Feast of Tabernacles

Sukkot

Tonight we begin celebrating Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles/Booths), which completes the cycle of the Biblical Fall Feasts. Sukkot began at sunset tonight and lasts for seven days. This is one of the three times the Jewish people were to go up to the Temple in Jerusalem, where all men were to gather. Even today, Jewish people return to Jerusalem for this feast.

After the introspection of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) is a joyous celebration of renewed relationship with God.

Leviticus 23:34-37, 39-43 are the Scriptural basis for Sukkot where God tells Moses to: “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month (Jewish calendar) is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord. On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the Lord…when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all of the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”

At Sukkot we remember God’s kindness and mercy to the Israelites in the wilderness as he led and guided them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He also provided them with daily manna. Just as they lived in temporary shelters (called a sukkah,which is a temporary hut or shelter with a covering of branches or palm leaves). so they live in temporary shelters for this entire week.

According to Leviticus 23:40: “You shall take for yourselves on the first day [of the festival] the splendid fruit of a tree (etrog), palms branches (lulav)…” The palm branches are bound together and a blessing is recited as it is shaken in six directions as a reminder that God supplies all of our needs (signified by pointing to every direction). The branches are shaken while holding the fruit. The following blessing is recited: “Blessed are You, God… who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to take the lulav.” In Biblical times, every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat) was filled with music, singing and dancing.

Fruit of a tree (etrog) and palms branches (lulav)

Fruit of a tree (etrog) and palms branches (lulav)

According to the prophet Zechariah, this holiday has a prophetic aspect that is yet to be fulfilled. When Messiah returns and establishes His Kingdom, all the nations will be required to keep this holiday by coming up to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot. “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.” Zechariah 14:16. In that day, Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) will become Israel’s sukkah (tabernable). His presence will shelter Israel and she will no longer be oppressed.

Throughout the generations, God has shown us that He desires to “dwell among us.” We are reminded this holiday that He dwelled with them in the tabernacle and then in the Temple. He now dwells within each believer. In the future, He will also dwell with us…forever.