ולקחתם לכם ביום הראשׁון פרי עץ הדר כפת תמרים וענף עץ־עבת וערבי־נחל ושׂמחתם לפני יהוה אלהיכם שׁבעת ימים׃
וחגתם אתו חג ליהוה שׁבעת ימים בשׁנה חקת עולם לדרתיכם בחדשׁ השׁביעי תחגו אתו׃
בסכת תשׁבו שׁבעת ימים כל־האזרח בישׂראל ישׁבו בסכת׃
למען ידעו דרתיכם כי בסכות הושׁבתי את־בני ישׂראל בהוציאי אותם מארץ מצרים אני יהוה אלהיכם׃
'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. 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. 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. You are to live in sukkot for seven days; every citizen of Isra'el is to live in a sukkah, 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.' " (Lev 23:39-43 CJB)
As we finish Pesach, go through the Omer countdown to Shavuot, we are offered a glimpse into the world to come through the instruction concerning Chat Sukkot, or Tabernacles.
Pesach represented the redemption of Israel as it led to Shavuot where the promise of the prophet Joel of redemption for the nations is fulfilled.
Two days after Pesach, on the 16th of Nissan starts the barley harvest. At Shavuot starts the wheat harvest just preceding the hot summer months. Fruits and olives will also harvested to finally end with the grape harvest at the time of Sukkot. On a theological level, this chronology of the levitical Holy Convocations teaches us that the message of the Kingdom comes first to a Jewish firstfruit, who bring it to a Gentile firstfruit, and is then transferred to everybody else during a long harvesting summer. By the Fall, all of redeemed enters HaShem’s sukka (Rev 21-22). At that time, everything has to be in the barn before the rains arrive, rains which could devastate the harvested crops but which will be life-giving to the newly sowed fields.
Sukkot has often been called the feast of the nations. It speaks of universal redemption. As the Seventh-day Shabbat is the crowning and fulfillment of it's week, the seventh Holy Convocation of the year is the crowning festival of HaShem's full universal redemption program. It foretells the times described in Revelations 21 and 22 when the Tabernacle of God dwells with man.
Thus, many ideas intertwined the celebration of Sukkot.
HOSPITALITY. Sukkot reminds us that we have been mistreated strangers in a strange land. As such, we owe to remember what it's like and be kind and generous with the foreigner in our midst.
- HaShem heard our cries and saw our tears, we should therefore see and hear their cries and tears. (Exo 3:7-8)
- HaShem took us out of oppression to rescue us. We should pay it forward.
- HaShem invited us to be part of His household.
- We should also extend this invitation to others.
It is what Yeshua was talking about when He spoke of: the unrighteous servant,
Then the master summoned his servant and said, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt just because you begged me to do it. Shouldn't you have had pity on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?' And in anger his master turned him over to the jailers for punishment until he paid back everything he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat you, unless you each forgive your brother from your hearts."
(Mat 18:32-35 CJB)
Abraham was the chief host. He was known to send his servant Eliezer by the highways and byways of the desert to compel people to come in and refresh themselves in his tent. He did not do this as a form of ritual religious observance, but as an act of gratitude towards Him who lets him in into His everlasting dwellings.
THE WORLD TO COME. This world is not our final home. By emulating our ancestors in the desert, Sukkot reminds us of our temporary status in this world. We are strangers in a strange land. One day we will be home. At that time we will recline and eat in the company of the patriarchs.
There is a Sukkot tradition to receiving guests. To have guests in your sukka is one of the highest mitzvah. HaShem receives us in the way we receive others. We will be received in the same manner we receive others.
In the industrial West, the idea of hospitality has lost some of its shine. We often do not want to be bothered with cleaning the house, preparing special food, or breaking out the china. We leave the house as it is, buy something from the store, and use paper plates. Maybe it is because I was raised in Europe, but to me when someone comes to visit, we try to present a clean and comfortable house, prepare special food served in china dishes. It should be all the more so when we receive people from the household of Messiah: the Saints. What shouldn't we do for those that HaShem loves so much that he sent His Son to redeem with a great and mighty arm!
If we bring out our best for our guests, He’ll bring out His best for us. Paraphrasing Yeshua’s words, the measure with which we practice hospitality will be used towards us also. (Mat 7:2)
SPECIAL GUESTS: At Sukkot, we will recline in the company of the patriarchs. It is sometimes traditional then to practice that time by dedicating certain days of Sukkot to the patriarchs. Each day belongs to a different one.
My book, Under the Vine, gives an idea of discussion for each patriarch on their assigned day. In my home we usually do Bible quizzes and children’s activities on each of the patriarchs and even sing songs about the birth of Yeshua as part of Simchat Torah on the 8th day.
3 LEVELS OF HOSPITALITY: Of course, it is easy to invite these visitors from times past. They don’t eat much and they do not take much space. In the model of the Jewish idea concerning Tzedaka (the giving of charity) http://www.jewfaq.org/tzedakah.htm I would like to put levels to hospitality.
- Not inviting anyone; waiting for people to come in to the Sukka.
- Only inviting Biblical patriarchs
- Only inviting relatives
- Only inviting friends
- Inviting the homeless as an act of charity
- Leaving the door open for anyone to come in and be received as a special guest. This last one is reminiscent of the Pesach Seder. At the Pesach Seder we set a place for Elijah, but we also leave the door semi-open. Anyone who comes in will be eating at the place of Elijah thus fulfilling the commandment in the letter to the first century Messianic Jews,
Let brotherly friendship continue; but don't forget to be friendly to outsiders; for in so doing, some people, without knowing it, have entertained angels.
(Heb 13:1-2 CJB)
JOY: Joy is one of the main elements of Sukkot. We are actually commanded to rejoice at that time.
"You are to keep the festival of Sukkot for seven days after you have gathered the produce of your threshing-floor and winepress. Rejoice at your festival - you, your sons and daughters, your male and female slaves, the L'vi'im, and the foreigners, orphans and widows living among you.
(Deu 16:13-14 CJB)
The reason for that is that Sukkot is a rehearsal, a foretaste of the time when,
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death; and there will no longer be any mourning, crying or pain; because the old order has passed away."
(Rev 21:4 CJB)
Joy and rejoicing should actually be our default mood at all times. Here is a commentary from Rabbi Hirsh.
“Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsh noted that Rosh Hashanah is only one day, and Yom Kippur is only one day, while sukkot is seven days. Rosh Hashanah is a day of shaking us out of ways of life displeasing to the Almighty. Yom Kippur is a day of fasting and awareness of our faults and mistakes. Sukkot, however, sets us up afresh in living to achieve the highest earthly possession: joy and happiness before the Almighty. There is only one day for the mood of Rosh Hashanah, and only one day for the fasting of atonement, but seven days, a whole cycle of days for the joyful building of our huts, and for enjoying our possessions before the Almighty. This is what is most characteristic of Torah laws, it teaches that the normal mood of one’s life should be not the bowed down broken feeling but the joy of life which runs equally throughout the year of a life faith fully devoted to duty.” (Rabbi Hirsch’s Commentary)
TO LIVE A JOYOUS LIFE: We are commanded to rejoice at Sukkot. We are also required to enjoy what we have.
It is fine and easy for the one one who seems blessed with peaceful conditions and enough subsistence, but what about he who is in the midst of trouble and is poor. The commandment then doesn’t change. Happiness should not be the fruit of our our environment but rather an inner spiritual condition; a state of mind.
- We may feel forsaken in this world but we should rejoice just because we are His children.
- We may not have worldly wealth but we should rejoice because we have enough.
- Though we may not have the best according to the world, we should rejoice because we have His best.
Now true religion does bring great riches, but only to those who are content with what they have.
(1Ti 6:6 CJB)
When my children grumbled about something, my wife used to ask them, “How long are you going be unhappy about this? How long are you going to be on a bummer? Another minute? Five minute? Until tonight?”
To rejoice and be happy is not the result of an external condition, but a choice and a decision that we make.
AVOID QUARRELING: The lulav that we use at Sukkot symbolises the whole nation united together in peace, harmony, and unity. Again peace, harmony, and unity don’t come just by themselves. They are conscious choices that we make. Psychologist and Rabbi Zelig Pliskin says that, “Many quarrels can easily be avoided by just thinking sensibly about how irrational and counterproductive it is to waste time and energy in a quarrel that really makes not practical difference.”
Here is another story: “Rabbi Eliyahu Klatzkin, Rabbi of Dublin and later jerusalem, once told his son that some people had taken his seal without permission and affixed it to proclamation without consulting him. His son asked him why he had not refuted them in the press,and he answered, “I am afraid that if I protest agaisnt the forgery, I shall arouse the anger of these troublemakers and I shall be forced to make controversial statements. In any case they will surely be bold anough to bismirch the motive behind my denials, and I shall be forced to issue a protest. As a result, my time will be wasted in controversy, and I shall be unable to spend it studying Torah.””(Jewish Leaders, p.327)
MAY WE MAKE THE CHOICE TO BE HOSPITABLE.
MAY WE MAKE THE CHOICE TO LIVE JOYFULLY.
MAY WE MAKE THE CHOICE TO FORGIVE.
MAY WE MAKE THE CHOICE TO LOVE.