Sukkot – Tabernacles: Feast of our Joy

What is Sukkot and why is it celebrated

Kids singing

Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Sukkot is an annual festival mentioned in Leviticus 23:33-44 that celebrates Elohim’s blessings, Grace, and sovereignty.

Sukkot or the Feast of Tabernacles (or Feast of Booths) is a week-long fall festival. It commemorates the 40-year journey of the Hebrews in the wilderness. This is one of three pilgrimage feasts along with Passover and the Festival of Weeks (Pentecost) recorded in Scriptures.

David's citadel

In the Book of Leviticus, Elohim told Moshe to command the people:

“On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook” (Wayiqra-Lev. 23:40), and “You shall live in booths seven days; all native of Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Mitzrayim.” (Wayiqra-Lev. 23:42–43).

The origins of Sukkot are both historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag HaAsif (חג האסיף, the “Festival of Ingathering”), as it celebrates the in-gathering of the harvest.

 

Sukkah Party

We celebrate these set apart feasts in the present in order to remember something Elohim had done in the past. All while looking forward to some future prophetic purpose hidden within each festival. This is true for our weekly observance of Shabbat (Sabbath) as well.

What is the feast of In-gathering, Abundance and Autumn festival

Haevest basket

Sukkot goes by several aliases. Sometimes called Tabernacles, Feast of in-gathering, sukkot, booths, feast of abundance, festival of shelters, autumn festival, feast of our joy.

 

Autumn Festival

Time of Observance

The observance of the Feast of Tabernacles is recorded in Exodus 23:16, 34:22. Leviticus 23:34-43; Numbers 29:12-40; Deuteronomy 16:13-15; Ezra 3:4. And Nehemiah 8:13-18.

Sukkot begins on the 15th day of the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar. This puts Sukkot third in line of the fall feasts of the Hebrew calendar. The first day of the 7th month is Yom Teruah (day of sounding the alarm/joyful noise). On day ten after Yom Teruah (day of joyful noise) is Yom haKippurim, the feast of Atonement (Yom Kippur). Sukkot is celebrated from the 15th-21st day of the 7th month of the Hebrew calendar (also called Tishri). This usually falls between September and October of the secular Gregorian calendar.

Shabbat Shalom: Come rest with your creator.

The calendar has been an issue since the days of Yeshua Messiah. For uniformity,  Messianic and Orthodox communities observe the moedim (feasts) according to a standard lunisolar calendar. This calendar was established by Hillel II (Hillel ben R Yehudah) in the mid 4th-century. It was established because of persecution and attested in a letter to emperor Julian.

Hillel II (Hebrew: הלל נשיאה, Hillel the Nasi), also known simply as Hillel, was an Amora of the fifth generation. He held the office of Nasi of the Sanhedrin between 320 and 385 CE in Yisral. Hillel II was the son and successor of Yehudah III. And is sometimes confused with Hillel the Elder, as the Talmud sometimes simply uses the name “Hillel”.

Lulav-Torah

The Hillel II lunisolar Hebrew calendar used today is the product of evolution, including a Babylonian influence. Months are synchronized with the phases of the moon. But it’s average year length approximates the mean length of a solar year.

The Sanhedrin declared new months based on observations of the new moon. They added a 13th lunar month to certain years to ensure that holidays would continue to fall in the same seasons of the solar year.

Until the Tannaitic period (approximately 10–220 CE), the calendar employed a new crescent moon. With an additional month normally added every two or three years. This serves to correct for the difference between twelve lunar months and the solar year. The year in which it was added was based on observation of natural agriculture-related events in ancient Israel.

Through the Amoraic period (200–500 CE) and into the Geonic period, this system was gradually displaced. The Hillel II calendar used today employs  mathematical rules only. The principles and rules were fully codified by Maimonides in the Mishneh Torah in the 12th century.

Maimonides’ work also replaced counting “years since the destruction of the Temple” with the modern creation-era Anno Mundi.

New England Sukkah

According to the Hillel calendar Sukkot 2019 will begin in the evening of Sunday October 13. It ends in the evening of Sunday October 20

 However, there are other groups that hold or keep different Biblical calendars. Some examples inlcude the Temple or priesly calendar also called the Zaddokite or Enochian calendar. A solar calendar or lunar calendar. The feast days usually fall around the same Gregorian months of september-october but the start and end dates differ slightly from a day up to a week.
Those observing the Zaddokite calendar will celebrate Sukkot from the evening of Tuesday October 8th to Tuesday October 15th.

Customs of the Feast of Tabernacles: How do you celebrate sukkot?

Sukkah Party

Many interesting customs are associated with the celebration of Sukkot. The booth of Sukkot is called a sukkah. These shelters consist of at least three walls and are framed with wood and canvas. The roof or covering is made from cut branches and leaves, placed loosely atop, leaving open space for the stars to be viewed and rain to enter. It is common to decorate the sukkah with flowers, leaves and fruits.

what do you do on the feast of tabernacles.

Camping

Today, the requirement to dwell in the booth can be met by eating at least one meal a day in it. However, some believers still sleep in the sukkah. I go caping for the whole feast with friends and I have had some chilling encounters with my Elohim during sukkot. If the camp has a body of water I do a mikvah every morning during my morning meditation. If the camp does not have a body of living water I mikvah before going to camp.

A lot of believers take a pilgrimmage to Yisral to celebrate sukkot in Yisral. Others build a sukkah in their backyard and have friends over for Torah studies, midrash, praise and worship, music around the camp fire and the most delicious foods…yummy.

Meat pie

Since Sukkot is a harvest festival, typical foods include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Hebraic recipes

Some groups have a formal service every morning with a written order of service, scripture readings etc while some are more casual.

Stuffed grape leaf

 Deberim/Deuteronomy 31:10-11 says

Then, Moshe commanded them, saying, “At the end of [every] seven years, at an appointed time, in the Festival of Sukkoth, [after] the year of release, When all Israel comes to appear before יהוה – YHWH, your Elohim, in the place He will choose, you shall read this Torah before all Israel, in their ears.

Since there is some dissagreement about when the shmita was some groups just split up the book of Deberim/Deuteronomy into daily portions read by all in the assembly while standing. So by the end of the feast the commandment to read the Torah would have been fulfilled.

Latke cake

During the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, believers all across the world gather together in not only to remember Elohim’s provision but also to look forward to that promised Messianic age when all nations will come to worship יהוה – YHWH as stated in Zecharyah 14:16

If you or your group has a favourite Sukkot tradition you’ll like to share please do so in the comment section below 🙂

Lamb pie

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The Season of Our Joy

“You shall rejoice before יהוה – YHWH your Elohim.”  (Wayiqra/Leviticus 23:40)

Rejoice

One of the names for Sukkot is Z’man Simchateinu (The Season of Our Joy).  In Scripture, in fact, the word “joy” appears several times in connection with Sukkot.

Pomegranate

“Be joyful at your Feast—you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites, the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns.…  For יהוה – YHWH your Elohim will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”  (Deberim/Deuteronomy 16:13–15)

Since Sukkot is also a harvest festival, we can well imagine that there is great reason for joy.  Indeed, one of the other names for the holiday is the Feast of Ingathering.

“Celebrate the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field.”  (Shemot/Exodus 23:16)

Danza Hebreo

The joy of this holiday is so singular and complete that many rabbinic texts just refer to it as HaChag (The Festival).

During ancient times, every day of The Festival, except Shabbat, was characterized by music, song and dancing.

Believers all across the world gather today, to dance, sing and rejoice with tremendous joy until the early hours of the morning before יהוה – YHWH.

This is in partial fulfillment of prophecy.  The Prophets tell us that a day will come when the exiles of Yisral return to Tziyon.  Her streets will be filled with the sounds of joyful melodies, and sorrow will disappear.

Sukkot Activities

“The ransomed of יהוה – YHWH will return.  They will enter Tziyon with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads.  Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”  (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 51:11)

Sukkah

Meanwhile, there are tons of activities for the kids. Bible trivia, music, dance, obstacle courses, kosher smores, sack races, arts and crafts etc. The kids usually enjoy making ribbons and art work to decorate the sukkah. And then there is the food. So much good food. Some groups have all meals together as a community while others designate a few days during the feast for community pot bliss or oneg.

Lamb

cake

Feast of Tabernacles In the Scriptures

Wilderness Tabernacle

Sukkot in the Bible: Feast of Booths, Tabernacles, Shelters, and Ingathering

Sukkot Festival

 

A booth constructed for Sukkot or Feast of Tabernacles in Yerushalayim. Dan Porges / Getty Images

During Sukkot, the orthodox community in Yisral perform two traditional ceremonies that reveal the coming Messiah and messianic era.

They carry torches around the temple, illuminating bright candelabrum along the walls of the temple to demonstrate that the Messiah would be a light to the world.

Isaiah 12:3: “With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.”

Also, the priest would draw water from the pool of Siloam and carry it to the temple where it was poured into a silver basin beside the altar. The priest would call upon יהוה – YHWH to provide heavenly water in the form of rain for their supply. During this ceremony, the people looked forward to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Some records reference the day spoken of by the prophet Joel.

Messiah Yahshua

In the Brit-Chadasha/New Testament, Yahshua attended the Feast of Tabernacles and spoke these amazing words on the last and greatest day of the Feast:

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (Yochanan/John 7:37-38)

The next morning, while the torches were still burning Yahshua said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Sukkot pointed to the truth that Israel’s life, and our lives too, rest on the redemption which is in Messiah Yahshua and his forgiveness of sin.

A Feast for all Peoples and Nations

Tabernacles is unique in that the multitude of nations are invited to join in the festivities of worship to יהוה – YHWH at this “appointed time”. יהוה – YHWH told Moshe to gather all men, women and children, along with the foreigners in their land, so they can learn to fear יהוה – YHWH (Deut. 31:12).

Tabernacle

When Shlomo later dedicated the Temple during Sukkot, he asked יהוה – YHWH to hear the prayers of any foreigners that would come there to pray (2 Chronicles 6:32-33). It may surprise some, but Yahshua Messiah kept the Feast of Tabernacles as well. On the last “great day of the feast”, he stood in the Temple and cried out: “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Yochanan/John 7:37-38)

Remembering God’s Past Provision

Picnic

The most visible symbol of Sukkot is the small booth the believers  are commanded to dwell in for the eight days of the Feast (Wayiqra/Leviticus 23:33-43).

In Yisral today, families build these makeshift huts on their patios and balconies, and decorate them with colourful fruit, ribbons and pictures. Some families eat their meals in the sukkah and even sleep there at night. These flimsy booths are a reminder to Israel that they once dwelled in temporary shelters during the forty years in the Wilderness, totally dependent onיהוה – YHWH. Elohim is faithful and He continues to provide all we need to walk upright before Him still today.

Meanwhile in the United States and the rest of the world believers gather together at camp grounds with their camping gear. Some gather at their homes with a tent out back to recreate a camping experience. I have heard of people going on cruises for sukkot and I’ve seen adds. I have yet to meet someone who does that.

Food prep

Tasting the Joy of the Messianic Age to Come

Zechariah foretold of a time when all nations will ascend to Yerushalayim each year to “worship the King, יהוה – YHWH of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (14:16).

Thus we also keep Sukkot now because of this future prophetic purpose. Throughout the Messianic Age, the entire world will celebrate this feast because it will mark the return of Yahshua Messiah to the earth. But for now, the increasing number of believers all across the world who celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles is a powerful statement of faith demonstrating that we believe the Millennial Kingdom of Yahshua is coming.

Wedding feast

For the past 39 years, Christians from all over the world have also come to Jerusalem each fall to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. They come to take part in a dynamic worship experience and to taste of the joy of the Lord in the age to come.

Symbols

An important Sukkot symbol is the sukkah. This is a temporary structure with a roof made of sechach or s’chach, which is raw, unfinished plant material, such as palm branches, bamboo poles, reeds or even corn stalks.

Building a Sukkah

The “four species” are also important symbols of Sukkot and represent the blessings of nature. These are lulav (a green, closed frond of a date palm tree), hadass (twigs and leaves from a myrtle tree), aravah (twigs and leaves from a willow tree) and etrog (a lemon-like fruit of the citron tree). These are waved while reciting Psalm 118:25 and special prayers called Hoshanot..

Arba Minim: The Four Species

children-Sukkot-four-kinds-arba-minim

“You shall take for yourselves on the first day [of the festival] the splendid fruit of a tree [etrog], palms of dates [lulav], the branch of the thickly leafed tree [hadas], and willows [aravot] of the brook.”  (Leviticus 23:40)

Another observance carried out each day of Sukkot except Shabbat is the Four Species (Arba Minim): an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three hadassim (myrtle twigs) and two aravot (willow twigs).  They are bound together in such a way that they can be held together easily.

The lulav, hadassim and aravot are first taken up with the right hand and then the etrog is taken with the left hand. A blessing is recited over the Four Species:

“Blessed are You, God … who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to take the lulav.”

Fabric sukkah (Go Israel photo by Dana Friedlander)

Fabric sukkah (Go Israel photo by Dana Friedlander)

Facing the direction where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood, the Four Species are then shaken in all six directions: right, left, forward, up, down and backward.

Rabbinic tradition explains that the Four Species represent the various personalities that make up the community of believers. They are held together and a blessing is recited over them to bless the unity of all peoples and nations, which is emphasized on Sukkot.

The 4 Species

Is work allowed during sukkot

Leviticus 23:34–36
34 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to YHWH. 35 ‘On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind. 36 ‘For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to YHWH. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to YHWH; it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious work.

The first day of Sukkot is a non working Sabbath. The 8th day called the last great day is a no working sabbath as well

The other days of the holiday are called Chol HaMoed (weekdays of the festival or intermediate period).  During these days the workload is reduced; many people take the week off as vacation.

 

sukkah-Sukkot-Israel

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“I wash my hands in purity and circle around Your altar, O יהוה – YHWH.”  (Tehillim/Psalm 26:6)

The seventh and final day of sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah.  Hoshana comes from two words hoshah nah, meaning “Bring us salvation, please,” and rabbah, meaning great.  This prayer to “bring salvation” is recited  every day of Sukkot.

During the first six days of the feast, the priests would “place willow branches alongside the altar with the heads of the willow branches bent over the altar” to add joy to the holiday (Chabad).

The priests would then sound the shofar, circle the altar once, and say, “Anah Hashem hoshiah nah.  Anah Hashem hatzlichah nah.  (Please, Elohim, bring us salvation. Please, Elohim, bring us success).”

Willow-Kotel-Sukkot-Four-Species-Kotel-Lulav-Etrog

 the Four Species.

On this Great Hoshanah, probably during the water ceremony, Yahshua stood up and proclaimed Himself the source of Living Water—the salvation they joyfully prayed for.

He invited all who were thirsty to come and drink, the water representing the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).

“On the last and greatest day of the festival, Yahshua stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’  By this He meant the Ruach (Spirit), whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.”  (Yochanan/John 7:37–39)

Israeli children, who have exited Hezekiah's Tunnel at the Pool of Siloam, play in the water that originates at the Gihon Spring.

Sukkot and the New Jerusalem

Sukkot also has a connection to the New Jerusalem. While many Christians believe that Elohim’s moadim (appointed times of Feasts and Festivals) have been abolished, the prophet Zecharyah clearly indicates that this is not so.

 

Build a Sukkah

Elohim’s Messianic Timeline

“The Kingdom of the world has become the Kingdom of יהוה (YHWH) and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever.”  (Revelation 11:15)

While the spring feasts were fulfilled by the death and resurrection of Yahshua Messiah, the fall feasts will be fulfilled with His return as Yahshua ben David. The ruling King.

Some believe that when Yahshua returns as Messiah King, He will be hailed by the blast of the shofar (ram’s horn) on the Feast of Trumpets (Yom Teruah / Rosh HaShanah).

Etrog-Citron

(Two forms of citron: the Etrog is used as part of the Hebrew holiday Sukkot.)

His people will recognize Him as their Messiah and mourn nationally, perhaps ten days later on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).

“I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Yerushalayim, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they will look to Me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for his only son, and will grieve bitterly for Him, as one grieves for his firstborn.”   (Zecharyah 12:10)

Loofhut_van_Beth_Shoshanna_2-by-Tfursten-Great-Synagogue-of-Deventer

On Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), Elohim will finally “tabernacle” with His people.  He will dwell among us, establishing His Messianic Kingdom of righteousness.

“Look! Elohim’s dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell [tabernacle] with them.  They will be His people, and Elohim Himself will be with them and be their Elohim.”  (Revelation 21:3)

This holiday reminds us that Elohim will never forget His set apart ones who join themselves in covenant with Him

  • Hebraic cuisineZecharyah 14:12–19 seems to suggest that this holiday is the perfect time for the nations to also remember Elohim’s people and stand with them.
Lamb Stew

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