Parsha Sukkot: Leviticus 22:26-23:44; Numbers 29:12-16 and Zechariah 14:1-21

This week’s parsha is Sukkot: Leviticus 22:26-23:44; Numbers 29:12-16 and Zechariah 14:1-21.

The Hebrew word Sukkot is the plural of sukkah, "booth" or "tabernacle", which is a small, four sided structure tall enough for a human to stand in comfortably and roofed with plant material such as palm fronds.

Throughout the Sukkot holiday, family meals are eaten inside the sukkah and many families sleep there as well, as G-d commanded. A sukkah is also a temporary dwelling in which agricultural workers would live during harvesting.

Sukkot / Festival of Shelters was ordained by G-d to be celebrated yearly as a holy assembly forever (Lev 23:41).

So what is it with this festival that does not explicitly celebrate one of G-d’s miracles, unlike all the other festivals?

G-d intended the sukkah to remind us, and each generation of Israelites, of the fragile dwellings in which they dwelt during their 40 years of desert travel after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt (Lev 23:43).

But G-d also said to “… celebrate [the festival] with joy before the L-rd, your G-d, for seven days” (Lev 22:40). Yeah right, bugs in my food, rocks in my back, and mosquitoes thinking they’ve arrived in the Promised Land.

Emotionally and physically, if I am not paying attention, I can easily maintain an illusion of safety, and security with everything under control.

But if I look around the world of today I see how vulnerable we all really are. Bombs in the underwear of strangers, tsunamis or burst dams that wipe out whole communities without warning, and governments or neighbors that decide without notice to murder or persecute the good people they do not agree with.

And then there is our personal day-to-day lives; children unexpectedly still born or with serious problems, sudden unemployment, undreamt of life threatening medical problems, and the unexpected sudden death of family and friends.

I think one of the points of Sukkot is to leave the illusory security of our homes and remember that without G-d we are nothing and have nothing.

I think it is also a reminder to not become sated and complacent and think “I did it all with my own hands” and discount the part that G-d played. That “I did it … “ is also an illusion and is certainly, for me, a worse and much more present problem than an airplane engine or neighbors ax landing on my head.

And let’s not forget the Jews. For over 3,500 years, with only comparatively brief periods, wherever they were and however seemingly secure, they knew that tomorrow everything could disappear in a wave of persecution or expulsion.

Today’s Israel is a living embodiment of what it is to exist in a state of insecurity and still rejoice.

I believe that Sukkot is a festival about the human condition as it is, not as we would like it to be. Sukkot is about the resilience of the human spirit. It’s a reminder about the breath of God that is within us; that helps broken hearts to heal and broken lives to be rebuilt.

This is certainly why I can be joyous in a sukkah: I have a G-d who rebuilds lives, hearts and relationships, who provides my daily bread and all that I have.

Faith is the courage to live with uncertainty. Faith is the ability to rejoice in the midst of instability and change, travelling toward an unknown destination. Faith is not fear. Faith is not hate. Faith is not violence. These are vital truths badly needed today.

As neighbors see us and have an opportunity to talk to us about Sukkot it is also a reminder to the world about G-d. And amazingly, Sukkot is the only festival that will be celebrated by the whole world at the End of Days (Zechariah 14: 16-19) It is a reminder that without G-d we have and are nothing.

May you be blessed this week, as you remember G-d amongst the routine of your life for opportunities to share your experience, strength and hope with someone that can use a mitzvot, your faith.

I hope that if you are able, you will join the 9:00 am Shabbat Teva Tefillah. We pray for the Temple, for Israel and our government.

Blessings to you and yours. May this week be G-d filled and peaceful within the storm.

Your brother in Yeshua in the TEVA TEFILLAH (Ark of Prayer),


15 comments (Add your own)

1. Kerim wrote:
James; Thanks for your reply I am aware that it is fairly lielky that Jesus was born in the season of Sukkot; however I skipped that as it is not widely agreed. On timing and dates there can be a lot of reasons for dates to be changed; yet I don't think that celebrating something on the wrong day means that we don't celebrate at all! On your interpretation of all nations sending representatives to Jerusalem to worship each year, such an interpretation does make sense and is the literal meaning of the passage; yet given e.g. John 4:21-24 and the discussion in the Book of Revelation of the New Jerusalem I am of the opinion that it is not in fact a literal reference to the City of David. I would certainly stop short of suggesting that Zechariah prophesised Christmas; my suggestion is more that what Zechariah prophesised is foreshadowed / imperfectly fuflilled in Christmas, if we take Christmas at it's very basic meaning of an annual celebration of when Christ dwelt with us. I particularly appreciated your reference to John and the word becoming flesh. I do realise that the Birthday Party version of Christmas is fairly common, yet surely that is not the real significance of what we celebrate it is not about the birth of Christ, for he existed from the beginning, but that he came into the world to dwell with us. Just as he dwelt amongst the tents of Israel in the wilderness; and as he dwelt in the temple in Jerusalem. On Channukkah, my reference was more to that it was originated in the restoration of the temple to the worship of God, rather than to suggest that the festival itself had a role in Zechariah. I really appreciate your comment; thank you so much

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