live in sukkot for seven days; every citizen of Isra’el is to live in a sukkah, 43 so that generation after generation of you will know that I made the people of Isra’el live in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am Adonai your God.

Barney Kasdan, Messianic Jewish Rabbi, comments in his book “God’s Appointed Times”;

“As with the other days, the name of this holy day tells its purpose.  Essentially it is two-fold, the first being related to the fall harvest.  As Leviticus 23 teaches, Sukkot was to be a time of bringing in the latter harvest.  It is, in other words, the Jewish “Thanksgiving”. In fact, it is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

A secondary meaning of this holy day is found in the command to dwell in booths as a memorial of Israel’s wilderness experience.  To expand the theme of this specific historical event, we might best summarize Sukkot with the word “habitation”. We know from the Torah that God dwelt with his people in their forty-year wilderness camping trip.  Yet, as we camp in booths today, we should be reminded that this same faithful God watches over our lives.

With such meaningful themes, no wonder Sukkot is known as Zman Simkhatenu (The Time of Our Rejoicing).  The fact that God provided for us and built his habitation with us is something to celebrate!”

THE FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

In the Mishnah (the oral law) Chapter 5 it is said: …that anyone who had not witnessed the rejoicing at the Libation Water-well had never seen rejoicing in his life.

At the close of the first Holyday of the Festival of Tabernacles, they went down to the Court of the Women where they had made and important rearrangement. And golden candlesticks were there with four golden bowls at their tops and four ladders to each one, and four youths from the young priests with pitchers of oil holding a hundred and twenty logs in their hands, which they used to pour into every bowl.

From the worn-out drawers and girdles of the priests they make wicks and with them set alight; and there was no courtyard in Jerusalem that was not lit up with the light at the Libation Water-Well ceremony.

Pious men and men of good deeds used to dance before them with burning torches in their hands and sang before them songs and praises. And the Levites on harps, and on lyres and with cymbals, and with trumpets and with other instruments of music without number upon the fifteen steps leading down from the court of the Israelites to the Women’s Court corresponding to the Fifteen Songs of the Ascent in the Psalms…

During this celebration, Jesus makes an amazing declaration to the people.

John 7 1After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” For not even his brothers believed in him. Jesus said to them, “My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil. You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” After saying this, he remained in Galilee.

10 But after his brothers had gone up to the feast, then he also went up, not publicly but in private. 11 The Jews were looking for him at the feast, and saying, “Where is he?” 12 And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, “He is a good man,” others said, “No, he is leading the people astray.” 13 Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him.

14 About the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and began teaching…

Rivers of Living Water

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

THE TRADITIONAL JEWISH OBSERVANCE

More from Barney Kasdan:

“The Torah stipulates the fifteenth of the Jewish month Tishri as the time when the Jewish people are to begin dwelling in the sukkah (singular for “booth”) and celebrating God’s provision.  This holy day is so joyful, traditional Jews don’t even wait for the fifteenth of Tishri to construct their sukkot.  Many begin the construction five days early, immediately after the close of Yom Kippur.

The construction of the sukkah can be both challenging and fun for the whole family.  The Bible gives a rather general commandment to build a sukkah, but rabbis have added great detail.

Essentially, it is a temporary hut in which one is to live instead of in one’s permanent house.  At the very least, Jews are expected to eat some meals in the sukkah as a symbol of dwelling in it.  Because it is to be a temporary structure, the sukkah appears to be flimsy.  It is built outside and must have at least three walls, which may be of any material (wood, brick, and tarp).  If the booth is constructed next to a house, it may incorporate one or more walls of the house as its own.

The most important part of the sukkah construction is the roof.  The covering for the roof (called sechach) can be anything that grows from the ground, such as branches, two-by-fours and bushes.  Because of the prevalence of palm branches in the Middle East, it is easily understood why this foliage took a central place in the celebration of Sukkot.

To emphasize its temporary status, the roof is arranged so the stars can be seen through it on a clear night.  Once the main construction of the sukkah is completed, the children contribute their part with artwork, fruit tied with string, or any other creative ideas they have.  The sukkah is to be big enough to house at least one person but preferably it should be able to hold a table for meals. If the climate is mild enough, people sleep overnight in the hut.

Once the sukkah is built and the holy day has arrived, there are other customs incorporated into the celebration.  As with most other Jewish holy days, the celebration starts at sundown of the first night with a festival meal.  The table is set with the two traditional candlesticks and the best dining ware.  An exception is sometimes made with Sukkot since many Jewish people eat their meals out in their sukkot.  In such cases, a more primitive setup is as a reminder of camping in the wilderness of Sinai. In either case, the kiddush is chanted over the sweet wine; the braided challah bread is blessed and shared at the table.

Each evening of the eight-day festival, special blessings are also said over the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron, a fruit from Israel).  These two items, along with the hadas (myrtle) and arava (willow) from what is called “The Four Species”. They are wrapped together in order to be handheld for waving in every direction, symbolizing the harvest and God’s omnipresence over his world.  Although there seems to be a clear connection between the Four Species and the harvest theme of Sukkot, rabbis have also made some spiritual applications for these symbols.

It is taught that each of the species represents a different kind of person.  The etrog, which tastes sweet and has a delightful aroma, represents a person with knowledge of the Torah and good deeds.  The lulav, which comes from a date palm, has a fruit that tastes sweet, yet has no fragrance.  Hence, some people have knowledge, but no good deeds.  The hadas is just the opposite, having a nice fragrance yet no taste (good deeds without true knowledge).  Arava, since it possesses neither taste nor smell, represents the person who lacks both knowledge and deeds.  Perhaps this can serve as a reminder that faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

Traditional Jewish observance of Sukkot centers on the building of a sukkah and the blessing of the lulav with the etrog.  It should also be noted that, as with the other holy days, the synagogue plays a vital role.  Many synagogues build a community sukkah to enable all worshipers to experience this greatest symbol of Sukkot.  Holy day services are held on the first and eighth days as stipulated by the Torah.  Because Tabernacles is a time of joy, there are various processionals in which the congregants march around the aisles, waving lulavs and chanting Psalm 118: Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Save us Lord!).  Thus, with thanksgiving, the Jewish community seeks to remember the theme of this holy day: God dwells with his people.”

THE PROPHETIC FULFILLMENT

Barney Kasdan

“As we have seen, there are many striking lessons to be learned from Sukkot.  God’s provision, his dwelling with his people, the joy of the Holy Spirit, are all themes that draw attention to the plan written in Scripture.  Yet there is still a future element remaining to be fulfilled by the Feast of Tabernacles.  The apostle John tells us in his vision of final things that the reality of Sukkot will be obvious to all:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. Also, I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See!  God’s Sh’khinah is with mankind and he will live with them.  They will be his peoples, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God” (Revelation 21:1-3).

Sukkot was always known as the holy day that commemorates God dwelling with his people.  How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day.  God himself will finally dwell with his people in all his fullness.  The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua dwells as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their own particular lessons to teach.  Yet, because of its latter day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God.  The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of his Kingdom on the earth.  This best explains why, of all the biblical holy days, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.  As the prophet Zechariah predicted:

Zechariah 14 16All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to the King Lord of Hosts and to observe the Feast of Booths. 17Any of the earth’s communities that does not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow low to the King Lord of Hosts shall receive no rain. 18However, if the community of Egypt does not make this pilgrimage, it shall not be visited by the same affliction with which the Lord will strike the other nations that do not come up to observe the Feast of Booths.* 19Such shall be the punishment of Egypt and of all other nations that do not come up to observe the Feast of Booths.[1]

*Because Egypt is not dependent on rain, it will suffer some other punishment, presumably that described in v12.

 Zechariah 14: 12As for those peoples that warred against Jerusalem, the Lord will smite them with this plague: Their flesh shall rot away while they stand on their feet; their eyes shall rot away in their sockets; and their tongues shall rot away in their mouths.

It is worthy to note that the judgment for not celebrating Sukkot in the Messianic Kingdom will be the withholding of rain.  Since Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest, it is traditional in the Jewish community to begin the prayers for the winter rains essential for the upcoming year at this time.  When Yeshua returns to establish the long-awaited Kingdom, all people who have been redeemed by his sacrifice will gladly celebrate Sukkot in all its fullness.

What a celebration there will be as his people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen.  Come, Lord Yeshua!”[3]

There are two more days of celebration associated with Sukkot.  They are Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.  Shemini Atzeret is commanded by God to be the eighth day of the festival of Sukkot. 

LEVITICUS 23:33The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 34Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, [to last] seven days. 35The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations; 36seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to the Lord; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations.

The eighth day is understood to be similar to the Feast of Shavout (Pentecost).  In the Spring there are the seven days of Pesach followed by Shavout 50 days later.  Shavout seems to be the conclusion of Pesach and Sukkoth is concluded by Shemini Atzeret, another day, or an extra day.  Almost like God wanted the feast to linger just a little longer, one more sacred occasion to spend with His people. 

In the Diaspora, where all feast days are extended by an additional day, the ninth day has become a day to celebrate the Torah.  Simchat Torah (rejoicing of the Torah) is a very exciting time.  The Torah scrolls are taken out and paraded around the synagogue with singing and dancing.  Around and around the synagogue the celebration continues until all adults have had a chance to carry and dance with a Torah scroll.  Then the last chapter of Deuteronomy is read excluding the last verse.  The joy of the Torah does not come to an end, it continues on and on.  The scroll is rolled back to Genesis and the first verse is read, and so the Joy of the Torah continues.  The study of Torah continues.

 

Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, (Philadelphia, Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society) 1985.

God’s Appointed Times (Clarksville, Maryland and Jerusalem, Israel, Lederer Messianic Publications) 1993

God’s Appointed Times (Clarksville, Maryland and Jerusalem, Israel, Lederer Messianic Publications) 1993

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 7:1–39). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Stern, D. H. (1998). Complete Jewish Bible: an English version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament) (1st ed., Le 23:32–44). Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications.

 

One response to “Feast of Sukkot, Tabernacles, Booths, or Ingathering

  1. Pingback: Hoshana Rabba, Shemini Atzeret, & Simchat Torah | The Lioness in the Wilderness

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