Friday, October 5, 2012

Sukkoth 2012

Time now for another of the 3 major festivals of the physical Israel.  When Israel was camped-out at Mt. Sinai, God commanded this feast in the Torah:

“You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to Yahweh 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 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.”  Leviticus 23:41-43

And although God specifically tells them the reason for this festival (so that future generations will remember), their descendants augmented the feast over the years with their own stuff, as religious people do.  The article below is from our brother in Israel, who still celebrates it today, and it’s his explanation of it.  Interestingly, the added bits were probably mostly already taking place when Jesus was walking the earth, so that the mention of this feast in John 7 is enlightening.  So read on and enjoy this, but remember above all that although we may live in nice houses, they are not our homes, and they are not permanent.  We are only aliens in this world, waiting for our own promised land with God. 

We are in the middle of the Feast of Booths or the way that some people call it, The Feast of Tabernacles.   In Hebrew this Feast is called “Sukkoth” and it is one of the three major Feasts of the Bible.  It is called also the Feast of the Ingathering.  The reason that it is called Ingathering is because it is the last feast before the full winter comes in and after the spring and summer where the crops from the fields and the vineyards are already gathered into the storerooms and the silos and the wine vats are also full.  Precisely in this rich time the command is to leave your nice permanent home with a good roof that does not leak water when it rains and with windows that block the winds, and go out to build a shabby temporary structure that if it rains you will get wet and if the wind blows it will blow inside the Sukkah.  Well there are some very important aspects in this Feast of Sukkoth – Booths – Tabernacles.

First, Sukkoth is the celebration of our equality and unity.  All year long we live in homes.  Some are rich homes, villas, castles, and some are poor homes, crowded and in ill repair.  When you build a Sukkah and you eat in the Sukkah – you are all equal and all are going to get when it rains.

Second, dwelling in the Sukkah is a reminded that in this life we are all tourists, pilgrims, nomads, wondering through this barren land.  We have no permanent home in this world.  We don’t have any thing to lean on in this world other than the Lord our God.  This idea that we are strangers in this world and just passing through is something of such a great importance.  We can’t really learn to trust God and relay on His promises if we don’t first learn to disconnect and stop relaying on our things and homes and bank accounts.  Sukkoth is the ultimate holiday reminder that we are all like fiddlers on the roof, nothing is stable and nothing is permanent in this world.  The Apostle Paul says the same thing in a very modern sounding way: “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Cor. 4:18)

The Third point in Sukkoth that is very important is the use of the “Four Species”.  It is based on the text in Leviticus 23:40, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees (citron) , branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” These four plants, according to Jewish Tradition, are to be held in one hand and shaken in every direction.  There are two reasons why this act is done. 

The first is to show that we are all together, one has both smell and good taste, the Citron or as it is translated in the King James Version “fruit of beautiful trees.”  The second element or species is the river willow that has no smell or taste at all.  The third species is the Palm – palm dates have no smell but good sweet taste.  The fourth species is the Myrtle branch that has good smell but no taste.  Humanity according to Judaism is divided into four not into two.
The Greeks had a two part division – black and white, good and bad, and nothing else.   The Hebrews divid humanity into four – one that is good – it has both good smell and good taste – the Citron.  The other has nothing no smell and no taste – the river willow.  The third is actually in the gray zone – it is not good or bad but – it has taste and not smell, the Date Palm.  The forth species is the Myrtle that is also gray – it has good smell and no taste.  When a person holds all four species in his hand he demonstrates that we are all united and one and one fulfills what is lacking in the other and when we are all together we all have good smell and good taste.  This is also a very important lesson that we all have to learn over and over again.

The second meaning of the four species is the unification of the name of God.  As you know that God’s name in Hebrew has four letters, in Greek it is called “Tetragrammaton”  this greek word actually means “four letters.”  So, when a Jew holds these four species in his hand and shakes them in all direction he actually is in his mind uniting the name of God and being united with the identity of God’s Unity.  It is something that is so special and meaningful to participate in presenting God’s unity and demonstrating that unity with these four species that fulfill each other.

The last thing in the Feast of Sukkoth is also on the last day of the feast, like in John’s Gospel chapter 7 – the last day is the celebration of the Torah (the Law of Moses) and also the feast of water.  There is a celebration of God’s Torah and also of the change of wording in the prayer. From this day – the last day of Sukkoth we start praying daily for rain.   It is on that day and in this celebration that Yeshua said to His disciples: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “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.” John 7:37-38

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