Sukkot – Feast of Tabernacles

I’m a little late but I thought I’d tell you about the Feast of Tabernacles and how it relates to Christians. It is very interesting.

The Feast of Tabernacles is a week-long autumn harvest festival. (This year, it began last Wednesday.) Tabernacles is also known as the Feast of the Ingathering, Feast of the Booths, Sukkoth, Succoth, or Sukkot (variations in spellings occur because these words are transliterations of the Hebrew word pronounced “Sue-coat”). The two days following the festival are separate holidays, Shemini Atzeret and Simkhat Torah, but are commonly thought of as part of the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Feast of Tabernacles was the final and most important holiday of the year. The importance of this festival is indicated by the statement, “This is to be a lasting ordinance.” The divine pronouncement, “I am the Lord your God,” concludes this section on the holidays of the seventh month. The Feast of Tabernacles begins five days after Yom Kippur on the fifteenth of Tishri (September or October). It is a drastic change from one of the most solemn holidays in the Jewish year to one of the most joyous. The word Sukkoth means “booths,” and refers to the temporary dwellings that Jews are commanded to live in during this holiday, just as the Jews did in the wilderness. The Feast of Tabernacles lasts for seven days and ends on the twenty-first day (3×7) of the Hebrew month of Tishri, which is Israel’s seventh month. Sukkoth was the third and final feast that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the first two being Passover and Pentecost.

This holiday has a dual significance: historical and agricultural (just as Passover and Pentecost). Historically, it was to be kept in remembrance of the dwelling in tents in the wilderness for the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert. It is expounded in Leviticus 23:43 “That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.“

What were they to remember?Matthew Henry’s commentary explains,

1.) The meanness of their beginning, and the low and desolate state out of which God advanced that people. Note: Those that are comfortably fixed ought often to call to mind their former unsettled state, when they were but little in their own eyes. 2.) The mercy of God to them, that, when they dwelt in tabernacles, God not only set up a tabernacle for Himself among them, but, with the utmost care and tenderness imaginable, hung a canopy over them, even the cloud that sheltered them from the heat of the sun. God’s former mercies to us and our fathers ought to be kept in everlasting remembrance. The eighth day was the great day of this holiday, because then they returned to their own houses again, and remembered how, after they had long dwelt in tents in the wilderness, at length they came to a happy settlement in the land of promise, where they dwelt in goodly houses. And they would the more sensibly value and be thankful for the comforts and conveniences of their houses when they had been seven days dwelling in booths. It is good for those that have ease and plenty sometimes to learn what it is to endure hardness.

 

They were to keep this holiday in thankfulness to God for all the increase of the year; however, the emphasis is that Israel’s life rested upon redemption which in its ultimate meaning is the forgiveness of sin. This fact separates this holiday from the harvest festivals of the neighboring nations whose roots lay in the mythological activity of the gods.

Was the first Thanksgiving a Feast of Tabernacles Celebration?

Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated sukkah for the first time, remark on how much the sukkah (and the holiday generally) reminds them of Thanksgiving. The American pilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, were deeply religious people. As they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, it is quite possible that they looked to the Bible (Leviticus 23:39) for an appropriate way of celebrating and based their holiday in part on the Feast of Tabernacles.

Note: celebrating Thanksgiving on the third Thursday of November was established by the American government and may not necessarily coincide with the pilgrim’s first observance.

The Feast of Tabernacles in Bible Times

As The Feast of Tabernacles approached, the entire Jewish nation started making preparations. Work crews were sent to repair roads and bridges for the thousands of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem. During the festival many Jews eat (and sleep, as well) in the booths or huts, which are built in the five days between Yom Kippur and this festival.

The Feast of Tabernacles is by far the most festive and joyous of occasions. History records that four towering menorahs were constructed in Jerusalem and lit and attended by young men ascending ladders periodically with pitchers of oil to keep them burning. The light from these menorahs illuminated the whole city. The priests would put on a “light show,” performing torch dances while the Levites sang and played music. These shows would occur every night of Sukkot, all through the night. These festivities were so spectacular that the Jewish sages have said, “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Simchat Bet Hasheavah, has never seen rejoicing in his life” (Sukkot 5:1). The joy of the festival was so great that it became known simply as “The Feast.”

The light symbolizes the pillar of fire in the wilderness.

The holiday was celebrated following the outline in Leviticus:

  • They lived in booths made of boughs of trees and branches of palm trees for the seven days of the feast (Lev. 23:42).
  • They rested from all regular work on the first and eighth days.
  • The Priest offered sacrifices on the seven days, beginning with thirteen bullocks and other animals on the first day and diminishing by one bullock each day until, on the seventh, seven bullocks were offered.
  • On the eighth day there was a solemn assembly when one bullock, one ram, and seven lambs were offered (Num. 29:36). The sacrifices offered during this time amounted to 189 animals.
  • Men carried the cluster of branches to the synagogue to wave as they rejoiced before the Lord, as commanded by the Lord (Lev. 23:40).

Water was also an important part of the Feast of Tabernacles. It symbolizes God providing water from the rock while His people were in the wilderness.

Before the festival, the Rabbis taught on every passage in Scripture dealing with water. In Old Testament Biblical times, on the last day of the festival gold pitchers of water were brought from the pool of Siloam to the temple. The Priest would pour out the water over the altar to signify Israel’s gratitude for the rain that had produced the harvest, and would pray for rain in the next year. The priest would recite Isaiah 12:1-3:

“And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.“

This special libation was performed only during the seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles. This was done not only to remind God of the need for abundant rain during the winter season, but also to remind the people of the coming Messiah who had promised to pour out His Holy Spirit on the people.

This ceremony lasted seven days. The last day was called Hosha’na Rabba, meaning the Day of the Great Hosanna. As the celebration continued, the priests blew the trumpets and waved the branches and the people sang the Great Hallel (Psalms 113 through 118)

Jesus Celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles

Jesus celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. He taught in the Temple on the Feast of Tabernacles. Although His disciples had not expected Jesus to attend the feast, the vast majority of the pilgrims from afar who had heard of Him entertained the hope that they might see Him at Jerusalem. They were not disappointed, for on several occasions He taught in Solomon’s Porch and elsewhere in the temple courts. These teachings were really the official or formal announcement of the divinity of Jesus to the Jewish people and to the whole world. Jesus risked His life to go to the Feast of Tabernacles.

On the last day and greatest day of the Feast of Tabernacles (the day the Rabbis poured the water) Jesus stood (calling special attention to his message) and proclaimed Himself the very fountain of living water in John 7:37-38.

MESSIAH IN TABERNACLES
Spiritual Lessons from the Feast of Tabernacles 

God is Our Shelter

This holiday reminds us not to hold too tightly to material things. We live in a very materialistic age. When the Israelites were wanderers in the desert, they all lived in tents–rich and poor alike. Material possessions can control and manipulate us; they become gods, or idols, over us. We must remember that this life is only temporary. We are also on a pilgrimage to a Promised Land in eternity. We need to seek God’s kingdom, not earthly comfort. As we seek first the Kingdom of God (Luke 12:31), God is our shelter.

“For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall“ (Isa. 25:4).

Jesus is the Living Water

Our spiritual thirst cannot be quenched with anything less than Christ.

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life“ (John 4:14).

Jesus Washes Away Our Sins

Jesus is the true living water cleansing us from sin through His blood.

“For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God“ (Heb. 9:13-14).

Jesus is the Light of the World

The light from the Feast of Tabernacles lamps illuminated the whole city. Scholars suggest that Jesus referred to this custom when he spoke those well-known words, “I am the light of the world…” (John 8:12) Also see John 1:1-9 and John 9:5.

Jesus is Preparing Our Permanent Home

These physical bodies we now occupy are only temporary dwelling places. Our bodies are frail, and will eventually begin to deteriorate. Life is short. Our hope is not in what the world has to offer, but in what God has already provided for us for eternity. Our permanent home is being prepared for us in eternity. Jesus said in John 14:2-3,

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.“

As the Israelites Left Bondage, We Leave the Bondage of Sin

God brought the Children of Israel out of the bondage of their Egyptian taskmasters into freedom. For Christians, we can celebrate that God redeemed us from a life of bondage to sin and brought us into His freedom in the Kingdom of God.
Was the Birth of Christ during the Feast of Tabernacles?Many scholars believe Jesus was born during the Feast of Tabernacles. Matthew Henry states:It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this holiday; then He left his mansions of light above to tabernacle among us (John 1:14), and he dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the feast of tabernacles, Zec.14:16. For, [1.] The gospel of Christ teaches us to dwell in tabernacles, to sit loose to this world, as those that have here no continuing city, but by faith, and hope and holy contempt of present things, to go out to Christ without the camp, Heb. 13:13, 14. [2.] It teaches us to rejoice before the Lord our God. Those are the circumcision, Israelites indeed, that always rejoice in Christ Jesus, Phil. 3:3. And the more we are taken off from this world the less liable we are to the interruption of our joys.

The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth. We know it was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week.

When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abia, when Zekharya was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18 (Killian n.d.). Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). We know six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev. Kislev 25 is Hanukkah. Was the “light of the world” conceived on the festival of lights?

Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).

During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. They may have been given shelter in a sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple Feast (Luke 2:1).

We know our Messiah was made manifest into a temporary body when He came to earth. Is it possible He also was put into a temporary dwelling? The fields would have been dotted with sukkoths during this harvest time to temporary shelter animals. The Hebrew word “stable” is called a sukkoth (Gen. 33:17).

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).

Joseph and Mary took the child and flew to Egypt and remained there until they were told by God that Herod was dead. Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into Jerusalem forty days from His birth for Mary’s purification and the child’s dedication (according to Torah this had to be done within forty days of the birth of a male child–not doing so is considered a sin). This indicates that Herod died within the same forty days, because as long as Herod was alive, they could not appear at the Temple. (According to Josephus’ calculations, Herod’s death occurred during the Autumn in the fourth year before the Common Era 4 b.c.e.).

Later in His life, Yeshua celebrated His birthday on a mountain with three of His disciples. In contrast to birthday parties, such as Herod’s, where people were killed for entertainment, His was a celebration of life. On the Festival of Succoth, Moshe and EliYahu (Elijah), from centuries past, representatives of the Torah and the Prophets, appeared and talked with Yeshua. One disciple, Kepha (Peter), suggested building three succoth for Yeshua, Moshe, and EliYahu, because it was required for the festival, but he did not understand that these three were fulfilling that which the festival symbolized: they were dwelling in their succoth (temporary tabernacles) of flesh, awaiting their eternal resurrection temples (Killian n.d.)

A number of Christians are celebrating Christ’s birth during the Feast of Tabernacles, complete with decorations and lights on the sukkah, a birthday cake, and music celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Jesus preached three sermons in which he declared himself the “light of the world,” and all three would be during the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) in the winter of the year (December).

At the end of an article about the theories of the dates of Jesus’ birth, John Parsons, of the Hebrew4Christians site wrote: In light of these uncertainties, it is perhaps advisable to take a humble attitude and confess our ignorance of the matter. The important thing, of course, is that our Lord was indeed born and ransomed us from the wages of our sins.

Prophetic Significance

The festival of Sukkot has a prophetic dimension awaiting fulfillment. As the Day of Ingathering of the harvest, Sukkot prefigures the gathering together of the Jewish people in the days of the Messiah’s reign on earth (Isa.. 27:12-13; Jer. 23:7-8) Indeed all of the nations of the earth that survived the Great Tribulation will come together to worship the LORD in Jerusalem during the Feast of Sukkot (Zech. 14:16-1

Sukkot also foreshadows the LORD’s sheltering Presence over Israel in the millennial kingdom. No longer will Israel be subject to the oppression of the nations, but God Himself will place His sanctuary in her midst (Eze. 37:26-28).

Jesus the Messiah did indeed come to “sukkah” (or “tabernacle”) with us (see John 1:14) in order to purge our sins from us and redeem us to Himself. Yes, by the eye of faith we see the revelation of the true Shechinah of the LORD God Almighty in the Person of Jesus our beloved Messiah. Nevertheless, we still eagerly await His return to establish His Kingdom and set up His everlasting Sukkah with us–so that we may know, love, and abide with Him forever.

The Beginning of the Millenium

Most Bible scholars agree that Tabernacles represents the beginning of the Millennium. We should look forward expectantly to the Feast of Tabernacles, just as we look forward to the coming of the Messiah, to bring His government, His Kingdom, and His laws. “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more“ (Micah 4:1).

Tabernacles and Passover are the only holidays mentioned in the millennial worship (Ezek. 45:21-25; Zech. 14:16). Note that the number of days between Nisan and Tishri is always the same. Because of this, the time from the first major festival (Passover in Nisan) to the last major festival (The Feast of Tabernacles in Tishri) is always the same. Could this have any connection to Christ’s birth during Tabernacles and His death on Passover? Passover is in the first month in the religious calendar and Tabernacles is in the first month of the civil calendar. Hosea 6:3 explains Christ will come as the latter and former rain. “Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.“ The spring holidays are during the former rain and the fall holidays are during the latter rain.

Zechariah chapter 14 introduces the millennial age. The chapter tells of the liberation of Jerusalem and how the Messiah will be king over the whole earth. It ends with all nations keeping the laws of the Most High. The Feast of Tabernacles–-that great feast which symbolizes the very presence of Yeshua the Messiah (He is the very “Tabernacle of God”), will be kept by all the nations of the world. The prophet tells us that fearsome punishments and plagues will be meted out on nations that refuse to send delegates to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles.

 “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: … And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord and his name one … And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came up against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles“ (Zech. 14:8-19).

Jewish Customs of Tabernacles

The services in the synagogue today are modeled after the ancient services in the Temple (see Feast of Tabernacles in Bible Times). Sacrifices are no longer performed since the time of the destruction of the Temple.

It is usual practice to build and decorate the booth (sukkah). In the United States, Jews usually hang dried squash and corn in the sukkah to decorate it because these vegetables are readily available in the fall. Friends and family are invited.

Ushpizin

There is also a custom of inviting “imaginary guests” (ushpizin) to join us in the sukkah for meals. The Zohar, the foremost book of Jewish mysticism, explains that the Sukkah generates such an intense concentration of spiritual energy, that the divine presence actually manifests itself there in a similar way to Eden. During Sukkot the souls of the seven shepherds of Israel — Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and King David — actually leave Gan Eden to partake in the divine light of the earthly Sukkot (Zohar – Emor 103a). Each day of Sukkot, all seven souls are present, but each takes his turn to lead the other six. Collectively these transcendent guests are known asUshpizin, the Aramaic word meaning “guests.” To welcome these illustrious souls, many have the custom to recite a lengthy mystical invitation upon entering the Sukkah for the first time. Additionally, many invite the Ushpizin each time they partake of a meal in the Sukkah. Some Sephardic Jews even have the custom of setting aside an ornately-decorated chair covered with fine cloth and holy books.

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us with his mitzvot and commanded us to kindle the light of the holiday.”

  • Abraham represents love and kindness
  • Isaac represents restraint and personal strength
  • Jacob represents beauty and truth
  • Moses represents eternality and dominance through Torah
  • Aaron represents empathy and receptivity to divine splendor
  • Joseph represents holiness and the spiritual foundation
  • David represents the establishment of the kingdom of heaven on earth

On the first night, it is considered a mitzvah (commandment) to light two candles, recite Shehecheyanu, and eat a meal inside the sukkah:

On the first night only, the following blessing is added:

“Blessed our You, Lord our God, King of the universe, for keeping us alive, taking care of us, and bringing us to this time.”

Before eating the holiday meal in the sukkah, recite Kiddush (blessing over cup) and then saying the blessing over the sukkah:

“Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctifies us with his mitzvot and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah.

The blessing over the bread is then said and then the meal eaten.

Lulav

Jewish tradition calls for a lulav (Four Species) made of a palm, myrtle, willow and fruit from the citron to be waved. The rabbis insist this is the only accepted lulav; however Scripture says, “And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook…” (Lev. 23:40).

When Ezra reinstated the feasts, Nehemiah 8:15, he used olive branches. “And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.“

The Hebrew word for “goodly” in the verse in Leviticus above is hadar {haw-dawr’} [01926 ] meaning “ornament,” “splendor,” or “honor.” The Hebrew word for “palm” in this verse is tamar {taw-mawr’} [8558] meaning “palm tree” or “date palm.” The Hebrew word for “bough” in this verse is `anaph {aw-nawf’} [06057] meaning “bough” or “branch.” The Hebrew word for “willows” in this verse is `arab {aw-rawb’} [06155] meaning “poplar, willow or a tree characterized by dark wood.”

There is thought to be spiritual significance based on the characteristics of the lulav and citron:

  • The palm bears fruit (deeds) but is not fragrant (spiritual blessing). This is like a person who lives by the letter of the law but does not have compassion or love for others.
  • The myrtle only has fragrance, but can’t bear fruit. This is like a person who is “so heavenly minded he is no earthly good.” He (or she) may recite scripture, but he doesn’t produce fruit.
  • The willow can neither produce fruit nor fragrance. This is like a person who is intrigued by different doctrines but never produces fruit.
  • The citron creates both fruit and fragrance. This is like a faithful believer who lives a balanced life in wisdom before God and man. Believers should strive to be like the citron.

The Tradition of Waving the Lulav

According to the principle of hiddur mitzvah [beautifying the commandment], most Jews will seek excellent specimens for their “four species.” At any rate, the lulav and etrog (lemon-like citrus fruit) should be kept in good condition throughout the festival since they are needed everyday (except on Shabbat that occurs during Sukkot) to perform various ceremonies.

On Sukkot, you will first bind all the branches together: two willows on the left, one palm branch in the center, and three myrtles on the right.

1. While standing, the person picks up the lulav with its attached willows and myrtle in his right hand, holding the lulav so that its spine is toward them.

2. The etrog is picked up in the left hand, next to the lulav, with its tip (pitom) pointing down.

3. The blessings are said: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by Your commandments, and instructed us concerning the waving of the lulav.” Then the shehekeyanu is said: “Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, for keeping us in life, for sustaining us, and for helping us reach this day.”

4. The etrog is then turned right side up and shaken with the lulav.

Each day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the people in the Temple courtyard would hold their lulavs and make a circular procession around the altar. During the procession they would pray a prayer that came to be known as Hoshanos. It is a prayer for God’s blessing, ending each phrase of the prayer with the word hoshana (“Please save” or “save now!”). On the first six days they would march around the altar one time. On the seventh day they marched around it seven times. Traditionally, Psalm 27 is recited at the service of the Feast of Tabernacles.

Bible prophecy tells us that people from the nations of the world will come up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles with the Jewish people in Jerusalem ”And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Zech. 14:17).

Suggestions for Celebrating TabernaclesWhen one of the intermediate days of Sukkot (Chol Ha-Mo-edim) falls on the Shabbat, the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is read before the reading of the Torah.

Building A Sukkoth

The Bible says “Build a sukkah (or booth).” Rabbis have added all details about size, materials, location, etc. You might want to use any scrap lumber you have available, pitch your tent, or use old sheets to create an adventure for your children (attach tarps with bungee cords to your deck or swing set). One family had sick children and made a booth out of old sheets in their living room. Meals were eaten in it and they occasionally spent the night. The importance of this and each holiday is making a memory – not getting hung up on customs.

Building and decorating a sukkah is a fun family project. Jim Gerrish, with Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, describes one plan for building a sukkah:

Actually it is not such a difficult job. You will need to start planning early though, in order to begin your construction as quickly as possible after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In Israel some devout Jews begin construction as soon as the sun is down on Yom Kippur, four days before the Feast of Tabernacles starts.

Since the sukkah is not to be an elaborate or permanent structure, the most inexpensive materials may be used. You will need 4 sturdy posts (2 x 4s in the U.S.) for the corners, 4 smaller poles (2 x 2s) for the roof. All of these boards should be approximately 7 or 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length. To cover the roof you will need several slats or small boards capable of holding up light tree branches. For the sides, old bedsheets seem to work well. Other materials like canvas, cane matting or even light plywood are also fine. You will need enough to enclose three sides, with a drape for the entrance. For the top you simply need to trim a few trees in the back yard.

Now for the actual construction. The tabernacle can be almost any size so long as it is large enough to sit in. A seven foot cube (2.5 meters) is recommended, since this will allow plenty of room for guests (make a larger Sukkah if you are blessed with a big family).

First, you will need to sink four holes in the ground for the four upright corner poles. In lieu of this, you may anchor the uprights in the holes of stacked concrete blocks, or design other sturdy legs for them. If you want to do it the easy way, you may use an existing building for one side of your sukkah. Once the uprights are firmly in place, then attach the horizontal rods at the top along the outside. With this finished, you can now place the slats or other small support boards on the roof.

The next step is to drape the bed sheets or other coverings around three sides. In the front, a bed sheet attached on a wire track works well for a door. Finally, place the tree branches on top, but if you like to see the stars, don’t make the roof too thick. The sukkah can now be outfitted to your own taste. A table and chairs are a must. You may wish to decorate the walls with pictures or Bible verses. Fruit may be hung from the ceiling; paper chains and other decorations may be hung on the walls. Use your imagination, and by all means, let the children participate.

It is customary to decorate the inside of the sukkah with pictures, hangings, and the agricultural produce for which Israel is famous: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives, dates, and pomegranates.

All that is left now is the enjoyment. Invite your friends to see your masterpiece and rejoice with you. Try a meal out in the sukkah, or even spend the night there. It will be an unforgettable and blessed experience.

Sukkot Services

The lulav is shaken during the Hallel (praise psalms sung right after the Admidah in the morning services) as well as during the Hoshanah–a hymn that begins with the Hoshan’ah [save us]that is sung during the service.Normally the Torah is taken from the Ark and set on the bema and the congregation circles it in a processional (called hakafot) while shaking their lulavot and carrying their etrogim.

The Water Libation Ceremony

During the seven days of Sukkot a sacrificial pouring out of water (called a “water libation”) was performed at the Temple. The water was drawn by the High Priest from the pool of Shiloach (Siloam) and carried back to the courtyard of the outer Temple in a golden pitcher. When the High priest would pour out the water, the people would wave their lulavot and sing:

“Save now, I pray, O LORD; O LORD, I pray, send now prosperity.

Simhat Torah Party 

At the conclusion of Sukkoth, on the ninth day, there is a special celebration called Simhat Torah. The name means “rejoicing in the Torah.” Simhat Torah is not specifically commanded in Scripture, but long ago tradition gave it significance. There is an adage: “Turn the Torah, and turn it over again, for everything may be found in it.” Affirming the truth that one must never stop studying God’s Word, the last chapter of Deuteronomy followed by the first chapter of Genesis are read out loud before a gathering of the people. This action symbolizes the importance placed on reading the Bible every day.Simhat Torah is a joyful celebration! All of the scrolls that contain the Torah are taken from the ark and carried in a colorful procession around the synagogue, Everyone participates in the parade, including the children who carry flags and banners decorated with appropriate symbols. Apples bearing lighted candles flicker brightly from the tops of the poles. The light from the candle symbolizes that we are enlightened because we know God’s Word. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). The apple reminds us of the verse, “Keep my commandments and live, and my teachings as the apple of your eye” (Prov. 7:2) Bags of candy for the children add to their delight. This tradition is based on Ps. 19:8-10, “the commandments of the Lord…are sweeter than honey.” Refreshments and house-to-house visitingconclude the afternoon.

Jesus and Simhat Torah

Since Yeshua the Messiah is Torah Ha-Emet–the True Torah–we should likewise celebrate the Joy of Torah in our lives. Jesus is the Living Torah, the Living Word, written upon our hearts so that we can truly dance and embrace the Truth given from God. Indeed, Jesus did not come to destroy the Torah but rather to fulfill it in our lives (Matt. 5:17-20).

As it is written in the Scriptures regarding the New Covenant:

 ”Behold the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant (B’rit Chodashah) with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law (Torah) in their inward parts, and write it (the Torah) in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:31-34)

This very idea is clearly re-affirmed in the New Testament (see Heb. 8:8-11). As Christians, then, we have the greater reason to celebrate Torah, since Yeshua, the Torah made flesh (John 1:14), is the faithful Mediator of the New Covenant and will therefore do what Moses and the Sinatic covenant could never do, namely, write the Torah within our inward parts and upon our hearts so that we might truly be the people of God. Barush HaShem! (Blessed be the Name!) This is surely a fitting close to the “Season of our Joy.”

Begin with a blessing

“We praise you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has instructed us to rejoice in this feast and gather together in this place. May we know Your peace in the days ahead and be altogether joyful. (Deut. 16:13-15)Simhat Torah, Simhat Torah

Join in a parade, singing Simhat Torah. Fathers and mothers carry Bible and scrolls. Children get to hold the flags and banners. Word of God, Word of God A is for the alphabet, A is for the alphabet Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord B is for the Bible C is for Creation D is for King David E is for the Exodus F is for the first Fruits G is for the Gospels H is for the Hebrews I is for Isaac J is for Jerusalem K is for God’s Kingdom L is for the Lord’s Day M is for Messiah N is for the New Moon O is for our offerings P is for the prophets Q is for Queen Esther R is for resurrection S is for the sukkah T is for the Torah U is for unleavened bread V is for the vineyard W is for wandering, wandering in the wilderness X stands for Christ Y is for Yahweh Z is for Mount Zion

When you finish the final chorus for Z reassemble in a circle, sitting on the ground. A call goes forth for all to witness the reading of the Bible. A parent is chosen to read Rev. 22. Another parent is honored to read Gen. 1. Let everyone join in saying, “There was evening and there was morning after the first day,” “the second day,” etc. during this reading.

Bring out the white prayer shawl (tablecloth). Gather all the children together under it and let the parents surround them, holding this covering over their heads. Have different parents participate. One parent reads verses from Ps. 119 and the other prays the blessing:

Teach me, Adonai, the way of your laws; keeping them will be its own reward for me.Give me understanding; then I will keep your Torah; I will observe it with all my heart.Guide me on the path of your commandments, for I take pleasure in it. Bend my heart toward your instructions and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; with your ways, give me life. Fulfill your promise, which you made to your servant, which you made to those who fear you. Avert the disgrace which I dread, for your rulings are good. See how I long for your precepts; in your righteousness, give me life. (Ps. 119:33-40)

We praise You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has commanded us to teach our children about You. Bless them now as they stand in Your presence covered by the blessings of our prayers. We offer them to You today, praying that they will grow up with the eyes of their minds alert and eager to study Your Word. May the ears of their hearts always listen to Your instruction. May our suggestions, loving discipline, and example always direct them to You. We offer this prayer in Jesus’ Name, Your Word to us. Amen.”

To close the service, choose one parent to pronounce the benediction, a few words at a time, letting the children repeat it after the leader.

The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you And give you peace. Amen (Num. 6:24-25)

Serve refreshments. Or conclude with a sukkah tour or “sukkah open house.” You might plan to have a “Sukkah Soup Supper” at the last booth on your tour, or a Sukkah progressive dinner. You can also conclude with a traditional Simhat Torah Dinner.

Close with prayer:

“Help us to remember You have invited us to come to You whenever we are thirsty and that You are the One who offers us the living water of life that gives us lasting peace through Jesus. Amen.

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