Jewish Fall Holy Days — Bet (So, What are We Celebrating, vol 2, part 10)

The next of the Jewish Fall Holy Days, after Yom Kippur is Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles or Festival of Booths. Sukkot begins five days after Yom Kuppur. The name Sukkot comes from a Hebrew word that refers to temporary dwelling, more like a tent than a hotel. That is to say, the dwelling itself is temporary, not just the stay in it. Sukkot is followed directly by Simchat Torah, the day of rejoicing in God’s Word. I believe that this is also sometimes referred to as the Last Great Day. Some of my Jewish friends who grew up in Judaism, like Adam Young or Elisabeth Robbins, can correct me on this.

Sukkot is one of three pilgrimage feasts, Pesach and Shavout are the others [and I have writ other pieces about those Jewish Holy Days and their Christian counterparts]. At the pilgrimage feasts, all the men of Israel were commanded to present themselves and their offering to the Almighty, at The Temple in Jerusalem. In the days of Solomon’s Temple and during the Second Temple period, Jewish communities in farflung locations outside the Holy Land – like Ethiopia, India and Spain – would send representatives or delegations. Those who lived in the Holy Land would often bring their whole families along to the pilgrimage feasts.

Traditionally, Jews will erect a Sukkah (singular of Sukkot) a day or two after Yom Kippur. Then Sukkot begins on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and lasts eight days. Some Jews will live in the Sukkah for that time, actually sleeping, preparing and eating meals, etc., in the Sukkah. Others will pray in the Sukkah and bring meals outside to eat in it. Another tradition involved in Sukkot is waving or shaking the Lulov. A Lulov consists of the branch or fruit of four kinds of trees, usually piece of citrus fruit, along with palm fronds, a small branch of myrtle and a small branch of willow. The traditions for Simchat Torah usually involve reading the last verses of the last chapter of Deuteronomy, the first verses of Genesis Chapter One and sometimes carrying the Torah scroll and dancing with it while singing worship songs or prayers. And there are many other traditions also associated with these Holy Days.

Following the Exodus, Moses, Aaron and Miriam led the tribes of Israel through forty years of walking and dwelling in tents (dwelling in sukkot) in the deserts between Egypt and the Holy Land. During that time of travelling in the deserts, they worshiped the Almighty in the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle in the Wilderness was dedicated and services began there at the time of Sukkot. Many generations later, The first Temple, built by Solomon, was also dedicated and worship transitioned from the Tabernacle to The Temple at the time of Sukkot.

Some Messianic Jews and Hebrew Roots Christians believe that Yeshua (Jesus) was actually born during the time of Sukkot. There’s a proof for this, similar to proving parallel lines in Euclidian geometry, that involves the beginning of St Luke’s Gospel and determining when John the Baptist was born and knowing how far along Miriam (Mary), Yeshua’s mother was when she went to stay with her cousin Elisheva (Elizabeth) and her husband Zachariah, parents of John the Baptist. (And that’s not complicated or confusing either, is it?). The easier hint is the first chapter of the Gospel of St John the Apostle, where he writes that the Word became flesh and Tabernacled among us in the form of Yeshua (see John 1:14, NASB). Even as a young kid, when I became an evangelical, I considered the use of the word tabernacled to be a hint or a sign post pointing to some unseen truth hidden in the Gospels. Now as a Messianic Jew, I believe the use of the word Tabernacled in John 1:14 is a hint that Yeshua was born at the Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot. Not everyone believes this. Others think He was born in the Spring at Pesach, that he was born, died and resurrected during the same week of the year, just thirty-three years apart. To me personally, that would just be too much irony. And I sometimes muse that the Universe runs on irony.

To me, Sukkot is a time to celebrate God and man dwelling together.

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These opinions are my own and are not necessarily endorsed by any Rabbi, Chaplain, Pastor, Priest, Minister, Imam, Cleric, Rebbe, Bishop or Mullah.  Nor are they endorsed by my employers, the National Guard or the DoD.

If you enjoyed this piece, please share it with your friends.  If you have a favorite tradition for Sukkot or fall in general, why not share it with us in the comments?

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