Zman Simchateinu – the Joy of Sukkot

The Feast of Tabernacles or Sukkot began at sundown on October 9th and ends at sundown on October 16, 2022. It is traditional for my people to build and decorate a sukkah booth during the week, some more elaborate than others, but all a reminder of frailty in the face of God, upon whom we depend for all good things. My people imagine themselves as our ancestors who made temporary shelters in the wilderness and survived by God’s grace.

God instructed Moses in the Torah in Leviticus 23:39-43 how to observe this remembrance: 

On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work…On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. . . . You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

My people were commanded in the Torah to make pilgrimage to Jerusalem during Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Jesus, in keeping Torah, also observed this feast and made it an occasion to use the symbols of the feast to point to Himself. In John 7:2 we read that this happened during the Feast of Tabernacles. During the water pouring ceremony that is part of the observance, Jesus announced, “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” (John 7:37–38). Imagine how these words would have pierced the listeners but especially the high priest whose job was to collect water from the Pool of Siloam while the people cried out, “With joy you will draw from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3). Not only did Jesus refer to Himself as the Living Water, but also the Light of the World, referring to the Shekinah light in the Temple. 

These messianic statements would have shocked some and stirred others to ponder the deeper connections between the holidays and the Savior. Sukkot is a vibrant part of the Jewish community today and it also holds great meaning for Christians who value their Old Testament heritage! So we may join my people in considering Sukkot Zman Simchateinu, or “the time of our rejoicing”.

With joy we also look towards the messianic age when Jesus will return to Earth and usher in true peace. Then we all will celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, both Jews and Gentiles alike: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:16). In this deep connection we also ponder more deeply the mystery of His incarnation: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Rejoice!

“…Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men and He will dwell with them…” Revelation 21:3

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