Sukkot (Soo-KOTE) is a seven-day feast commanded by God in Leviticus chapter 23. The Hebrew word sukkot and the word “tabernacles” both mean “booths.” So the holiday is also known as the Feast of Booths and the Feast of Tabernacles. Because Sukkot is also a harvest festival, it is sometimes called the Feast of Ingathering. Sukkot is the only moad (MO-ehd), or “appointed time,” in which God commands His people to rejoice and celebrate. Therefore, the week-long feast is also called The Season of Our Joy (Leviticus 23:39‒44).
Sukkot: The Feast of Booths
God instructed Israel to abstain from work and meet together in a holy assembly on the first day of Sukkot. On each of the seven days, the Jewish people were to bring various sacrifices and offerings as well as celebrate with the waving of branches from four species of plants. One of the most interesting aspects of Sukkot is God’s command to live in temporary shelters for the week.
During Sukkot, God instructs Jewish families to leave the comfort of their homes and live in booths “so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Bnei-Yisrael to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:43).
Rabbinic tradition says that a sukkah (SOUH-kah) can be three-sided with walls constructed of any material. The roof, however, must be made with organic matter, such as leafy branches.
The booths of Sukkot provide a tangible reminder of how our Jewish ancestors lived in the wilderness. Through the loosely woven roof, one can look up and see the night sky, remembering God’s promise to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars.
These booths also remind us of how God took care of the Israelites during their years of wandering. He fed them with manna from heaven, gave them sweet water from a rock and kept their shoes and clothing from wearing out for 40 years.
Today, Jewish people around the world build sukkot in their backyards or on balconies, taking their evening meals, relaxing, entertaining guests, and even sleeping there. Sukkot are often decorated by hanging fresh fruit from the ceiling as a symbol of God’s provision and care.
During synagogue services, special ceremonies and prayers are performed including waving a lulav (LOO-lahv) bouquet, a gathering of leafy branches made from the four specific species outlined in Leviticus 23:40. The grouping includes a citrus-like fruit called the etrog (ET-trog), lulav (palm branches), willows called aravot (AR-a-vote), and myrtle.
Sukkot: The Feast of Ingathering
As a harvest festival, Sukkot is also called the Feast of Ingathering and celebrates God’s provision in the present. It is one of three biblical feasts in which each physically-able Jewish male was to go to Jerusalem and present a harvest offering at the Temple. Bringing the first of one’s harvest displayed trust that God would provide enough to last through the season until the next reaping.
Sukkot: The Season of Our Joy
Sukkot is filled with reasons to rejoice. We remember God’s sustaining power toward the Israelites in the desert. We rejoice in His faithfulness to keep His promises. And we thank Him for His bountiful provision today. Still, there are more reasons for joy at Sukkot.
Sukkot also celebrates God’s presence with us. In the wilderness, the Israelites dwelled in tents. So too did God’s presence – in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle, and later in the First and Second Temples. God told Moses, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14). Moses, vividly aware of this precious and critical gift, replied, “If Your presence does not go with me, don’t let us go up from here!” (Exodus 33:15).
Messianic Jews and other Believers in Yeshua (Jesus) receive the Holy Spirit, God’s presence with us always, as a gift when they place their faith in Yeshua. Jesus promised that He would never leave us and be with us always through the “Comforter” and “Helper” sent by God (John 14:6, 26). Sukkot celebrates the incomparable gift of God’s presence with us in the Holy Spirit.
Additionally, each of the Lord’s feasts contains a foreshadow of prophecies of the Messiah. The prophetic pictures in the Spring feasts have been fulfilled by Yeshua’s first coming, and the Fall feasts will reveal their completion with His future return. Sukkot will see its fulfillment when God gathers the elect from all over the world into His kingdom to dwell with Him forever. (See Matthew 24:31 and Revelation 21:1, 3).
In 2018, Sukkot begins at sunset on September 23 and ends at nightfall on September 30.
May your Sukkot season be filled with all joy as you celebrate God’s provision, promises and presence in your life.