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By Lionel Leslie, October 11 2003 Printer Friendly Version

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: `The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. On the first day there shall be a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work on it. For seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall offer an offering made by fire to the LORD. It is a sacred assembly, and you shall do no customary work on it. These are the feasts of the LORD which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering and a grain offering, a sacrifice and drink offerings, everything on its day besides the Sabbaths of the LORD, besides your gifts, besides all your vows, and besides all your freewill offerings which you give to the LORD. Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath rest and on the eighth day a sabbath rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month.You shall live in booths for seven days all of the nativeborn 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. So Moses declared to the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.
Sukkot is a joyful festival. Sukkot, or Tabernacles, is the third Autumn Feast which comes five days after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  It begins on the fifteenth day of Tishri, which usually comes in late September or October; seventh Hebrew month.  The Festival's lasts seven days, and is immediately followed by a sacred assembly called, 'Shemini Atzeret' during Sukkot, which you just opened to. On the first day of Sukkot, one must abstain from customary work,  (Leviticus 23: 35).  The first day of Sukkot is the day on which one begins to accumulate sin for the next year.  Now remember, this is traditionally Script; so bear that in mind.  One offsets this by performing a mitzvah, which is a good deed, on this day.  So don't forget to perform a good deed today! 

The construction of the sukkah, which you will see downstairs, which normally commences immediately upon the close of Yom Kippur, and is completed prior to Sukkot, satisfies the requirement for a mitzvah.  This temporary dwelling in which one eats and sleeps is a reminder of the temporary dwellings the Israelites lived in during their wanderings in the wilderness after the Exodus. Of course I can't remember that far back(!!) but I can remember a little from my early days.  And, I must admit what comes to mind is the fact that Sukkot was so decorated and the table was  laid so beautifully with goodies; lovely sweet meats and chocolates and fruits, and what have you.  I couldn't wait.  As a young boy, Sukkot, the last of the pilgrim festivals, (of course Passover is the first; Shavuot the second), was the most joyful to me, for me, literally, fulfilling of the three Festivals.  The sukkah filled my eyes with expectation and my stomach, later, with the fullness of that expectation!

At times I could hardly wait for the service to end.  I can, even now, hear my father saying, not too quietly, 'Lionel, have patience!'  'But I'm hungry, Dad,' I would explain, mouth watering, and quickly moving out of his arm's reach.  My father was a little bit of a tyrant, wasn't he Elie!  Oh, you wouldn't remember quite that early! 

Life in the Synagogue, it seemed to me, as if we were always in the Synagogue.  During that period, I can tell you folk, Rosh Hashanah to Sukkot; I'm not sure exactly how many days, I think it was about seventeen days, and it seemed like we were in the Synagogue practically every day, all day.  That's how it was.  And I must admit that I didn't understand a word of what the Rabbi was saying.  It's not unusual.  But it was long and boring for me as a youngster.  It's not my fault that I couldn't understand a word that the Rabbi was saying, but nobody bothered to teach me.  This is honest.  Not even my father - to teach me a word.  Not only of Hebrew, but what it meant.  And the rabbis didn't either.

I know I was taught for one year, privately, by one of the rabbis.  I thought that was just to be able to read my bar mitzvah.  One year, and all I learned was bar mitzvah and singing.  I remember when I got up to sing my bar mitzvah, afterwards, all of them came, the rabbis and the people, and they wanted me to go to yeshiva right away.  Not because of what I knew, for they knew that I didn't know anything, but by the way I sang it.  I had a reasonable voice in that day.  So no one bothered to teach me the Word, even when I reached the age of the ability to understand.  So I lived in ignorance for the best part of my early life, until the light of YESHUA shone and I had to get out of my country from my father's house, to a land which He would then show me.  Of course, I brought my family with me; my wife, Sarah - Sylvia.  No kidding, and a lot of children, plus one little white cat.  A lot of children; 'a lot.' It was not until we arrived in Vancouver that the evidence of GOD's work in my life was seen, and slowly being revealed.  Equally, with Sylvia and our children.  We never looked back or yearned for the good old days.  So there, I leave it; a little testimony to this day of Sukkot.

Let me get now back to the important words.  A sukkot, or the sukkah, is a temporary structure with loosely assembled walls made from canvas or wood, supported by posts.  The roof is made from tree branches which allow the stars to shine in at night, but provide more shade than some like, during the day.  The interior is decorated with suspended fruits, vegetables, and other hangings.  The sukkah symbolizes the covering of the LORD as the cloud by day and the fire by night, guided our ancestors for forty years in the wilderness.  Of course, this is not necessarily the ways that our people, our rabbis, teach. But that is the way that the Bible puts it.

The Biblical basis for the Feasts can be found in our text from Leviticus 23 which states that we shall dwell in booths for seven days. These days that is not always kept strictly. I remember from my childhood that I didn't stay in the booths for any length of time myself, but I do remember the older people actually sleeping there during that seven-day period, even though at times it was cold. 

The Hebrew word 'Sukkot' is the plural form of the word 'sukka' and the word 'sukka' is the same root as 'chuppah', the covering cloud by day and fire by night that accompanied the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt.  Isn't that interesting, that when our young people go under the chuppah, they are not only covered by the cloth, but covered by the sukkah.

This Feast of Sukkot is to be celebrated by all as commanded in Deuteronomy 16:14.  Did you know that it was commanded for everyone, not just for Jews?  It took me about ten years before I came to understand that. Deuteronomy 16, verse 14 says: 'And you shall rejoice in your feast; you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates.' It means everyone.  No one should be left out.  No one should think, not even our Jewish people, should think it is for them alone.  It isn't as we'll read in a moment when we get into Zechariah. 

The prophet, Zechariah foretold of the re-taking of Jerusalem by the Messiah, and the punishment He would inflict on those who fought against Jerusalem.  'Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet.' (Zechariah 14:12).  And in verse 16, we learn that 'All people and nations will be commanded to celebrate the Feast of Sukkot, and those who choose not to, will experience drought or plagues.' 

There we are, that is the nations worship the King!  Zechariah 14, verses 14 to 19.  I'll read through verses 16 to 19.  'And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts, and to keep the Feast of the Tabernacles.  And it shall be that which ever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them, there will be no rain.  If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.  This shall be a punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up or do not keep the Feast of Tabernacles.' There we are, we have it in the Word of GOD.

Sukkot, as I mentioned before, is also the third pilgrim festival where all men were required to present themselves before the LORD in Jerusalem.  Passover and Shavuot are the other two.  These pilgrims were known as the 'olay regel' or those who came by foot.  Its observance combined the ingathering of the field (Exodus 23:16); the fruit of the earth (Leviticus 23:39).  The ingathering of the threshing room floor and wine press,  Deuteronomy 16:13; and the dwelling in booths which were to be joyful reminders to Israel.

Note the LORD's triumphal entry to Jerusalem on a colt.  Remember that? In Matthew 21 verse 9 and Mark 11, verse 9.  I think it is in Luke as well.  The last day of Sukkot is called Hoshanah Rabbah; Great Hoshiannah.  An exclamation of great adoration.  On this day, congregants parade around the Synagogue seven times carrying lulav, (palm branches) and etrog (citrus fruit of the goodly tree); and you'll find that in Psalm 118:25.

The sukkah, by its temporary nature, reminds us that security does not have to dwell within the confines of a house with permanent walls, and that worthwhile achievement cannot be defined, or measured, by material wealth.  Contemplation, on what is temporary, as opposed to what is permanent, is the reflection of the day.  So bear that in mind.

From a Messianic perspective, Sukkot reminds all Believers of GOD's provision for all our needs.  Sukkot is also the Feast which celebrates the return of Messiah and establishment of His worldwide kingdom.  It is believed that YESHUA was born on the first day of Sukkot, a sacred assembly, and was circumcised eight days later on the Shemini Atzeret, also a sacred assembly.

Zechariah 14 declares that all nations will some day celebrate the Feast of Sukkot during this holiday.  During this holiday many candelabras were lit; during this Feast YESHAU said, 'I am the light of the world;'He said that He is 'the water of life for anyone who thirsts.' His reference to water relates to a water-pouring ceremony, simchat ha-shoevah, which also occurs on Sukkot. 

Sukkot prophetically testifies that GOD will provide all our needs.  The theme is the Final Harvest; the whole world will be reaped into the kingdom of GOD.  That's what it really means.  YESHUA is the firsfruits; we are like the first harvest, but Sukkot is the entire world harvested into the kingdom of GOD.  One day there will be world-wide prosperity; the sowing and reaping will overtake each other.

Remember that seven is the Biblical number for fulfilment and completion.  So too, this seventh Feast points to the millennial rule of YESHUA!  Sukkot prophetically celebrates the future time when YESHUA will reign enjoying glory over the whole earth.

Zechariah 14:9 truly says it all: 'The LORD will be King over all the earth.  In that day it shall be the LORD is One, His Name, One.' This is the Shema, of course, watchword of the Jewish faith found in Deuteronomy 6, verses 4 to 5: 'Hear, O Israel, Shema Israel, .... the LORD our GOD, the LORD is One.  You shall love the LORD your GOD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.' Sukkot is the Messianic celebration of the world by the coronation of the King upon the earth.  A world-wide acceptance of and exaltation of YESHUA, the Messiah King!  Having first celebrated Yom Kippur, one can then celebrate Sukkot, having gone through the fast of repentance, one can enter into the celebration of the King and His bride Queen.  To the Body of Believers, Sukkot is the marriage supper of the Lamb, and the inauguration of the King and his Queen.

So we shall appreciate the three major festivals.  These, as I've said before, these are not exclusive to the Jewish people alone, but also includes the Gentiles; always was.  The Gentiles were never to be left out, regardless of what people may have told or spoken about us.  They are not to be left out.  GOD, Himself, laid this down as a commandment to us.

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