Articles on Sukkot
When summer is gone, the final harvest is ready. Nimble fingers separate grapes from the vines. Some of the harvest is laid out for the sun to sweeten into delicious dried fruit: raisins. Huge quantities of grapes are crushed and their juice is stored in large earthen vats until the proper time for it to be poured into wineskins to complete the fermentation process. All look forward to the abundance of wine, which King David said "gladdens the heart." (Psalm 104:15)
Each of the family joins in collecting the fruit of the land, the fruit God has provided for his people. Children scramble to fill oversized baskets with figs and dates which will be molded into cakes for a sweet confection to be used in the months ahead. Some dates will be made into a sweet syrup, date honey.
The apple fragrance sets mouths to watering and telltale stains from bright red pomegranates are evidence that some have sampled the fruit to "taste and see that the LORD is good." (Psalm 34:8)
Then it is time to harvest the olives. The lush dark green olive trees on the terraced hillsides are black with the ripe fruit. Everyone joins in the exhausting but exhilarating work, stripping the trees of their fruit. Copious volumes of olives are collected and then crushed under the massive rolling stone of the olive press to extract the precious oil for cooking or fuel for the oil lamps or for anointing. The oil will also provide the base for soap as well as for unguent, a healing ointment to spread over one's wounds....
T he Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long autumn harvest festival. Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of the Ingathering, Feast of the Booths, Sukkoth, Succoth, or Sukkot (variations in spellings occur because these words are transliterations of the Hebrew word pronounced Sue-coat). The two days following the festival are separate holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah, but are commonly thought of as part of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The Feast of Tabernacles was the final and most important holiday of the year. The importance of this festival is indicated by the statement, This is to be a lasting ordinance. The divine pronouncement, I am the Lord your God, concludes this section on the holidays of the seventh month. The Feast of Tabernacles begins five days after Yom Kippur on the fifteenth of Tishri (September or October). It is a drastic change from one of the most solemn holidays in our year to one of the most joyous. The word Sukkoth means booths, and refers to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during this holiday, just as the Jews did in the wilderness. The Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days and ends on the twenty-first day (3x7) of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which is Israels seventh month.
This holiday has a dual significance: historical and agricultural (just as Passover and Pentecost). Historically, it was to be kept in remembrance of the dwelling in tents in the wilderness for the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert.
It is expounded in Leviticus 23:43 That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
I n contrast to the somber tone of Yom Teruah and Yom Kippur, the third feast is a time of pure joy. The time of introspection and searching now make way for the feast called; "The season of our rejoicing."
The name comes from the Hebrew - Sukkot; meaning - tabernacles, booths. It comes from the command in (Lev 23:42-43). The impermanent leafy shelters were to remind the Israelites of God's faithfulness during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The tabernacles symbolized man's need to depend on God for His provision of food, water, and shelter
The feast of Ingathering
The command to build tabernacles and dwell in them coincided annually with Israel's final harvest of the season, and so the name "Feast of Ingathering " was used of the holiday as well.
We see this being applied to the feast in : Lev 23:34; Deut 16:13. The emphasis is on the relationship to the holiday to the final gathering of the crops in the fall.
Ancient Israel's economy was agrarian. the seasons guided Israel's activities. each season's plentiful harvest brought a renewed sense of relief and thankfulness that they would not go hungry for God had once more provided for His people. It is this feast which provided the Pilgrims with the Biblical foundation for the first Thanksgiving observance. ...
The Feast of Tabernacles had ended. The crowds had dispersed and those who had traveled to Jerusalem from the outlying regions were making their way home. The sukkahs were being cleared away along with well-shaken lulavs, bent and broken from the joyous celebration. Jerusalem was returning to its usual bustling pace. People were still talking about the spectacular light that had shone from the Temple and cast a glow upon the whole city. However, it was difficult for the man who sat by the entrance to the Temple courtyard to understand these conversations. He had never beheld the giant candelabra shining into the night. And although he had felt its warmth and heard it crackle, he had never even seen fire. For this man had been born blind. "I was blind when the festival began and now it's over, and I am blind still," he thought. "And so it shall probably be until the end of my days; I shall sit here, begging for a few measly coins always." He nodded in the direction of the sound of someone walking into the Temple. "The Lord bless you," he said to the wind.
Later that day, he heard a group of people approaching. The group paused before him and the blind man heard one of them ask, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind?" The beggar steeled himself for the answer to come. He didn't think he could bear it if the rabbi were to say something about his parents, whom he loved and who had always shown him compassion, even though they must have been disappointed that their child was...well, broken.
As these thoughts went through his mind, he heard the rabbi reply, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him." The beggar was astonished and then he had another thought, but he was too afraid to speak it: "This must be the man called Yeshua." He had heard rumors and rumblings about Jesus for weeks. People spoke freely about him in front of the beggar, for they must have assumed that just because he couldn't see, there must be something wrong with his hearing. So the blind man had heard plenty. Some had called Yeshua a lunatic or a liar, but many were saying that he was the Prophet who was to come, that he was the Messiah, the Anointed One....
Sukkot is also called the Feast of the Harvest, and as a harvest feast, Sukkot reminds us of our Sovereign God's wonderful provision for our lives.
Leviticus 23 contains a statute for Jewish people to live in booths every year, reminding us of the wilderness journey from Egypt to the Promised Land: Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 23:42-43). The Sukkot festival consists of seven days of continual, joyous celebration, with 'the Great Day of the Feast', called Hoshanna Rabbah, on the 7th day, followed by a solemn assembly on the eighth day.
Sukkot is the culmination of all the feasts on God's redemptive calendar, and points prophetically to the end-time harvest of souls.
Sukkot also reminds us to renew our perspective on how we use our time, talent and treasure for the greatest spiritual impact and blessing. In the days of Haggai the prophet, the Feast of Sukkot offered a fascinating opportunity for the people to appreciate all that God would do for them, as it does for us today!A Problem Perspective
God's people were dealing with a problem of perspective, and the prophet Haggai exposed their selfish priorities, which had led them to a superficial point of view. After returning from the Babylonian Captivity, Israel had prioritized the rebuilding of God's house before building their own (Haggai 1:9), but when they realized the new temple would be smaller than the previous Temple of Solomon they became discouraged (Hag. 2:3; also Ezra 3:12) and didn't want to continue. We can all relate to the discouraging problem that life isn't always as glorious as we had hoped it would be. It's easy to lose perspective and not appreciate all that God has done and is doing, according to His agenda, especially when we may have had our own agenda.
The root "samach" is used nearly 200 times in the Hebrew scriptures. It is rendered in English in various places as joy, gladness, pleasure, mirth, rejoicing, or joyfulness. It describes the condition of the hearts and minds of people, and in some cases it is attributed to creation, "Let the heavens rejoice; let the earth be gladâ€¦" (Psalm 96:11). The first place where it appears in the form of a command, however, is in Leviticus 23:40 in connection with Sukkot:
Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the fruit 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.
Rejoicing is again commanded in Deuteronomy 12:7; 18; 14:26; 16:11; 14; 26:11 and 27:7. Though, in these passages, Sukkot is specifically mentioned only in 16:14, all the aspects of the rejoicing that are described are quite applicable for Sukkot. In all these verses, there are common features: the bountiful blessings of God, offerings of gratitude, being in the place of His presence, and feasting together with family and others. They are certainly very suitable applications for our modern day celebrations.
Modern city dwellers, however, often do not relate to the realities of harvest in their everyday lives. Even the appearance, or disappearance, of certain foods on the supermarket shelves has less to do with the local seasons than with modern methods of preservation and shipping. Sukkot serves as a tool in the hand of God to help us remember and return to the basic truth that God is our source. Most of us have lost our connection to "the land," and a daily sensitivity to the effect of weather on crops. How fitting, then, to dwell in booths and hold the produce of the earth in our hands and feel again our utter dependence on the Lord of the Harvest. The blessings of God come in many forms and the harvest theme of Sukkot can represent all the good that the Lord has done for us in any way. It is a time to joyfully give thanks for every good gift....
On Sukkot, our rejoicing before the Lord is to be done with certain types of produce and plants in hand. (Leviticus 23:40) Traditionally, these have been understood to be the citron (similar to a large lemon in appearance and known by its Hebrew name "etrog"), branches of the date palm tree, and twigs of the myrtle and the willow. Though the name of the palm branch is the "lulav," two sprigs of willow and three of myrtle are bound to the palm branch with strips of palm and the composite of the three together is called the "lulav." Though it could be argued that Leviticus 23:40 can be interpreted in a less specific fashion, the lulav and etrog have been the popular understanding of Israel at least since the days of the Maccabees. They appear on ancient Israelite coins and in early Jewish art along with other well-known symbols like the menorah, the shofar and the Ark of the Covenant.
According to Maimonides, it is likely that these "four species" as they are known, were chosen to symbolize Israel's emergence from the wilderness into the land of plenty. They were easy to obtain in ancient Israel, two of them have a pleasant smell, and they tend to retain their freshness over the week more than most other plants.
Because of their long and loved association with Sukkot, the lulav and etrog have been assigned many spiritual meanings. They obviously connect graphically to the whole harvest motif, but the range of other symbolic meanings is quite wide.
The etrog, especially, has been the focus of much attention and care. Since they were difficult to obtain in European Jewish communities from the Middle Ages almost up to modern times, they were considered very precious and much effort and expense was expended to obtain them. Sometimes entire communities had to share one etrog.
The designing and crafting of decorative containers to hold the etrog has been a favorite project of artisans for centuries. One Rabbinic opinion claims that the etrog was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil from which our first parents ate, bringing sin into the world. Another, consequently, believes that by observing the commandment of the lulav and etrog, the damage done by Adam and Eve is repaired...