Shabbat-Reading and Commentary
SUKKOT – a special reading for the Feast of Tabernacles
Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44; Numbers 29:12-16; Zechariah 14:1-21
By Michael Schneider, nai israel today, Jerusalem
Again we are reading in this Sabbath portion not according to the yearly reading cycle, that now comes to an end (at the next Shabbat when we will celebrate Simchat Torah). The first part ends in Leviticus 22 with the decisive verses: “So you shall keep My commandments, and do them; I am the LORD. You shall not profane My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.”
The entire text of Leviticus 23 speaks exclusively about the “Feasts of the LORD” (moadei Adonai). Please do not label it as the “Jewish feasts,” for they are Biblical!, They are for all who believe in the Bible! The word moed means “appointment,” God wants to meet with man at specific times! Starting with the feast of redemption, Passover, all the way through to the Feast of Tabernacles called Sukkot, (that we are celebrating beginning this evening) which is the third pilgrimage festival. It is interesting to note that both feasts, the first and the last, are 7-days feasts and are starting on the same date, the 15th of the month on the Jewish calendar, at a full moon.
We see that all biblical feasts are only in the first half of the biblical year! Or is it the “year of harvest” as we see in Exodus 23:16? Later, the after-the-exile feasts were added (after the Babylonian capture), Purim and Hanukkah.
“On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.”
“You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 23:39-42)
Jews take the Four-species (arba minim) at the feast. The four species include the etrog, which is a kind of citrus fruit, a lulav (palm branches), hadass (boughs of leafy trees) and an arava (willows of the brook) in the hand. The bouquet symbolizes the diversity or differences among the people of Israel: One has taste and smell, like the etrog – a symbol of one studying Torah and doing good deeds; the other species have taste and no smell, like the lulav – a symbol of one who studies Torah without good deeds; one with smell and without taste, like hadass – a symbol of not studying Torah but doing good deeds; and finally the one with no taste and no smell, like the arava, symbolizing the person who does no Torah studies and no good deeds. But that exactly speaks of all Israel, therefore you bind them together as one – because “one covers the other.”
The Messianic Jew and believers would say here that man should always have the desire to know God through His Word and also practice mercy toward others. Shouldn’t that be the goal of heeding those two main commandments? We should do both. As James writes, we should be not only hearers of the Word, but (and mainly) doers of His Word! The true disciple learns in order that he may do, not in order that he may merely know or teach.
The sitting-in-booths is a reminder and symbol that we are living only temporarily on earth, just passing through, and every Believer should always be ready to “fold up his booth” at anytime that God may want to lead him, as He led the people of Israel, to another place. Our eternal goal should always be in sight because we are “citizens of heaven”: the promise of a heavenly kingdom like then, the Promised Land of Israel. Therefore, get out of your comfortable homes – at least once a year!
The second reading is in Numbers 29 and describes how day-after-day sacrifices were given during this Sukkot feast. Interesting that it starts with 13 cows or bulls and every day there is one less, so on the second day of Sukkot, 12, then 11, until by the seventh day there are seven bulls. We count exactly 70 bulls, and the Talmud explains that it hints to the 70 world nations according to the nations listed in Genesis 10. Already here we find a reference to the universal aspect that this feast has, and it becomes clearer in our Haftara, the portion from the Prophets in Zechariah 14, “After the LORD will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle… and He will fight as on a day of battle… and His feet will be standing on the Mount of Olives…” After all this in the Endtime, “Year to year the remnant of the nations will go up to worship the King, the LORD of hosts and celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.” So, it is an Endtime-feast!
I close with, let us “Be joyful at your feast!” It is even mentioned three times as a commandment! (Deut. 16)
Hag Sameah – a joyful feast!