Feast of Tabernacles
Are we obligated to observe the yearly fall festival of Yahweh? If so, how? What are we to do? How do we know if we are doing as Yahweh commanded? Are we learning the lessons He intended? Or are we enjoying our "vacation"? Many are living in luxury in a rented condo or up-scale hotel. But Yahweh said a "booth" or a "hut". How does this fit together? What did the people of Israel do when they went to the feast?
First, let's look at some historical background. The following quotes are from a few commentaries and will give an overview of what the world and Christianity sees regarding this season.
From Unger's Bible Dictionary, by Merrill F. Unger, pages 359-360 -
On the first day of the feast, booths were constructed of fresh branches of fruit and palm trees, 'boughs of thick trees,' i.e., thick with leaves and willows. These were located in courts, streets, public squares, and on house roofs. In these every home-born Israelite was to dwell during the festival, in memory of their fathers dwelling in booths after their exodus from Egypt (Lev. 23:40; Neh. 8:15). The day was also to be observed as a Sabbath and a holy convocation, in which no secular work was to be done, and all able-bodied male members of the congregation not legally precluded were to appear before the Lord. The booth in Scripture is not an image of privation and misery, but of protection, preservation, and shelter from heat, storm, and tempest (Psa. 27:5; 32:20; Isa. 4:6).
"…sacrifices were offered after the regular morning sacrifice (Num. 29:12-34). Every Sabbath year the law was to be read publicly in the sanctuary on the first day of the festival (Deut. 31:10-13). The six following days were half festival, probably devoted to social enjoyments and friendly gatherings, when every head of a family was to extend hospitality, especially to the poor and the stranger (Deut. 16:14). To these seven days there was added an eighth, the twenty-second of the month, as the close of the feast. This day was observed with a Sabbatic rest and holy convocation, but had only a simple sacrifice, similar to the first and tenth days of the seventh month (Num. 29:35-38)."
"After the Babylonian captivity the Feast of Tabernacles began to be strictly and generally kept, and more minute definitions and more expanded applications of the concise Pentateuchal injunction were imperatively demanded, in order to secure uniformity of practice, as well as to infuse devotion and joy into the celebration."
From Jewish Days, by Francine Klagsbrun, page 39 -
"For the Israelites, the harvest festival, which celebrates the end of the agricultural year in Israel, was so important that it became known simply as HeHag, 'the festival.' But the name most often used for it is Hag HaSukkot, the 'Feast of Booths.' It is a name that connects this festival to the most pivotal event in Jewish history, the Exodus from Egypt. Jews are commanded to live in booths for the seven days of the holiday as a reminder of the makeshift huts the Israelites dwelt in when they wandered in the desert. The word sukkah, a single booth, derives from a Hebrew root meaning 'to cover over,' and the branches used to form the roof of a sukkah are known as a s'khakh, a covering.
"Contemporary scholars suggest that the booths actually are unrelated to the Exodus but reminiscent of the huts farmers built when they flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest festival. Sukkot is one of three pilgrimage festivals prescribed by the Bible, when people brought sacrifices to the sanctuary (the other two are Passover and Shavuot). Because the harvest was already in and farmers could leave their fields, this holiday probably drew the largest crowds of pilgrims, and with them the need for temporary housing."
From The Torah: A Modern Commentary, by W. Gunther Plaut -
From page 925 - "…in the Talmud it is called the Chag, the festival par excellence. It marked the close of the agricultural year, specifically of the vintage. And on the second day of the festival, ceremonies were performed - they are not mentioned in the Bible, but they were undoubtedly ancient - to evoke plentiful rains in the new agricultural season about to start. The Chag was an expression of grateful joy and a plea for continued blessing."
From page 931 - "You shall live in booths. This was understood quite literally in Jewish tradition. One was to sleep in the sukkah for seven nights and take all his regular meals there. Only the circumstances of modern urban living have compelled many observant Orthodox Jews to limit themselves to eating meals in a communal or congregation booth.
From page 934 - "Jewish homilists have also stressed the frail and temporary character of the sukkah. We are summoned to leave our solid, seemingly permanent dwellings and live for a time in the fragile sukkah, that we may become mindful of our own frailty and impermanence and of our need for divine help."
From The Life and Times of Jesus Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim, pages 576-577 -
"Early on the fourteenth Tishri (corresponding to our September or early October), all the festive pilgrims had arrived. Then it was, indeed, a sense of bustle and activity. Hospitality had to be sought and found; guests to be welcomed and entertained; all things required for the feast to be got ready. Above all, booths must be erected everywhere - in court yards or on housetops, in street and square, for the lodgment and entertainment of that vast multitude; leafy dwellings everywhere, to remind of the wilderness-journey, and now of the goodly land.
"Indeed, the whole symbolism of the Feast, beginning with the completed harvest, for which it was a thanksgiving, pointed to the future. The Rabbis themselves admitted this. The strange number of sacrificed bullocks - seventy in all - they regarded as referring to 'the seventy nations' of heathendom. The ceremony of the outpouring of water, which was considered of such vital importance as to give the whole festival the name of 'House of Outpouring' (Sukk. 5.1), was symbolical of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Jer. Sukk. 5.1, pp. 55a). As the brief night of the great Temple-illumination closed, there was solemn testimony made before Jehovah against heathenism. It must have been a stirring scene, when from out of the mass of Levites, with their musical instruments, who crowded the fifteen steps that led from the Court of Israel to that of the Women, stepped two priests with their silver trumpets. As the first cockcrowing intimated the dawn of morn, they blew a three-fold blast; another on the tenth step, and yet another three-fold blast as they entered the Court of the Women. And still sounding their trumpets, they marched through the Court of the Women to the Beautiful Gate. Here, turning round and facing westwards to the Holy Place, they repeated: 'Our fathers, who were in this place, they turned their backs on the Sanctuary of Jehovah, and their faces eastward, the sun; but we, our eyes are toward Jehovah.' 'We are Jehovah's - our eyes are towards Jehovah.' Nay, the whole of this night-and-morning scene was symbolical: the Temple-illumination, of the light which was to shine from out the Temple into the dark night of heathendom; then, at the first dawn of morning the blast of the priests' silver trumpets, of the army of God, as it advanced, with festive trumpet-sound and call, to awaken the sleepers, marching on to quite the utmost bounds of the Sanctuary, to the Beautiful Gate, which opened upon the Court of the Gentiles - and, then again, facing round to utter solemn protest against heathenism and make solemn confession of Jehovah!"
From Sacred Origins of Profound Things, by Charles Panati, pages 226-227 -
"Meaning 'tabernacles' or 'booths,' Sukkot is an autumn festival featuring the memory of the tentlike structures in which the early Israelites lived during their forty years wandering in the wilderness under Moses after their dramatic exile from Egypt and slavery. Indeed, one of the principal activities of Sukkot for a long time was dwelling for days in 'booths' constructed of branches and boughs and hung with fruit.
"A sukkah (singular) had to be precisely constructed. The hut had to be no lower than five feet, no higher than thirty feet. The roof had to be of leaves or straw, allowing some exposure to the sky above. And each sukkah had to be constructed anew each year. In all likelihood, the ancient Israelites wandering in the desert did not possess the materials to construct sukkot of the kind celebrants later built. Today, many observant Jews still build Sukkot for the feast day.
"A biblical injunction from Leviticus, to gather branches and fruits from four species of trees and rejoice, remains essential to the Sukkot ritual. The custom, as it developed, is to assemble a branch from a citron tree, a palm branch, a sprig of myrtle, and a willow branch, to shake them in all four directions, plus upward and downward. Some authorities claim the four tree species symbolize the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
"As Sukkot evolved, it became increasingly rich in themes and symbolism. Scripture readings from Leviticus, Ezekiel, and Ecclesiastes strike notes of the sacredness of seasonal feasts; of the importance of rain; of the Lord's apocalyptic war with monsters Gog and Magog; and of the fragility of life.
From The Jewish Holy Days, by Moshe A Braun -
From page 108 - "The four kinds of plants represent the parts of the body. The myrtle leaves, or hadas, is the eyes; the willow leaves, or aravah, is the mouth; the citron, or esrog, is the heart; the date palm leaves, or lulav, is the spine. When we hold these four, we consecrate the energy of our entire body and direct it to God."
From page 123 - "The eighth day, Shemini Atzeres, is different. It is beyond the seven natural days, and it is beyond nature. It is actually the World to Come; the Divine nature is clear and manifest without the slightest concealment."
From page 130 - "On the eighth day, Semini Atzeres, it is customary to make a celebration with the Torah. Outside Eretz Yisrael, Israel, it is celebrated on the ninth day, the last day of the holiday, commonly called Simchas Torah.
"The Chasidic masters have celebrated it so that it corresponds to the celebration in Israel. They celebrate both on Shemini Atzeres and the next day of Simchas Torah."
From To Be A Jew, by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin -
From page 250 - "Succot means 'tabernacles,' 'booths,' or 'temporary huts,' and refers to the temporary dwelling places used by the children of Israel in the desert during the forty-year period of their wandering following the exile from Egypt….The festival commemorates that period of Israel's history.
"Its significance, however, is not exhausted by or limited to the historical commemoration. For the underlying spiritual motif of remembering (and reenacting) the dwelling in 'temporary huts' emphasizes the notion of trust in God's Divine protection, or bitahon. With the desert experiences (the manna, the water, etc.) highlighting the motif, this festival emphasizes the faith that somehow God provides for man's needs, and that man in turn must be grateful. It is symbolized by the succah, the hut with its exposed and insecure roof into which the Jew is bidden to move for the week."
From page 256 - "The concluding eighth day (in the Diaspora, it is the eighth and ninth days) of the Succot festival is not technically called Succot, but rather Shmini Atzeret (the Eighth Day of Solemn Assembly). It is independent of Succot.
"Although its purpose is to conclude the festival of Succot, and it is commonly regarded as simply the final day(s) of the Succot festival, Shmini Atzeret reflects none of the special observances related to Succot. The Sages described the reason for the eighth day in terms of the following parable, which is based on the other meaning of the term atzeret. (Note: while atzeret is translated as assembly, it also has the meaning of holding back, of stopping and waiting.)
"On Shmini Atzeret, one takes leave of the succah and returns to his permanent dwelling, there to complete the festive week. The four species are not used on Shmini Atzeret."
Most of the world though, considers this to be a strictly Jewish festival and holiday season. So how do the Jews observe it today? Do they follow what Yahweh said in the Torah? What does Jewish tradition tell us? Is it what we need to be following?
From Gates of the Seasons, edited by Peter S. Knobel, pages 80-85 -
"Sukkot begins on the fifteenth of the Hebrew month of Tishri, and concludes on the twenty-second day with Atseret/Simchat Torah. Sukkot is the fall harvest festival. The eighth day, Atseret, functions as the conclusion of Sukkot but is also a separate festival. Since Reform Jews follow the calendar of the Torah and (like the Jew living in Israel) do not add a ninth day to the Festival, they celebrate Simchat Torah and Atseret on the same day.
"More than any other of the Pilgrimage Festivals, Sukkot has retained its agricultural character. However, Sukkot is also the commemoration of a significant event in the life of the Jewish people: the journey through the wilderness toward the Land of Israel. The Torah identifies the Sukkah (booth) with the temporary dwellings in which the Israelites lived during that journey (Leviticus 23:42).
"The mood of Sukkot is particularly joyous. Its beautiful symbolism of the successful harvest provides a welcome change of religious pace from the solemn days of prayer and introspection of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. While all of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals are times of rejoicing, Sukkot is specifically designated as 'Zeman sinchatenu,' the season of our rejoicing. Even while we rejoice, the Sukkah's temporary and fragile structure reminds us how precarious life may be.
"Through the use of the Lulav and Etrog we acknowledge our dependence upon God for the food we eat. Living in an urban environment, it is easy to forget that both human labor and divine blessing make the world fruitful. On Sukkot our thoughts turn to the wonder and beauty of the world, to our responsibility as its caretakers, and to our obligation to share, for God is the true owner of the land and its produce.
"Atseret/Simchat Torah is the day on which we finish reading the last verses of Deuteronomy and immediately begin again with the first verses of Genesis. The Torah scrolls are removed from the Ark and carried around the synagogue. The celebration is one of unbridled joy as we express our happiness at having lived to complete the reading of the Torah yet another time and to begin reading it again.
"It is a mitzvah to take up the Lulav and Etrog and recite the appropriate blessing at any time during the whole day of Sukkot.
"By taking up the Lulav and Etrog and waving them in all directions, one symbolically acknowledges the sovereignty of God over all nature.
"The Lulav and Etrog are also called the four species (arba-ah Minim). They consist of Etrog (citron), Lulav (palm), Hadas (myrtle), and Aravah (willow). The identification of the four species is based on the Rabbinic interpretation of Leviticus 23:40, 'On the first day you shall take the product of the Hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook.'
"The Etrog has maintained a separate identity. Two willow branches and three myrtle branches are bound together around one palm branch and are called the Lulav.
"The Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is read on the Shabbat during Sukkot. Like the Sukkah, it reminds us of the transitory nature of life.
"The intermediate days of Sukkot are known as Chol Hamoed. The mitzvot of celebrating in the Sukkah and blessing the Lulav can be performed. Each day can be an opportunity for rejoicing and for preserving the festival atmosphere.
"Atseret/Simchat Torah follows the seventh day of Sukkot and is celebrated as a day of rejoicing.
"It is a mitzvah to participate in the Torah procession honoring the completion and beginning of the Torah-reading cycle and to hear the reading of the end of Deuteronomy and the beginning of Genesis. Jewish tradition has divided the Torah into weekly portions so that one reads through the entire Torah each year. The completion of the reading of the Torah into weekly portions so that one reads through the entire Torah each year. The completion of the reading of the Torah is a time of rejoicing and an opportunity to express love for Torah. Immediately after completing the reading of the last verses of Deuteronomy, the first verses of Genesis are read to indicate that the study of Torah never ends. It symbolizes our obligation to observe the mitzvah of Talmud Torah constantly."
From Judaism For Dummies, published by Hungry Minds, page 250 -
"While some teachers note that this ritual is a reminder that God is everywhere, it also honors the unique 'energies' that each direction symbolizes:
- East is the land of the rising sun, and it symbolizes new possibilities, beginnings, and awakenings.
- North is the direction of clarity, rationality, and the coolness of intellect.
- West is the land of the setting sun and journeys completed.
- South is the direction of warmth, emotion, verdant growth, and sensual energy.
- Up is the land of dreams and visions, the land of spirituality.
- Down is the connection to the earth, and recognition of people's environmental responsibilities.
"There are a number of different interpretations for why these four plants are used in particular, including the following:
- The palm frond is tall and straight like the human spine, the etrog is like the heart, the willow leaves are like lips, and the myrtle leaves are like eyes. Therefore, using all four species is like involving your whole body in the ritual.
- The etrog has both a pleasant taste and aroma, symbolizing a person who is both learned and who does good deeds. The palm tree has fruit (dates) that taste good but have no aroma, symbolizing a person who is learned but does no good deeds.
- The myrtle has a pleasant aroma but no taste, so it is like someone who does good deeds but is not learned.
- Finally, the willow has neither taste nor smell, a symbol of someone who is neither learned nor does good deeds.
Some say that all four types of people are important in a community."
From Jewish Days, by Francine Klagsbrun -
From pages 40-42 - "The work of building a sukkah begins immediately after Yom Kippur. The sukkah may not be higher than twenty cubits (about ten yards) or lower than ten handbreadths (about forty inches), dimensions that make it comfortable to live in but with a sense of impermanence. Its three sides may be of any material, but its roof must be of the s'khakh, whose materials were grown in the ground and then detached from it, such as branches or cane. The s'khakh rests on the sukkah in a way that provides more shade than sunlight, a reminder of God's protection of the Israelites from the burning heat of the desert. The covering should also allow occupants to see the stars at night so that they may be aware of their vulnerability in the vast universe, and also their closeness to the Divine.
"Worshippers carry the species to synagogue (except on the Sabbath) and wave them while reciting Hallel, Psalms 113 to 118, praising God. The rule is to hold the Lulav with the hadasim and aravot in the right hand and the Etrog in the left and with hands together to shake them on certain verses toward the east, south, west, north, above, and below - to show that all corners of the earth belong to God. Later, congregants walk in procession around the synagogue with the species in hand chanting prayers for deliverance.
"…one of the most colorful Sukkot practices at the time of the Second Temple. On the festival mornings, a procession would make its way to the spring of Shiloah, which was probably near present-day Siloam, outside Jerusalem. There a golden flask was filled with water. At the Temple, a priest would transfer the water of a silver bowl from which it could be poured on the altar as a libation.
"From the second night on, a great celebration would take place in the women's court outside the Temple. Priests would light four huge golden menorahs, or candelabra, and the people would revel in the holiday with dancing, singing, acrobatics, and feats of torch-throwing that often lasted through the night.
"It is not surprising that water should be at the heart of Temple ceremonies. The festival of Sukkot coincides with the beginning of the rainy season in Israel. The sages taught that the water libation was necessary because this festival was a time of heavenly judgment for rain, when the season's rainfalls were determined, and therefore an occasion to ask for the blessing of water.
"Some Rabbis associated the four plant species carried during Sukkot with the centrality of water. The palm trees from which the Lulav comes, they said, grew in valleys where there is plenty of water. Willows and myrtles both thrive near the water, and the etrog needs more water than any other plant to grow.
"Modern critics connect the Temple water libations to magical rites of other ancient peoples, who would pour water on the ground to stir the gods to deliver rain. Regardless of their origins, however, the water ceremonies became distinctly Jewish events, dominating the Sukkot festival.
"Along with family and friends, a parade of spiritual guests may come to inhabit a sukkah. These are no ordinary spirits but ancient leaders of Israel. Nor do they slip in unobtrusively. They are invited in to grace the sukkah, called forth with special words of greeting.
"The custom comes from the mystics, and the guests are known as ushpizin, from an Aramaic word. Traditionally, there are seven: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David.
"As desired as these invisible visitors are, the tradition encourages Jews to supplement them with earthly guests, specifically the poor who cannot afford their own sukkah."
From pages 45-47 - "Every day of Sukkot, worshippers march in procession around the interior of the synagogue - in a ceremony called hoshanot - chanting hymns that ask for God's help and salvation. After each verse they repeat the refrain, 'Hoshana.' On the seventh and last day of the festival, the procession makes its circuit seven times, giving the day its name, Hoshana Rabbah, the Great Hosanna.
"Mysticism, and some magic, mark much of the Hoshana Rabbah ceremonies and customs. The practice of circling the Temple altar during the hoshanot may have held traces of an early use of circles to create magical space from within which to ward off evil spirits.
"A custom peculiar to Hoshana Rabbah is 'the beating of the willows,' again originating in Temple practices. In those days, the people would go as a group to cut willow branches with which they decorated the altar. At the end of the hoshanot processions they would beat a bunch of willow sprigs against the ground, a practice that continues in synagogue services today. The willow, which grew near water, represented fertility to many early peoples, and beating willows may have been a ritual designed to induce fruitfulness. In the Hoshana Rabbah service, however, it became one more symbolic way of asking for rain, a request repeated in many forms throughout Sukkot.
"The most blatantly superstitious of all the day's customs is the belief that a person who stands in the moonlight on the night of Hoshana Rabbah and does not see the shadow of his or her head will die during the coming year.
From Festivals of the Jewish Year, by Theodor H. Gaster -
From page 82 - "This ceremony, known as the Water Libation (Nissuch Ha-mayim) has abundant parallels in other parts of the world, and is based on what is known as 'sympathetic magic,' that is, on the primitive notion that things done by men may induce similar actions on the part of nature or 'the gods.' Lucian of Samosata, writing in the second century C.E., records an analogous practice performed twice yearly in the pagan temple at Hierapolis (Membij), Syria; while at Ispahan, in Iran, there is (or was) an annual ceremony of rain-making which consisted in pouring water on the ground…"
From page 95 - "…there is one ancient 'functional' rite which has indeed survived almost unaltered. This is the custom of 'beating hosannas' - that is, of taking extra twigs and beating off their leaves upon the lectern during the recital of the Hosanna litanies on the seventh day. The conventional explanation of this practice is that it symbolizes the frailty of human lives, which fade and fall ' thick as autumnal leaves which strew the brooks in Vallombrosa.' The truth is, however, that it harks back to a primitive and fairly universal belief that the willow is a symbol of fertility and to the consequent custom of beating people with branches of that tree in order to induce potency and increase….In ancient Greek ritual, at the major seasonal festival, human scapegoats were beaten with squills of willow or agnus castus in order, at one and the same time, to beat out sterility and beat in fecundity."
From page 99 - "The institution of Simhath Torah is not attested earlier than the eleventh century, and appears to have originated in western Europe. It was inspired by the fact that the annual cycle of Pentateuchal readings in fact begins anew on the following sabbath."
What??? How much of this tradition fits with the descriptions in the commentaries? Or the Scriptures? Don't you have some questions? Questions such as ----
- Where is "Simchat Torah" in Scripture?
- Some Jews add an extra (or 9th) day to the festival. Why? Is that okay with Yahweh?
- There is nothing wrong with reading the Torah each year. But what is the origin of the weekly portions as read in the synagogues?
- What is meant by "appropriate blessing"? Where are they in Scripture?
- "Building a sukkah begins immediately after Yom Kippur." Is that what Scripture says?
- Where in Scripture are the instructions for building the sukkah? Where does it mention the dimensions, shade vs sunlight, etc?
- Where in Scripture are the instructions to wave the lulav while reciting Hallel or chanting prayers?
- The lulav is waved in all directions. Where are the origins of these symbolisms?
- Who wrote the prayers in the prayer book? What authority did they have?
- Where in Scripture are the instructions to march around the room, carrying the Torah?
- Where in Scripture are we told about the "beating of the willows"?
- Where in Scripture are the instructions for the Water Libation? The sages taught that this was necessary.
- Where in Scripture is "Hoshana Rabbah"?
- Where in Scripture are we told to march in procession, chanting hymns that ask for salvation?
- Where in Scripture are we told about the "beating of the willows"?
- Where in Scripture are we told to spend those eight days praying for rain? Or for that matter, praying for any one specific thing?
- Where in Scripture does it mention spiritual "guests" who will come to inhabit a sukkah?
- We see such things as "the sages taught", "according to prescribed regulations", "according to Jewish tradition". What about "Yahweh your Elohim says"?
- Mysticism? Magical rites? Pagan customs? What does Yahweh have to say about these things?
If you can't find many of these things in Scriptures, don't be surprised. They aren't there! They are simply "Jewish tradition".
And what did Yahshua say regarding the traditions of the Jews?
Matthew 15: 3,9
But answering He said to them, why do you also transgress the command of Yahweh on account of your tradition?
But in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the ordinances of men.
Now let's look at the Scriptures that talk about the feast and see exactly what it says. And what it does not say. Watch to see how many of those traditions are mentioned. Exactly what are Yahweh's commands? What is to be our focus?
Three times in the year you shall make a feast to Me.
You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Hag HaMatzot). Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I have commanded you, at the set time of the month of Abib, for in it you came out from Egypt, and they shall not appear before me empty.
Also the Feast of Harvest (Hag HaKatsin), the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. Also the Feast of Ingathering (Hag HaAwseef), at the end of the year, at your gathering your work from the field.
Three times in the year every one of your males shall appear before the Master Yahweh.
Let's define "feast". This is #2282 in the Strong's, the Hebrew word chag. It means a festival, or a victim therefore - sometimes translated as (solemn) feast (day), sacrifice, solemnity. The word "ingathering" is Strong's #614 awseef, meaning gathered, i.e., a gathering in of crops.
Theses verses simply mention the fall festival as appearing at the end of the agricultural year, after the crops are gathered in. That is why it is called the Feast of Ingathering. Three times a year is not optional.
And you shall observe a Feast of Weeks for yourself, the firstfruits of the harvest of wheat; also the Feast of Ingathering (Hag HaAhsef) at the turn of the year.
Three times in the year every male shall appear before the Master Yahweh, the Elohim of Israel.
Many are quick to point out that this says males, so it isn't necessary for all the family to go. But in later verses, the difference will be seen. It simply means that the males must appear, whether the rest of the family is able to or not.
These verses say basically the same thing.
And Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying.
Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, in the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be a Feast of Booths (Hag HaSukot) seven days to Yahweh.
On the first day shall be a holy gathering; you shall do no work of service.
Seven days you shall bring a fire offering to Yahweh; on the eighth day you shall have a holy gathering; and you shall burn the fire offering to Yahweh; it is a solemn assembly; you shall do no work of service.
These are the set feasts of Yahweh which you shall proclaim holy gatherings, to bring a fire offering to Yahweh, a burnt offering, and a food offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, the thing of a day on its own day.
Besides the sabbaths of Yahweh, and besides your gifts, and besides all your free-will offerings, which you shall give to Yahweh.
Also, in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather in the increase of the land, you shall keep the feast of Yahweh seven days, on the first day a sabbath, and on the eighth day a sabbath.
And you shall take to yourselves on the first day the fruit of majestic trees, palm branches, and boughs of oak trees, and willows of the brook, and shall rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim seven days.
And you shall keep a feast to Yahweh seven days in a year, a never-ending statute throughout your generations; in the seventh month you shall keep it a feast.
You shall live in booths seven days; all who are home-born in Israel shall live in booths.
So that your generations shall know that I caused the sons of Israel to live in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your Elohim.
And Moses announced the appointed seasons of Yahweh to the sons of Israel.
Now He gives a more specific time frame. Before it was simply at the end of the year, after the harvest. But now he says the festival begins on the 15th day of the 7th month. Here we also find another name - the Feast of Booths. #5521 is the word for booths - sukkah. It is a hut or lair - often translated as booth, cottage, covert, pavilion, tabernacle, tent.
The word that is translated here as gathering is # 4744, miqra. It means something called out, i.e. a public meeting (the act, the persons, or the place); also a rehearsal. It can be an assembly, a calling, a convocation, or a reading.
If it is an assembly, or a public meeting, it means you are to be a part of a group. Not just you by yourself.
In verse 40, instructions were given regarding the taking of tree branches. But it does not say what to do with them. This says nothing about binding the branches together, carrying them around or waving them. Also in this verse, neither of the words "lulav" or "etrog" appear in the Hebrew.
There is one other reference to these branches, outside the book of the Law. It certainly sounds much more reasonable than making the lulav.
And they found written in the Law which Yahweh has commanded by Moses, that the sons of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month.
And that they should make heard and cause to pass the call in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, go forth to the mountain and bring olive branches and wild olive branches, and myrtle branches, and branches of palm, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.
It states in verse 41 that this is to be a never-ending statute. So it is still in effect today - it has not been done away.
Numbers 29:12-40 lists the offerings that the priests were to offer during the entire feast. There were a set number of items to be offered each day; each day was different in some respect.
And you shall eat before Yahweh your Elohim in the place that He shall choose to cause to dwell His name there, the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock; that you may learn to fear Yahweh your Elohim all your days.
And if the way is too long for you, so that you cannot carry it, because the place is too far from you which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose to set His name there, when Yahweh your Elohim shall bless you.
Then you shall give it for silver, and bind up the silver in your hand and you shall go to the place which Yahweh your Elohim shall choose.
And you shall pay the silver for whatever your soul desires, for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for fermented drink, or for whatever your soul desires and you shall eat there before Yahweh your Elohim, and you shall rejoice, you and your household.
And you shall not forsake the Levite who is within your gates, for he has no portion nor inheritance with you.
At the end of three years, even the same year, you shall bring forth all the tithe of your increase, and shall lay it up within your gates.
And the Levite, because he has no portion nor inheritance with you, and the alien, and the fatherless, and the widow who are within your gates shall come and shall eat and be satisfied; so that Yahweh your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do.
Yahweh wanted them to be at a specific place for this specific time. By having them keep a tithe for themselves for this purpose, they were able to finance the trip and the stay at that place. They did not have to scrape up the money at the last minute. They had a year in which to accumulate the finances.
In verse 24 Yahweh gave them instructions on what to do if the trip were a long one with the amount of animals and produce they would have. They were to sell some - exchange the things for money. He did not say that if it was a long way they could just stay home; that they were excused from the ordinance.
I found it interesting that although the word "desires" appears twice in that verse, it is actually two different Hebrew words. The first time it is #183, avah, meaning to wish for. The translators were the ones who put into our Scriptures the words "covet", "desire", "long for", or "lust after". The second time the word appears, it is #7592 sha'al. That means to inquire; by implication to request or to demand.
Over the years, there have been people who take verse 26 and interpret it to mean that they can use it to buy things that have absolutely nothing to do with the feast. But is that what Yahweh had in mind? It was to be used for things they needed during that time. And what things were listed as examples for them to desire and buy? The same things they had sold to get the money they needed! They were simply replacing those items! These were items involved in meals. Near the end of that verse it says, "whatever your soul desires and you shall eat there". You cannot eat a new computer or a car or such.
These verses also tell us that it is important that we take care of the needy - those who may need help in order to be able to go at all. We are to share what we have. Like the tribes in the desert shared the food, shelter, etc. If we have more money than we actually need, we can help provide a place for someone to stay, the means to travel to the place, or food for their families. Why? "So that Yahweh your Elohim may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do." There is a purpose behind all of His commands.
You shall keep the Feast of Tabernacles (Hag HaSukot) seven days, after you have gathered in from your threshing-floor and from your wine press.
And you shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son, and your daughter, and your male slave, and your slave-girl, and the Levite, and the alien, and the fatherless, and the widow that are inside your gates.
You shall keep a solemn feast seven days to Yahweh your Elohim in the place which Yahweh shall choose; for Yahweh your Elohim shall bless you in all your produce, and in every work of your hands, and you shall be altogether joyful.
Three times in a year shall all your males appear before Yahweh your Elohim in the place which He shall choose: in the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and in the Feast of Weeks, and in the Feast of Tabernacles, and they shall not appear before Yahweh empty.
But each with his gift of his hand, according to the blessing of Yahweh your Elohim, which He has given you."
We had seen earlier that the males were to appear, but this is clear that the whole family is to be included.
Some have found it interesting the way that verse 14 is worded: it doesn't mention the wife. The "you" in that sentence is a masculine, single word. So where is the wife? She's there, too, of course. Yahweh said in Genesis 2:24 that at marriage, the man and woman would become one. Then when Yahweh spoke to the man, He was actually including the two of them. All the family is to be there - as well as any others who are not exactly family members.
Are there any other instructions regarding what is to be done at Yahweh's feast?
And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it to the priests, the sons of Levi, those bearing the ark of the covenant of Yahweh, and to all the elders of Israel.
And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of seven years, in the appointed time, the year of release, in the Feast of Tabernacles,
when all Israel comes in to see the face of Yahweh in the place which He chooses, you shall proclaim this law before all Israel, in their ears.
Assemble the people, men and women, and the little ones, and your alien who is within your gates, so that they may hear, and so that they may learn, and may fear Yahweh your Elohim, and take heed to do all the words of this law,
and their sons, who have not known, shall hear, and shall learn to fear Yahweh your Elohim all the days which you live on the land where you are crossing over the Jordan to possess it.
Those who claim that the law was done away with the death of Yahshua, say that there is no need to keep these days. But, after the Messiah returns and His feet touch down on the earth (Zech 14:4), the Feast of Tabernacles will be kept by everyone.
And it shall be, everyone who is left from all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
And it shall be, whoever will not go up from the families of the earth to Jerusalem to worship the King, Yahweh of hosts, there shall even be no rain on them.
And if the family of Egypt does not go up, nor come in, then the rain shall not be on them: but the plague with which Yahweh shall strike the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
This shall be Egypt's offense, and the offense of all nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.
The quotes that follow may seem out of place at first. But notice again how much "food" and/or "eating" are mentioned in the feast descriptions. This man points out just how important these things were in Bible times.
One More Source
From The Frugal Gourmet Keeps The Feast, by Jeff Smith -
From page 3 - "The Bible is filled with Food Talk, but the Bible is not talking about food. It is talking about theology, or God Talk."
"The word faith is used about 275 times in the Bible…but the verb to eat is used some 800 times."
"Jesus never says, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone should open the door, I will enter and discuss existential theology with him.' No. Jesus says, 'I will sup with him'."
From pages 8-9 - "Ben Sirach, in the Apocrypha,…tells us that the normal diet of the peoples of ancient Palestine consisted of bread, salt, olive oil, olives, wine, and on a good day some dried fish. Red meat was eaten only on High Holy Days or special feasts."
"The Psalmist claims that bread is to strengthen our hearts. Since bread was the most common part of the meal every day we can be sure that he is talking about something other than just plain bread."
"Bread was so important in the Old World that it was used as the word for 'life'. Indeed, the Hebrew word for bread, Lechem, means food in general and thus life itself. Without bread you were dead."
" 'Do not harvest the whole of the field, but leave the corners for the wandering hungry that will come by' (Deut. 24:19). So why is the farmer responsible for the hungry? Because he has grain, and he must not keep it all for himself. Bread teaches us that we must feed each other or some of us will die."
"Can we decide not to eat bread? No, if we do not eat we die, and thus we confess that we are not God. We are totally, totally dependent upon the Creator. Without bread we are not."
From pages 10-12 - "In Latin the term for 'companion' (companio) refers to bread. Com (with) and panis (bread) means 'The person with whom I break my bread. My companion.' From this concept we gain insight into the New Testament phrase 'He was known in the breaking of the Bread'."
"Biblical talk about bread is not about bread at all, but rather about our total dependence upon the Creator and upon one another."
"The Jews spent many generations in the desert literally starving to death, so fatness became a symbol of joy."
"Proverbs offers 'Blessed [read happy] is he who drips with fatness.' This line refers to the end of hunger, not just physical hunger but spiritual hunger as well."
"In Biblical times an oily face was a symbol of joy. It meant that you were well fed and quite pleased with yourself. When these early peoples went to a party they rubbed olive oil upon their faces so that they might look shiny and happy. Oil on the face reflects light, and since light has its source in the Creator, by rubbing oil upon your face you would increase your countenance and your ability to reflect light."
"The Biblical writers chose wine as the classic symbol of joy. Wine is to make our hearts glad, and it works very well."
From page 15 - "The ancient Hebrews were nomads, following the herds and living off the foods that grew wild in the desert. Because of this precarious life and the dangers of wandering in the desert, nomads traveled in groups; each person would help protect the next for the sake of the survival of the tribe. Everything was shared, everything. Out of sheer necessity that sharing involved food. As a matter of fact one could not own food in the very early days as all food was used for the sake of the whole of the community. If one person were to own the food and hold out on the rest of the tribe he would soon find himself alone in the midst of the wilderness."
From page 17 - "The Rule of the Desert is simple. If you are in camp on the desert and a stranger wanders into your camp he must be fed, no matter how little food you have. But if he is an enemy, he eats by himself in the corner!"
"In short, the Rule of Hospitality means that whenever you were at table there could be no enemies present. Not one. So eventually being at table with another person meant that you were saying to that person that you could not and would not ever see him or her as an enemy. The table became the place for the celebration of all pacts, promises, and real intimacy. To be at table with someone in Biblical times was to be more intimate than being with them in bed! Eating together was the fullest and most important symbol of intimate sharing."
From pages 22-23 - "In the Bible the table is regarded as the most serious place for significant relationships. Since no enemies could be present at the table, taking one's place at the table was itself a commitment to peace."
"The Lord prepares a table in the presence of our enemies and thus we are all obligated to sit with one another, to pass over our difficulties, since we are all the beloved of God….the Holy One demands that we get along with one another."
"The Feast was so necessary to the forming of common bonds and agreements that we see a tie between the meaning of the term Feast and the term Covenant. Never was a covenant formed in Biblical times without a feast to seal it."
"Who was the enemy in Biblical times? It was anyone who stood against the Laws and Will of Yahweh, the Lord of Israel. It was anyone who was of a foreign tribe who did not take to the Covenant or to the Laws of Moses. It was anyone who had become a tax collector or a prostitute or an adulterer. In short, it could very well be most of the people that you knew. All must be brought to a common table and thus to a common feast. There could be no enemies there."
From pages 51-52 - "Jesus understood very well the rule about not eating with one's enemies, and since he was a devout Jew the enemies were very plain."
"Jesus, however, begins to preach to and teach these very people who are estranged; he is even seen eating with them."
"In John's gospel, John claims that Jesus explains that anyone who eats and drinks with him, 'abides in me and I in him'.
From page 54-55 - "The Parable of the Prodigal Son … there is a major point made in this parable that most of us miss, and it concerns a feast, of course."
"The parable certainly points to the fact that God the Father is awaiting our return…. It was not the custom to have meat regularly in Biblical times as meat was eaten only on High Holy Days. What was this father doing with a fatted calf when there was no holiday in sight? In ancient Israel it was impossible to offer thanksgiving without a feast, and so this expectant old man, always waiting for God to pull off some wonderful thing, kept a fatted calf ready, just in case, just in case a thanksgiving feast should be necessary!"
From page 57-58 - "In those days some Jews returned to collecting taxes for the Roman Empire…. Zaccheus was a thoroughgoing traitor, and he was the enemy."
"Jesus called up into the tree and told Zaccheus that he was to go home and prepare lunch. Jesus would be by in a few minutes to eat."
"This understanding of history showed a new and wonderful intention of the Law, a new understanding of the Law. In order to make this new inclusiveness known, this acceptance of the fact that we must accept our enemies, Jesus ate with them, and not just as an example. He actually ate with them!"
"Jesus ate with Zaccheus the tax collector, the Samaritan woman, Mary Magdalene, and he even invited one of the thieves who was crucified with him to feast with him in Paradise."
" 'Someone is going to betray you? Is it I, Lord, is it I?' … Judas asks that abominable question. Lord, you are not to feed the enemy at your table. But Jesus did. He always did."
"He ate with all of the wrong people!"
"It is perfectly understandable, then, that all of the Resurrection appearances occurred at meals, all of them except that one at the tomb. The appearance in the Upper Room at another meal, the Road to Emmaus, the claim that he was the Bread and Wine of Life, and certainly the great fish fry."
Let's look at a few verses in the New Testament. Keep in mind the things we have just seen from this book, and compare them with some of Yahshua's words.
And Yahshua answered to him, saying, it has been written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word of Elohim.
Luke 22:19-20, 29-30
And taking a loaf, giving thanks, He broke, and gave to them, saying, this is My body being given for you; do this for my remembrance.
In the same way the cup also, after having supped, saying, this cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is being poured out for you.
And I appoint a kingdom to you, as My Father appointed to Me.
That you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
John 6:35, 53-56
Yahshua said to them, I am the bread of life; the one coming to Me will not at all hunger, and the one believing into Me will never ever thirst.
Then Yahshua said to them, truly, truly, I say to you, except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves.
The one partaking of My flesh and drinking of My blood has everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
For My flesh is truly food, and My blood is truly drink.
The one partaking of My flesh and drinking of My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
Yahshua is definitely referring to more than just physical food. This is about spiritual food.
And he says to me, write: blessed are the ones having been called to the supper of the marriage of the Lamb; and he says to me, these words of Yahweh are true.
Think about this. Get out your own Bible and search the four gospels. Look for how many references that are made to food, eating or feasting.
Yahweh does give us some warnings to keep in mind.
We've seen that the Jews do the waving of the lulav in various directions. They attach symbolism to that.
And He said to me, have you seen, son of man? Yet turn again; you shall see greater abominations than these.
And He brought me into the inner court of the house of Yahweh, and, behold, at the opening of the temple of Yahweh, between the porch and the altar were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of Yahweh, and their faces eastward; and they bowed themselves eastward to the sun.
Some of the traditions and practices of the Jews have come from practices of magic or mysticism. Some of them they copied from the peoples around them.
Take heed to yourself that you not be snared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you; and that you not inquire after their gods, saying, how did these nations serve their gods? And I shall do so, even I.
You shall not do so to Yahweh your Elohim; for everything hateful to Yahweh, which He detests, they have done to their gods, for they have even burned their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
When you come into the land which Yahweh your Elohim is giving to you, you shall not learn to do according to the hateful acts of those nations.
There shall not be found in you one who passes his son or his daughter through the fire, one that uses divination, an observer of clouds, or a fortune-teller, or a whisperer of spells.
Or a magic-charmer, or one asking of familiar spirits, or a wizard, or one inquiring of the dead.
For all doing these things are an abomination to Yahweh, and because of these filthy acts Yahweh your Elohim is expelling these nations before you.
We also need to be careful about any traditions we claim to have regarding the feast. What "baggage" do we bring with us to this discussion?
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, to keep the commandments of Yahweh your Elohim which I command you.
So where does this leave us today at feast time? In individual places, sometimes far apart? To nice, though separate, restaurants for meals? Each going our own direction? Or should we be in close proximity? The Israelites would have been shoulder to shoulder in the old city of Jerusalem. Their booths would have been close together and not soundproof. The people wandered up and down the streets, sharing food and drink and stories. The children were busily playing, making new friends and watching the example their parents were setting.
What if we made some changes today? Rather than eating out, what if we, as a group, prepared and enjoyed a meal? Shared in the preparation, the work, and even the clean-up? Most people, especially the women, don't want to think about doing such things on their "vacation". But what did the Israelites do? Restaurants weren't available to the extent they are today. Besides, the restaurant owners would also have been in their booths, eating with family and friends and rejoicing before Yahweh; not preparing meals for sale.
When we just talk a few minutes before and after services, or between interruptions by a waiter, we don't really get to know and understand another person. There isn't enough time. By living and working together for several days and sharing activities (such as preparing or cleaning up a meal, enjoying sing-alongs, discussing Yahweh's word in impromptu studies, roasting hot dogs over a campfire, having a fish fry, and such) we can see how a person works, how they interact with others, etc. We come closer to knowing the real person - as Yahweh wants us to do - and be a part of a much larger family.
It is time for the people of Yahweh to "get back to their roots". We need to find a way whereby we can experience these days of Yahweh as a group, not as individual families scattered across a large metropolitan area, with all the worldly distractions between us. We need to spend time together - outside of any services - singing, rejoicing, laughing, eating, talking, working, taking walks, examining Yahweh's creation and nature, etc. Not looking for the nearest shopping mall, restaurant, local attraction or amusement park.
After several years in motels, condos or homes, some of us will return to tents this year. Many of the Irving congregation in recent years have hosted the Feast at Lake Texoma State Park near Durant Oklahoma. Information is available here on our website (http://www.yahsaves.org/). Go to the menu on the left side, look under "Visit" and click on link for the Feast. We look forward to seeing you there!