The Bible Teaching Ministry of David Hocking
“The Word of our God shall stand forever” Isaiah 40:8


by Hana Levi Julian and Yoni Kempinski (IsraelNationalNews)

Jews around the world Wednesday evening will enter temporary structures known as “sukkot” and celebrate the week-long holiday that commemorates G-d’s protection of the Jews during their 40-year sojourn through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

Thousands of Jews have streamed into Israel to celebrate Tishrei – the first month in the Hebrew calendar and which is filled to the brim with Jewish holidays, including the two holiest of the year, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Another 7,000 tourists flooded into Jerusalem this week for the festivities – including Christian pilgrims, who have come to join in with their version of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

The holiday of Sukkot, which begins at sundown, is one of the three major festivals (shlosha regalim) of the Jewish calendar in which the Jewish People were enjoined to “go up to Jerusalem”.

In Israel, the holiday lasts for seven days, two of which are “holy days” – one each at the beginning and end of the holiday. The five days in between are known as “Chol HaMoed,” during which most ordinary activities are permitted. It is during these days that a massive outpouring of families and friends is seen throughout the country as domestic holiday tourism floods a myriad of sites throughout Israel.

In countries outside Israel, Sukkot lasts eight days, beginning with a two-day Sabbath-like holiday, followed by five days of Chol HaMoed. This year, the holiday begins with a three-day holiday as a result: two days of “yom tov” followed by the Sabbath.

One of the most important customs of Sukkot is the recitation of the blessings over the Four Species: an etrog (citron), a lulav (palm frond), three sprigs of hadassim (myrtle) and two branches of aravot (red willow).

According to the Midrash, the Four Species represent the four types of Jews that comprise the People of Israel, whose unity is emphasized on the holiday of Sukkot:

1.The etrog, which has a good fragrance and taste, represents a person with both wisdom (Torah learning) and good deeds

2.The hadas has a good fragrance, but cannot be eaten, representing a person with good deeds, but who lacks wisdom

3.The lulav is edible, but has no scent, representing a person with wisdom but without good deeds, and

4.The aravah has neither taste nor smell, thus representing the person who lacks both good deeds and wisdom or Torah learning.

The lulav is only considered kosher if all four species are taken together – if one is missing, the entire lulav is invalid. So too it was with the incense mixture used in the Holy Temple in ancient times, of which there were 11 ingredients. One of those, the chelbanah was a spice with a terrible smell, and yet the entire mixture was considered invalid if that or any other spice, was omitted.

From this, we learn that all Jews must work together and remain united, as one People, regardless of our differences.

Also on this holiday Jews eat all their meals in temporary booths constructed of various materials, including wood paneling and cloth, with the roofs covered in branches of live material, open enough to be able to view the stars above.

Men sleep in these structures as well, to commemorate the “clouds of glory” that surrounded and protected our ancestors from the harsh desert conditions as we traveled to the Land of Israel after fleeing from Egypt.

Nightly “Water-Drawing Celebrations,” called Simchat Beit HaShoeva (Celebration of the House of Water-Drawing) — are held to commemorate the ceremonies and celebrations that took place at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in preparation for drawing water for use during the festival service. These celebrations, held in Jewish communities around the world, often feature special celebrations that include all-night music and singing by live bands and special foods.

Sukkot in the Diaspora ends with another two-day holiday that includes Shemini Atzeret (the final day of Sukkot) and Simchat Torah – the “Rejoicing of the Torah,” and last Jewish holiday in the Hebrew month of Tishrei.

In Israel, the holiday of Shemini Atzeret / Simchat Torah begins Wednesday at sunset, September 29, and lasts for one day.

The holiday is characterized by unbridled joy and celebrates the conclusion and renewal of the reading of the Torah each week. Also featured are the prayers for rain, officially commemorating the start of the region’s season of winter rains, and the “Yizkor” prayer for departed souls.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: To connect with the celebration of Sukkot at the time of our Lord Yeshua – read the wonderful worlds of John 7:37-39!)

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