The Feast of Sukkoth – Then – and Forever.

By Joseph Shulam. 

This Shabbat is the first day of the feast of Tabernacles, Sukkoth in Hebrew. The feast of Sukkoth is one of the three feasts of pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The first one in the early spring is Passover, and the second is Pentecost, and the third is Sukkoth. What makes these three feasts special is that they are all three celebrating major historical events and also major agricultural, seasonal events.

Passover is the first one and it is a celebration of the exodus from Egypt, and the beginning of the wheat harvest in the Middle East. The second holiday, Pentecost, is the only Biblical holiday that doesn’t have a date. The Passover has a date and it is to be celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Nissan. The Biblical Hebrew New Year, the first month, is Nissan. On the 14th day, that is the day that the children of Israel got out of Egyptian slavery and began their journey to the land of Canaan, the land God gave to Abraham and his decedents as an everlasting inheritance.

The second holiday without a date is celebrated 50 days after the Passover. It is Shavuot or Pentecost. This is why the Torah commands us to count these 50 days of the wheat harvest. It is also the day of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. This is why in European languages the holiday is called Pentecost, which in Greek means 50 days.

The third holiday is called, in Hebrew, Sukkoth, and it means in English, Tabernacles. The word Sukkoth in Hebrew means temporary or loosely made dwellings, open to the elements of the weather. So, now this Shabbat, on September 29, 2023, all of Israel will celebrate the feast of Sukkoth. The command of the Torah is that all of Israel will dwell in these shabby temporary dwellings made of tiki-taki, cloth, and branches of trees for a roof, to remind us all of the 40 years of wondering in the Sinai desert before arriving in the land of promise.

The reading for this Shabbat is the reading for Sukkoth: From the Torah the reading is Leviticus 22:26-23:44. From the Prophets, the Haftarah is from Zechariah 14:1-21, and from The Gospels we will read from Luke 2:1-20.

The question always arises when I speak to Christians, about the date of the birth of Yeshua in Bethlehem. The account in Luke 2 of Joseph and Mary, his wife, coming to Bethlehem for the census ordered by Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria, and the narrative of Luke’s Gospel, might indicate that the season was the autumn at the time of the feast of Sukkoth, Tabernacles.

We do know for sure that Yeshua and His apostles did come to Jerusalem for the Feast of Sukkoth, as it is recorded in the Gospel of John: “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.

His brothers therefore said to Him,

“Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.” (John 7.1-3 New King James Version).

Any time in Jewish literature that you find the word “THE FEAST” – in Hebrew החג – – HaHag, “The Feast”, it is always a reference to the feast of Sukkoth.

Sukkoth is one of the major biblical feasts and it has every possible indication for happiness, celebration of wealth of food and prosperity, and also of the beginning of the rainy season, and the end of wheat, and fruit and olive harvest. The barns are full, and the new wine is plentiful, and it is a time of celebration of wealth on the one hand, and you have to live in a shabby hut made from temporary materials.

Sukkoth in the Torah is also a very special holiday for the gentiles. God commanded Israel, on Sukkoth, to offer 70 bulls, each bull for a specific nation. The Biblical concept of nations is based on the number of the children of Israel that went down to Egypt in the days of Joseph; 70 children of Israel went down and therefore the Bible has 70 distinct nations.[1]

This is also a particular reason why we, like all the synagogues in the world, will read the last chapter of the prophet Zechariah, chapter 14. Because, upon the return of the Son of David to Jerusalem, every nation will have to send a delegation to the feast of Sukkoth, to come to Jerusalem and worship the God of Israel, the Creator of the World, the Father of all mankind, and bring their offering to dedicate it in the name of their nations, to the God of created the nations.

The God who divided the people of the world after the attempt of humanity to dethrone the Father of all, in order to be independent and without oversight and control by the God who created them.

For this reason, you have in Zechariah 14 the nations coming to Jerusalem to worship the God of Israel. The whole concept is based on Sukkoth being a feast that transcends the nationality of people and stresses the unity of humanity with God and with Israel and Jerusalem.

Amos, the prophet who didn’t really want to be a prophet, but just wanted to be a farmer, a cow-boy… brings this description of the joy and prosperity of the time of our redemption:

““On that day I will raise up The Tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old;
That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name,” says the LORD who does this thing. “Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes, him who sows seed; the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them,” Says the LORD your God.” (Amos 9.11-15 New King James Version)

Please note dear brothers and sisters, that it is this prophecy of Amos that Jacob (James) brings into the discussion with the other apostles and elders and leaders of the church in Jerusalem in Acts chapter 15, in order to allow the gentiles to come into the fellowship and community of the disciples of Yeshua without conversion to Judaism and without circumcision.

This convincing argument of Jacob (James) the brother of Yeshua, was strong and in fact did the job and kept our gentile brothers from being circumcised and only ordered them to do the very minimum that was commanded on all people in the world after the flood of Noah.

The commands were simple:

1) stay away from idolatry or anything that looks or hints or smells like idolatry.

2) stay away from sexual immorality, the Greek word is PORNEA (from this word comes the English word pornography.)

3) Stay away from eating meat that is not properly slaughtered, i.e., killed in a way that the heart keeps pumping the blood out from the major artery in the neck of the animal. In the United States, all meat that has the USDA label falls in this category, and Jews and Muslims can eat it.

4) Our Gentile brothers have to abstain from shedding blood, from killing animals or humans without fully justified legal reasons. Paul said that in Romans 13, that the government does not hold the sword in vain and in my opinion, this is a statement that gives the government the right for capital punishment.

Back to our reading of the Haftarah and the vision for the future of the world that Zechariah the prophet gives us!

1) Zechariah sees Jerusalem as the center of peace between the nations and the end of idolatry, with a full acknowledgment of the God of Israel being the FATHER of all!

2) The centrality of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the center of unity and worship of the God of Israel for all the peoples of the world.

3) The nations that will not comply with God’s rules and ignore the need to send a delegation to Jerusalem for the Feast of Sukkoth will be sanctioned to have a year of drought without rain! You can imagine some of those nations that have plenty of rain and water and a land that is green and rich forested and farming lands. Without rain for these rebellious countries and nations what will be their outcome?

For me this vision seems far away and distant to the point of impossible, but I have lived long enough and have seen in my own life and the life of my family, more than once, the impossible become possible, the improbable become reality. I believe in the words of the Biblical prophets and every detail of their predictions because I am living these words every day when I open the shutter of my living-room window, and see the city of Jerusalem being built and expanding and growing and absorbing Jews returning home from over 103 different nations.

I see the fulfillment of God’s promises to the prophets of Israel as they are recorded in the text of the Hebrew Bible written and spoken in the streets of Jerusalem and on top of the hills of Galilee thousands of years ago.

I and my generation in Israel, have seen the babies that were born in Netivyah, like Yuda and Daniel and David and Tamar, and Emanuel Levi who is the first boy born in Netivyah who excelled as a pilot in the Israeli Air Force and died in action as one of Israel’s ace top-gun pilots, growing up and finishing high school, all in the Hebrew language, going to the I.D.F., “Israeli Defense Forces”.

I see the children of families that were cave dwellers in the Berber Mountains in Morocco becoming professors and doctors with international acclaim.

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, the country and nation of Israel is the only nation that I see that takes the words of the Torah and the Prophets seriously and believes that every one of these promises will be fulfilled. We don’t know how, and we don’t know when, but we do know that God has been faithful to keep his promises as the song says:

Trust and Obey
Genesis 5:24

By: John H. Sammis
Tune: Trust and Obey

When we walk with the Lord
In the light of his Word
What a glory he sheds on our way!
Let us do His good will;
He abides with us still,
And with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

Not a shadow can rise,
Not a cloud in the skies,
But His smile quickly drives it away;
Not a doubt or a fear,
Not a sigh nor a tear,
Can abide while we trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

Not a burden we bear,
Not a sorrow we share,
But our toil He doth richly repay;
Not a grief or a loss,
Not a frown or a cross,
But is blest if we trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

But we never can prove
The delights of His love
Until all on the altar we lay;
For the favor He shows
And the joy He bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.

Then in fellowship sweet
We will sit at His feet
Or we’ll walk by His side in the way;
What He says we will do,
Where He sends we will go;
Never fear, only trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey!

Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry. The Jerusalem Prayer List. September 29, 2023

(Reprinted with permission)