Say to the Israelites: 'On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the L-rd's Feast of Tabernacles begins . . . ' (Lev. 23:33a, emphasis added)
Bartels Family Sukkot Celebration
Emphases of the Feast of
G-d is Our Provider * G-d is Our Refuge * G-d will return to take us home
Let us rejoice!
|Posters - may be used to decorate the sukkah
(about 1.7 MB)
Why would a Gentile Christian want to celebrate Biblical Feasts?
What is Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles)?
Unlike Passover, which celebrates just one event --- that of the Exodus, the Feast of Tabernacles celebrates several happenings. Though Jewish apocraphal writings speak of a Sukkot-like holiday in Abraham's time, it is generally believed to have started out as a rememberance of the forty years Israel wandered in the wilderness. The Jews had no permanent home and had to build temporary shelters for themselves. They had to rely entirely on the L-rd for all their sustenance.
When the Hebrews entered Canaan they became farmers. Thanksgiving for the harvest was added. Perhaps there is a relationship between the Pilgrim's Thanksgiving celebration and Sukkot? (Sukkot ran from Sept. 20 - 28 in 1621.)
King Solomon's Temple was dedicated during this Feast. It soon became quite the spectacle as the festival grew.
Originally only seven days long, an eighth day, that of Shemini Atzeret, was added. In keeping with the agricultural theme, this extra day was used to pray for rain --- not too much, nor too little, to ensure success of the next year's crops. The prayer for rain could also be interpreted as a request for G-d to send the "latter rain," the Spirit that would come with the Messianic age. Some believe that the first Hanukkah was really a late Sukkot celebration. The Maccabees would have remembered that Solomon's Temple was dedicated during the holiday and perhaps they wanted to rededicate the Temple then as well.
Lastly, a ninth day was added to the season --- Simchat Torah, "Rejoicing in the Torah." It is on this day when the end of Deuteronomy, the last book of the Torah, and the beginning of Genesis is read, beginning the lectionary anew. Seven times the Torah scroll is carried around the congregation with all worshippers forming a great procession. Children wave flags and at least all adult men have a turn of carrying a scroll. The addition of Simchat Torah makes this the longest festival of the Jewish year.
The mood of the season is joy. Singing and dancing are emphasized. Fasting is prohibited.
Where does this fit with believers in Y'shua? Thanksgiving is important, of course. Then there is the idea of the temporary shelter itself. The L-rd is our shelter, one much better than the houses we build. Just as the Jews wandered for a time in the wilderness awaiting entry into the Promised Land, we too are only "wandering" this Earth awaiting entry into the "New Promised Land." We, too, need to rejoice in all that Our Heavenly Father has done for us. These topics are discussed more fully in the liturgy.
Items for the family service
There are many rabbinical laws that govern the construction of a sukkah. Our family has chosen to not concern ourselves with most of them. Still, the sukkah should be easy to put up and break down. It should be flimsy, but the walls should not flap in the wind.
The roof should be made of tree branches. Because of weather concerns we have chosen to use a camo-colored tarp. In keeping with the spirit of being able to see the stars through the roof we make sure there are plenty of holes where we join the roof and drape walls. Those desiring to follow Jewish law more closely should not use live tree branches in or on the sukkah.
Our first sukkah was little more than some blankets hanging over branches in a tree. We now use lattice and lumber, and attach fabric to the sides. Since moving to Ohio we have decided to align our sukkah with Jerusalem, meaning that when someone is facing the front of the sukkah (altar area) he is facing Jerusalem. (In Ohio Jerusalem is at about 48°T.)
Photos of our fairly simple sukkah of 2002/5763
our upgraded sukkah of 2003/5764
Books (mostly general resources concerning all the Jewish Feasts, but some are specific to Sukkot)
Page last modified November 20, 2008.
Comments, corrections, or suggestions may be directed to the page author, Mary-Frances Bartels