Sukkot: The Feast of Tabernacles

This article has been reproduced with permission from Petah Tikvah (Door of Hope Ministries).

One of the more interesting of the Holy Days that we are commanded to observe as “a statute forever in all your generations” is the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles). It is observed as a memorial of the times when the Israelites basically “camped out” in the wilderness for forty years. Therefore, booths (sukkas) are constructed with roofs of green, leafy branches that allows the light to go through. Therefore, the instructions, “You shall dwell (teshvu) in booths for seven days…” The shoresh (root word) for “teshvu” is “shev,” meaning “sit” or “dwell.”

You can observe the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukka by merely sitting in one and partaking of bread and wine (or grape juice if you prefer). There are some hardy souls who actually sleep in their sukkas, but this goes beyond the literal command. Also, the command is for “all that are native born in Israel.” It is not a requirement for those of us who live in the Galut. However, it is a worthwhile option to build a sukka or perhaps have a congregational sukka if you are not able to build your own sukka. It’s rich in spiritual symbolism, and I heartily recommend it.

Regretfully, many in the Christian churches tend to dismiss this celebration as “just another Jewish holiday.” This day is a day in which there were sacrifice offerings in the Temple for each of the Gentile nations. According to the Rabbis, there were 70 Gentile nations in ancient times. Beginning in Numbers 29:13, you can read about the sacrifices that were offered on each of the days of Sukkot. On the first day, 13 bullocks were offered as a burnt offering. On the second day, 12 bullocks, on the third day, 11 bullocks, until finally on the seventh day, only 7 bullocks were offered, making a total of 70 bullocks-one for each of the Gentile nations.

This is not unusual. On another “Jewish holiday” named Yom Kippur, it is traditional to read the book of Jonah, who was a reluctant missionary to the Gentiles, and a very successful one at that, to the chagrin of Jonah.

Prophetically, we learn that in the Messianic Kingdom Age (the Millennium), it will be a biblical commandment for Gentile nations to observe Sukkot. The nations that choose to disobey this commandment to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship YHWH will be cursed with draught. In fact, instead of Judeophobia, we read: “In those days, it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold out of all the languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the kanaph of him that is a Jew, saying, ‘We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'” These Gentiles are literally grabbing hold of the tzitzit (ritual fringes) of Jews. I would assume that these are Messianic Jews. It might be good for Messianic Jews to have these fringes in order for a literal fulfillment of this prophecy to take place.

For those who “just want to be like Jesus,” it should be noted that Yeshua observed all the Biblical holidays, including even Chanukah, which is a Jewish tradition, not a biblical commandment. It was at the Feast of Sukkot that Yeshua’s own unbelieving brothers mocked Him, urging Him to make Himself known publicly. Presumably, they hoped to see their Brother arrested.

Yeshua did indeed go to the Feast, at his own timing. He taught, saying, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent Me.” Yeshua was always in submission to the Father. (See also John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 14:28.) It was on the last day of the Feast (the seventh day, called HaShana Raba), during the water pouring ceremony, that Yeshua said, “If any is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'”

It was on the Mount of Transfiguration that Yeshua’s appearance transfigured before his talmidim (disciples). Then Elijah and Moses appeared with Him-Moses representing Torah, and Elijah representing the Neviim (Prophets), which both witness of Yeshua’s coming. At this time, Shimon Kefa (Simon Peter) says something that Christians love to laugh about: “Rabbi, it is good that we should be here. Let us make three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” You know ol’ Peter. Open mouth, insert foot. Sometimes that was true. But in this case, Peter had a good reason to say what he said, because this event occurred during Sukkot.

“This World is not my home.”

The Feast of Sukkot has another great symbolism. Have you ever gone camping? I mean really camping-not in an air conditioned cabin or a trailer with all the comforts of home. Have you ever gone camping in a rough-hewn cabin or a tent? It can be great fun, getting close to nature, even communing with some of the wild life. However, after about a week, you are happy to get back home, enjoy a nice warm bath, and sleep in a comfortable bed.

Rav Shaul compared our bodies to being tents, more literally sukkas. He said:

“Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen. For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle (sukka) is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this sukka we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed, while we are in this sukka, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed in order that what is mortal may put on immortality. For He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, we are always confident, knowing that, while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, and not by sight. We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.”

There you have it, folks. This body that we are “clothed” with is just a sukka for our “soul.” We are just “camping out” in this sukka, but someday we will be going home. As Larry Norman sang, “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.” If you are a believer in Messiah Yeshua, and living for Him, you have a heavenly citizenship. You might be the citizen of the United States or some other country. You may love your country, and call it home. However, you have another citizenship in Heaven. The writer of Hebrews says of the great men and women of faith, “But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one, wherefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.” In Judaism, this is known as the Olam Haba, the World to Come.

According to Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:21-22,

“This world is like a lobby before the Olam Haba. Prepare yourself in the lobby, so that you may enter the banquet hall. Better is one hour of spiritual bliss in the Olam Haba than the entire life of This World.”

We also believe in the Messianic Kingdom taking place on this planet for at least a thousand years. You might take a little break from eternity to spend a thousand years crawling around on this planet again, but with a supernatural body, somewhat like the Resurrected Yeshua, who was able to pass through walls and locked doors, and suddenly appear and disappear at will. Ezekiel’s vision of the Dry Bones tells us that all Israel will be resurrected and brought back to the Land of Israel, which will be considerably larger than it is today, despite the best efforts of recent Israeli Prime Ministers to dissect and give away the Land.

After the Millennium, there will be a New Jerusalem lowered down from the heavens, about 1500 miles wide, 1500 miles long, and 1500 miles high, perhaps in the shape of a great pyramid. There is a wall around the city about 72 yards high. If the city were a cube, this wall would look like a small molding around the base. As a pyramid, the wall would look like a wall. The 12 gates are named after the 12 tribes of Israel, a very Jewish city. The gates themselves are 12 pearls. In order for these pearls to look like gates on a wall 72 yards high, these pearls must be gargantuan. Imagine the size of the oysters that made the pearls!

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