Weekly Torah Commentary – Shabbat Succot October 21, 2016

Leviticus 22:26-23:44

Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is the last of the three pilgrimage festivals.  Like Passover) and the Feast of Weeks / Pentecost, Sukkot has a triple significance: Commemoration of our past, celebration of our present and faith in our future, when all the festivals will be fully realized for us and for all the nations of the world in the End of Days.
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The Past: Living in a Sukkah

Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were traveling in the desert, living in temporary shelters.  At that time, they were sheltered from the burning sun by the cloud of God’s glory overhead.  The LORD’s glory clouds surrounded them like walls as well, protecting them from danger, and these clouds formed a nation-wide sukkah.

The Present: Building a Sukkah

Ever since those days, we remember God’s kindness and reaffirm our faith by constructing and dwelling in a ‘sukkah’ – a temporary three walled dwelling – for the duration of the seven days and nights.  We eat all our meals in the sukkah, invite guests to it and treat it as our home. Some even sleep in it, weather permitting.  Agriculturally, Sukkot is a festival celebrating the end of the harvest season, and Scriptural passages read on Sukkot typically have recurring themes of water, dew and rain.

The Future: The Nations Dwelling in Sukkot

Prophetically, the season of Sukkot is associated with the Messianic Kingdom, the time of resurrection (Isaiah 26:19, Ezekiel 37:1-14) and the great day we await when all the nations will be required to go up to Jerusalem to keep the festival of Sukkot, under penalty of rain being withheld from them (Zechariah 14:16-17).  At that time, God will come to us like the rain (Hosea 6:3), and will “tabernacle” among His people again (Leviticus 26:6, Ezekiel 37:27).

What a great day that will be!

“…and Hashem will be King over all the earth; in that day there shall be one God, and His name will be one … and it will come to pass, that every one who is left [alive] of all the nations which came against Jerusalem [in battle] will go up from year to year to worship the King, Hashem of hosts, and to keep the feast of Sukkot.Moreover it will be, that whoever chooses not to come up (of all the families of the earth) to Jerusalem to worship the King, Hashem of hosts, then upon them there will be no rain.Additionally, if the family of Egypt does not ascend, and do not come, then upon whom there is no rain; there shall [also] be the plague with which Hashem will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of Sukkot.This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the sin of all the nations that choose not to come up to keep the festival of Sukkot…”

— Zechariah 14:9; 16-19

“… For the earth will be brimming full with the knowledge of the glory of Hashem in the same way that the waters cover the sea…”

— Habakkuk 2:14

May this Shabbat be filled with His presence in your home and may we all see the fulfillment of Zechariah 14 in our day.

Shabbat Shalom!
NOTE:  On Monday, the last day of Succot, we will read the very last verses of Deuteronomy followed by the first verses of Genesis, as the Jewish people worldwide continue the annual cycle of reviewing all of the Torah every year.  On this blog, we have studied the Torah portions for seven years now but not focused at all on the Haftorah which is also read every week.  The Haftorah is a reading from the Prophets or the Writings – in other words, from the other books in the Tanach (Old Testament), all of which have profound messages relevant to us.
Therefore, for this coming year, I will be posting commentary on the Haftorah portions and I trust you will find it both enlightening and inspirational.

Succot – A special edition October 16, 2016

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At sundown this evening, Jews around the world begin to celebrate the seven day festival of Tabernacles or Succot (the Hebrew word for tabernacles, tents, dwellings).

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The Feast of Tabernacles is a very joyous holiday lasting from the 15th of until the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Tishrei (Oct. 17-24 this year).

This festival is the last of seven mandated for the Jewish people in the book of Leviticus, chapter 23, where God instructs Moses: ”Say to the Israelites: ‘on the fifteenth day of the seventh month the Lord’s Feast of Tabernacles begins, and it lasts for seven days”.

The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the 40 years the Israelites lived in the desert, after the Exodus from Egypt and dwelled in tents or ‘tabernacles’, on their journey to the Promised Land.  As soon as Yom Kippur is over, Jews begin to construct their temporary dwelling – in their garden if they have one, or for apartment dwellers, on their balconies.  Throughout the holiday, families eat their meals in the these temporary dwellings and some even sleep in them, at least in Israel where the weather is still warm enough to do so.

The tabernacle, or ‘Succah’, must consist of at least three walls covered with a top made by branches or leaves from a Palm tree. The roof of the tabernacle should include an open space so that the stars can be seen to remind those who sit in it that life on this earth is temporary and we look forward to eternal life in the world to come. It is the special pleasure of the children in the family to decorate the succah with all manner of colorful pictures, hangings and fruit.

Zechariah the prophet refers to the Feast of Tabernacles when he prophesies that in the end of days when the Messiah comes:  ”the nations shall go every year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts and to keep the Feast of Succot”.  His prophecy also states that those nations that will not come to Jerusalem to worship the LORD will suffer drought as a consequence.

Here in Israel, Succot is one of the most joyful times of the year.  Throughout this coming week, visits to family and friends add to our enjoyment of the festival.  Yet even as we celebrate, partake of wonderful food and happy reunions the reality of eternity is never far from our consciousness.

We pray that this would be the year the Messiah would appear and bring the Kingdom of God to this troubled world.

For all of you celebrating Succot with us, may you realize the immense blessings of this festival and come closer to God than ever before.  May He ‘tabernacle’ with you in a special way during this week.

To friends of every nation, Succot is also the time when we celebrate that all mankind are God’s creation; every nation has its place and its calling in God’s overall plan for the world.  In fact, the Succot liturgy includes prayers for all the nations of the world.

One day – may it be soon – Messiah will reign from Jerusalem; swords will be beaten into plowshares, the lion will lie down with the lamb and peace shall finally come between men and women of every race and nation.

May it come soon – even in our day.

A happy, healthy and blessed Succot week to all of you.

Weekly Torah Commentary – Sukkot/Feast of Tabernacles October 2, 2015

NOTE: As we are in the midst of celebrating the seven day festival of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), the regular Torah reading schedule is suspended and the readings are from Leviticus 23 regarding the festivals of the Lord.

Tabernacles does not commemorate some major historical event in Jewish history; rather, it celebrates the survival of the children of Israel for forty years in the desert. Every guideline for constructing our ‘sukkahs’ today reflect the memory of our ancestors’ experience: a ceiling made of materials taken from the earth, a roof that is not fully closed so the stars remain visible, etc.

During those forty years, the children of Israel were surrounded by clouds of Divine protection. There was no dependence on navigational skills or instruments. All direction was given by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night; at once a very ‘insecure’ situation yet in reality the most ‘secure’ of all, as Israel lived under the manifest presence of the Almighty.

A sukkah reminds us that regardless of our personal or family circumstances, the reality by which we live is precisely that: we are temporary citizens of a temporary world enroute to the Land of Promise, the World To Come, where we ultimately achieve happiness and fulfillment.

Sukkot is a very joyful time but how do we keep that joy year round. First and foremost by the way we think. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he, wrote King Solomon.(Prov. 23:7)

When we include God in our moment-to-moment decisions, we are better equipped to embrace joy and “go with the flow” of daily life in a spirit of peace and tranquility. Once in a while we need to remind ourselves that God was ruling the world long before we came on the scene and will continue to do so when we depart this life.

Recognizing that “His mercies are new every morning” and “great is His faithfulness”,we can face each day with confidence and assurance that His love is greater than any limitation we hold on to or place upon ourselves.

The western attitude of entitlement has no place in our relationship with Him. Rather His goodness stimulates us to gratitude. We are the constant recipients of gifts that we can never repay. To Him be the honor and thankfulness.

We are all in this together, individuals bound together by faith and a love for the Almighty. This is symbolized by the four species that we join together on Sukkot; the etrog, the citron, the lulav and the myrtle. On Sukkot, we hold them up bound together as a symbol of our shared destiny.

In Tune with Torah this week= The joy of the Lord is our strength – this is the message of Sukkot. How is your joy level? Are you so grounded in Him that whether or not the circumstances meet your expectations, you are still able to maintain a sense of joy in your relationship with the Holy One of Israel?