SUKKOT (FEAST OF TABERNACLES)
We believe Yeshua was born on Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) based on scripture, historical events and Jewish culture. More importantly, it is consistent with Yahweh using His Feasts as prophetic foreshadowing’s of upcoming events.
The Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Booths and Sukkot, is the seventh and last feast that the Lord commanded Israel to observe and one of the three feasts that Jews were to observe each year by going to “appear before the Lord your Yahweh in the place which He shall choose” (Deuteronomy 16:16). The importance of the Feast of Tabernacles can be seen in how many places it is mentioned in Scripture. In the Bible we see many important events that took place at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. For one thing, it was at this time that Solomon’s Temple was dedicated to the Lord (1 Kings 8:2).
It was also at the Feast of Tabernacles that the Israelites, who had returned to rebuild the temple, gathered together to hear Ezra proclaim the Word of Yahweh to them (Nehemiah 8). Ezra’s preaching resulted in a great revival as the Israelites confessed their sins and repented of them. It was also during this Feast that Yeshua said, “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 7:37–39).
The Feast of Tabernacles takes place on the 15th of the Hebrew month Tishri. This was the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar and usually occurs in late September to mid-October. The feast begins five days after the Day of Atonement and at the time the fall harvest had just been completed. It was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated Yahweh’s continued provision for them in the current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years in the wilderness.
We find Yahweh’s instructions for celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23, given at a point in history right after Yahweh had delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. The feast was to be celebrated each year on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” and was to run for seven days (Leviticus 23:34). Like all feasts, it begins with a “holy convocation” or Sabbath day when the Israelites were to stop working to set aside the day for worshiping Yahweh. On each day of the feast they were to offer an “offering made by fire to the Lord” and then after seven days of feasting, again the eighth day was to be “a holy convocation” when they were to cease from work and offer another sacrifice to Yahweh (Leviticus 23). Lasting eight days, the Feast of Tabernacles begins and ends with a Sabbath day of rest. During the eight days of the feast, the Israelites would dwell in booths or tabernacles that were made from the branches of trees (Leviticus 23:40–42).
The Feast of Tabernacles, like all the feasts, was instituted by Yahweh as a way of reminding Israelites in every generation of their deliverance by Yahweh from Egypt. Of course, the feasts are also significant in that they foreshadow the work and actions of the coming Messiah. Much of Yeshua’ public ministry took place in conjunction with the Holy Feasts set forth by Yahweh.
The Torah commands three things regarding the festival of Sukkot:
1. To gather the “four species” (Leviticus 23:40)
2. To rejoice before the LORD (Deuteronomy 16:13-14
; Leviticus 23:40)
3. To live in a sukkah (Leviticus 23:42)
The main Sukkot tradition is to build a temporary structure, known as a sukkah. The sukkah can be made of different materials, although there are Jewish traditions regulating its construction to show the transient nature of the building. Each sukkah must have at least two walls, because the inhabitants must “dwell” in the structure for a week (Lev. 23:42). Tradition defines “dwelling” as eating the daily meals in the sukkah, but it is also common to sleep in the sukkah in climates and circumstances where it is possible to do so.
A sukkah may be built in a yard, a roof, or even a
balcony. Some people purchase
prefabricated “sukkah kits” to make the project a b
it easier. Those who live in apartments
or in locations where it is impossible to build a s
ukkah, or those who are unable to build
their own sukkah for health reasons, may help their
congregation or another family
decorate their sukkah during this time.
The top of the sukkah is covered with a natural material, such as palm fronds. The roof should allow the inhabitants to view the stars from within the sukkah, in order to remember the Israelites’ journey through the desert. It is customary to welcome guests into the sukkah to join in the celebration. Welcoming of guests recalls Abraham’s hospitality when he welcomed guests into his tent.
During Sukkot, Jewish people also wave the four species the lulav and etrog (Lev. 23:40).
Many families build their own sukkah at home, or visit the sukkah of other families. Extending hospitality, especially to the needy is a Sukkot custom. Many Jews invite guests outside of their families to join them for a holiday meal in the sukkah.
It is a mitzvah to celebrate in the sukkah. This is done primarily by eating meals in the sukkah, especially on the first night of the Festival. Whenever one eats in the sukkah one, recites haMotzi, the prayer over bread, and then adds a special blessing: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu leisheiv basukah. “Blessed are You, Adonai our Yahweh, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us through your mitzvot and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah.”
Since the sukkah is intended to serve as your “home
” for the next eight days, it is customary to decorate it with hanging fruits,
flowers, popcorn wreaths, ornaments, etc., from the
ceiling, and tape posters of various Jewish themes on the walls.
Some people even string lights on the outside of
A Temporary Dwelling
A sukkah is a transitional shelter meant to provide only the basic structure of a building. In fact, Jewish law requires a minimum of two and half walls, and the ceiling, covered in tree branches and leaves, must be open enough so that the stars are visible. One alternative is to build a sukkah-like structure indoors. For children, the act of building forts and tents is the creation of a personal play space. Adults can build a canopy over the dining room table using a tablecloth, or even over the bed — perhaps to look like a huppah, or wedding canopy — to enjoy the temporary shelter and reminder of transition that it evokes.
In the Bible, Sukkot marked the time of the fruit and grape harvests. It is also harvest time in North America, and the produce of the season is readily available. You can visit a farmer’s market or even a farm to buy or help harvest seasonal fruits and vegetables. Go apple picking or just visit the park to collect fallen leaves and twigs to use as decorations. Create centerpieces for the home with fruits and vegetables, and plan meals that incorporate a wide selection of local produce. Look for the variety of produce imported from Israel during this time of year, as well.
Sukkot come in many variations, but there are some guidelines to follow when building them. Two important ones are:
A sukkah has to have at least three walls. Only one can be an existing wall, like the side of a house. The walls may be constructed of any material, generally canvas, wood or metal. Today, it is possible to buy ready-to-assemble sukkah kits. (Or you may use a pop-up canopy)
The roof is to be temporary, covered with loose branches from trees or anything that grows out of the ground, and has been cut off from the ground. According to tradition, this roof covering, s’chach, should give shade and yet allow those in the sukkah to see the stars through the roof at night.Once the sukkah is built, it is common to decorate it by hanging fruit and other items from the s’chach, putting posters on the walls, and even laying carpet on the floor.
Lulav and Etrog:
Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest, expressed by blessing and waving the lulav and the etrog, symbols of the harvest; by building and decorating a sukkah; and by extending hospitality to friends and family.
The lulav is a combination of date palm, willow and myrtle branches, held together by a woven palm branch. The etrog, or citron, is a lemon-like fruit with a wonderful citrus smell. When reciting the blessing over the lulav and etrog, one should wave them in six directions—north, south, east, west, up, and down. This action symbolizes that Yahweh can be found in all directions, not only in one particular place.
-The etrog represents the heart, a place of understanding and wisdom.
-The palm represents the backbone and one’s uprightness.
-The myrtle represents the eyes that give us enlightenment.
-The willow represents the lips and our prayers to Yahweh.
Making your Lulav
In addition to the sukkah, the most prominent symbol of Sukkot is
“the Four Species,” or the four kinds of organic products mentioned in the Torah
regarding the festival of Sukkot: “On the first day
you shall take the product of goodly
trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy tree
s, and willows of the brook, and you
shall rejoice before the LORD your Yahweh for seven days” (Lev. 23:40). Since these four
items pertain to produce from the land of Israel, you will need to purchase them through a
Judaica reseller to have authentic “species” from the promised land.
On the afternoon before Sukkot begins, it is customary to “assemble” the four species
into a “bouquet” while standing inside your sukkah.
Collectively the four items are
sometimes called the “lulav,” since the palm branch
occupies the central position in the
grouping of the four elements:
On the first day of Sukkot, the Torah portion Emor (Leviticus 23:33-44) is read, which includes the instructions to dwell in booths. The Haftarah, the special selection from the prophetic books that accompanies Torah readings on Shabbat and holidays,is from Zechariah 14:7-9, 16-21. The Torah is read on every day of the festival, including the Shabbat that falls during Sukkot. On this Shabbat, the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is read.
Avoid work for the first two days of Sukkot.
Though the Sukkot holiday lasts for about 7 days, the first two days of the holiday are especially blessed. On these days, much like on Shabbat, most forms of work are to be avoided as a show of reverence to God. Specifically, all activities normally forbidden on Shabbat are also forbidden on the first two days of Sukkot with the exception of cooking, baking, transferring fire, and carrying things around. During this time, people observing the holiday are encouraged to spend time praying and celebrating with their families.
- The following five days, however, are Chol Hamoed, or “intermediate days”, during which work is permitted. Note, however, that if Shabbat falls during the intermediate days, it must be observed as normal.
- Many, many common activities, like sewing, cooking, braiding hair, and even watering plants are traditionally forbidden on Shabbat.
How to Celebrate Sukkot
The festival of Sukkot is celebrated for seven days(i.e., from Tishri 15-21) during whichwe “dwell” in our sukkah by reciting various blessings, eating meals there, singing songs,and waving our lulavs.
We begin preparing for Sukkot immediately following the Yom Kippur holiday. The following things help us to get ready for the holiday:
1. Build and/or decorate a Sukkah
2. Obtain lulav (see above)
3.Make yourself happy.
We are commanded to rejoice during the holiday of Sukkot for the blessing of Yahweh’s provision and care for our lives (Deut. 16:14-15)
Give tzedakah. Since the festival of Sukkot is a time of great thanksgiving to Yahweh for his provision in our lives, giving tzedakah (charity) to those in need is highly recommended. Giving tzedakah is connected with praying for the holiday – that itwill be a time of great blessing and joy in the Presence of Yahweh.
5.Plan Sukkot parties and meals. It is especially important to celebrate this season with family and friends. Sukkot is all about showing hospitality toward others(hachnasat orechim). If you have a sukkah, plan on inviting some people over to be your “ushpizin(Guest).”
If you do not have a sukkah, try to find someone who is celebrating the holiday and be ushpizin for them!
Read the Torah portions (see below) and the Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) for the Sabbath that occurs during the festival of Sukkot.
Steps for Celebrating Sukkot
On the evening before Sukkot begins, we will do the following:
1. Light the Holiday Candles To sanctify the occasion,
we light the holiday candles just before sundown (i.e., on Tishri 14).
As the celebration begins, we will move into the “new day,” that is,
the first day of Sukkot.
Note that unlike Shabbat, we first say the blessing and
then light the candles:
(Recite 18 minutes before sunset while lighting the holiday candles:)
Blessed are You, LORD our Yahweh, King of
the universe, Who sanctifies us with his
commandments and commanded us to light
the candles of [Sabbath and of]Sukkot
ba·rukh at·tah Adonai, E·lo·hei·nume·lekh ha·o·lam,a·sher ki·de·sha·nu b’mitz·vo·tav ve·tzi·va·nu le·had·likner shel [shab·batve·shel] yom tov.
2. Thank Yahweh for the Season
After sundown on the first night of Sukkot (only) we recite the “Shehecheyanu”
blessing (“Who has given us life”)
to thank Yahweh for bringing us to this season in our lives:
Recite this blessing on any special occasion,
including the start of holidays:
“Blessed are You, Lord our Yahweh,
Master of the universe,
who has kept us alive and sustained us
and has brought us to this special time.”
bar-ukh at-tah Adonai El-o-he-nu me-lekh ha-ol-am she-he-che-ya-nu
ve-ki-ye-ma-nu ve-hi-gi-a-nu la-ze-man ha-zeh.
3. Say Kiddush
Before eating the holiday meal in the sukkah, we recite kiddush. Normally this is the “full kiddush” (as performed on Shabbat), though you can substitute the shorter blessing over the wine at this time.
Blessed art Thou, LORD our Yahweh, King of the universe, Creator of the fruit of the vine.
Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha’olam,
borei peri ha’gafen.
4. Recite the Sukkah Blessing
After reciting the holiday kiddush, we (joyfully!) recite the traditional blessing over the Sukkah (leshev ba-sukkah):
Recite the following after reciting kiddish in the sukkah:
Blessed are You, LORD our Yahweh, King
of the universe, Who sanctifies us with
his commandments and commanded us
to dwell in the sukkah.
ba·rukh at·tah Adonai, E·lo·hei·nu
me·lekh ha·o·lam, a·sher ki·de·sha·nu b’mitz·vo·tav ve·tzi·va·nu le·shev ba·suk·kah
Before partaking of our meal in the sukkah, we recite ha-motzi, the blessing over the bread (see the website for the text). After this we enjoy our meal together in the sukkah. Traditional foods include stuffed cabbage and kreplach containing fruit or fall harvest vegetables; dishes made with honey and pastries.
Recite this blessing before eating bread:
Blessed art Thou, LORD our Yahweh, King of the universe,
who brings forth the living bread from heaven.
Barukh attah Adonai Eloheinu melekh ha-olam,
ha-motzi et lechem ha-cha.yim min ha-sha·ma·yim.
6..Waving The Lulav
The traditional ritual for the lulav and etrog is as follows:
- Stand facing east. Place the lulav (with the spine facing you, myrtle on the right and the willows on the left) in your right hand and the etrog in your left hand. Bring your hands together so that the lulav and etrog are side by side.
- Next, recite this special blessing: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al n’tilat lulav. “Blessed are You, Adonai our Yahweh, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us through Your mitzvot and ordained the taking of the lulav.”
- On the first day of the festival, add the Shehecheyanu prayer.
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam,
shehechehyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
Our praise to You, Eternal our Yahweh, Sovereign of all:
for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season.
Finally, shake the lulav is shaken in all directions – east, south, west, north, up, and down – while reciting or chanting the words Hodu l’Adonai ki tov ki l’olam chasdo. “Give thanks to Yahweh, for Yahweh is good, for Yahweh’s loving-kindness endures forever.”
(It is entirely appropriate to recite the blessing and “wave the lulav” at any time during the festival of Sukkot, day or night.)
7.Sing praise to the LORD
After reciting the Hebrew blessing and shaking the lulav around, it is customary to recite (or sing) the following antiphon from Psalm 136: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
ho.du la.Adonai ki-tov, ki le.o.lam chas.do
8.Celebrate in the Sukkah
Perhaps more than any other Jewish holiday, Sukkot has an atmosphere of celebration and delight. The Torah explicitly mentions that we are to rejoice during this festival, and we do so by listening to festive music, talking about the meaning of the holiday, praying together, eating holiday food, and just relaxing inside the sukkah with family and friends….
Note: During the subsequent days (and nights) of Sukkot we will perform these same steps, though we skip reciting the Shehecheyanu blessing after the first night. Note that part of the Shabbat Torah reading for Sukkot is the book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), which reminds us of the transitory nature of life….
Sukkot Torah Readings
The Torah Reading Cycle is suspended for the holiday week of Sukkot as well as for Shemini Atzeret (sometimes referred to as the eighth day of Sukkot). CH”M means Chol haMo’ed, an interim day.
▪ Sukkot, Hoshana Rabba, and Shemini Atzeret Torah readings are from Leviticus 22-23, Numbers 29, and Deuteronomy 14-16. These readings detail the laws of themoedim or “appointed times” on the Jewish calendar and include the commandments regarding the festival of Sukkot.
▪On Simchat Torah (“Celebration of the Torah”) we conclude, and begin anew, the annual Torah-reading cycle. First we read the Torah section of V’zot Haberakhah, and then we read the first chapter of Genesis (the beginning of next Shabbat’s Torah reading).
Detailed readings are as follows. Note that when one of the intermediate days of Sukkot (Chol Ha-Mo’edim) falls on Shabbat, the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is read before the reading of the Torah. To ensure accuracy, always consult a good Jewish calendar that includes the holiday Torah reading for the current year: