Sukkot – Dwelling in His Presence
It’s that time of year again, HOLIDAY SEASON! Just like in America, where the “holiday season” starts somewhere around Halloween and ends with New Year’s Eve. Well, now is the big “holiday season” in Israel. There are three major holidays that are celebrated in Israel around this time of year. It’s Rosh Hashanna, Yom Kippur, and then Sukkot. Rosh Hashanna is the “New Year” where we celebrate by eating sweet apples dipped in honey, pomegranates, and we wish everyone a Shana Tova for the upcoming year. But it’s also we start thinking about all the “sins” from the recent year, as God prepares to write each name and seal it in the Book of Life on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. The ten days of awe are the days between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, and these days are spent thinking and praying for the forgiveness of sins, and asking those you have hurt or slandered for forgiveness. As Yom Kippur approaches, we enter a day of fasting and repentance and doing everything so that your name will be sealed in the Book of Life. At sundown, the fast is broken and the somber mood is quickly changed into rejoicing… especially for the kids because they know the holiday of Sukkot is approaching!
Sukkot is the festival of dwelling in God’s presence in a tabernacle, or temporary dwelling. The Sukkah (Herbew for Tabernacle) has three sides and a thatched roof, built similarly to the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in during their 40 year journey through the wilderness. This is a holiday of rejoicing, as we read in Deut. 16:13-15:
“You shall keep the Feast of Sukkot seven days, when you have gathered in the produce… You shall rejoice in your feast… because the LORD your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hands, so that you will be altogether joyful.”
Unlike the somber atmosphere of Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a week-long period of rejoicing in the Lord, a time of renewal in Him, and a time to dwell with Him in the sukkah. All meals are to be eaten in the sukkah, and many families also camp out in their sukkahs during the week long celebrations. In ancient Israel, Sukkot was an anticipated holiday because the joy was so great, that it became known as simply “The Feast”, according to 1 Kings 12:32. And what a feast it still is! Today, in Israel and all around the world, Sukkot is celebrated with food, wine, joy, guests and many decorations. It’s a time for family and friends to gather in the sukkah, and give thanks and praise to God. It was also during Sukkot that Jesus himself stood among the crowds on the last day of the feast and proclaimed these words from John 7:37-38:
“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.”
He spoke, as many believe, on the day the celebrations peaked, when water was being poured out on the altar in the temple in Jerusalem. And these words can be still heard today all around the world, from Jerusalem, to Paris, New York and Sao Paolo.
Discovering ancient traditions of Israel is an exciting experience, especially for those wanting to learn more about Jesus and his Disciples. Connecting to the jewish traditions, land and history is connecting to the same people Jesus belongs to. May we experience more of his presence, joy and fellowship as we remember the wonderful holiday of Sukkot!