This past weekend, we began celebrating Sukkot, also known in English as Tabernacles. Sukkot is an eight day harvest that is a joyful party by commandment. That’s correct – G-D actually commanded His people to have a party to celebrate the harvest. This harvest celebration was also commanded to be celebrated while living in a sukkah (a temporary booth). The reason for the living in a sukkah is so that no matter who blessed our harvest, we should always remember that, at one time, the people of G-D, Israel, were slaves in Egypt, delivered by G-D, and then spent 40 years in the wilderness because they lacked the faith to enter into the Land of Promise: Israel.
This year, as in most years, people from our synagogue family camp in tents, or sukkot, in the open area behind our synagogue building. We cook stew over an open fire and spend time fellowshipping with each other. The children play, songs are sung, parents take turns yelling at their children, and then take turns yelling at each other for yelling at the children. It is like a huge family reunion and is honestly one of the most enjoyable weeks every year. After all, we are commanded to have a celebration of joy.
While Sukkot is by design a celebration, it is also by design a time of reflection. As I sat around the fire this weekend, I thought about three different groups of people. These three groups were represented in the wilderness. The first group of people were those that were doing all they could to walk in faith. They were not perfect, but they were trying as hard as they could to follow the fire and the cloud of smoke and listen and obey the voice of G-D. The second group were those people whose hearts were back in Egypt. No matter what happened, their response was “back in Egypt…” The third group were those who were living among the people of Israel and didn’t want to go back to Egypt, but rather they wanted to bring Egypt along with them and make it a part of their new life.
As we celebrate an Appointed Time such as Sukkot, I believe that we should all take some time to search our hearts to find out which one of these three groups represent how we are living. Are we part of the group that, while knowing we are not yet perfect, are moving towards perfection day by day? Are we striving to hear G-D’s voice and walk according to His Word? Or, are we a part of the second group that, even though we walked away from our personal Egypt physically, we never disconnected spiritually, and deep within our hearts we desire to be back in our own Egypt? Or, maybe we are a part of the third group, the group that left Egypt physically, but rather than leaving Egypt behind, we have continued to carry our Egypt along with us, trying to somehow fit Egypt inside Israel (a group that wants the blessing of Israel, wants to fellowship with Israel, and even wants the G-D of Israel, as long as they are allowed to continue to live like an Egyptian)?
During the season of Sukkot, I pray that each of us will take stock of where we are and which of these groups of which we are a part. If, after deep introspection and honest personal reflection, you find yourself a part of the first group, praise G-D! Please pray for those in groups two and three. If, after prayer, you find yourself in either groups two or three, please understand that you are on the precipice of what was written in Hebrew 6:4-6:
For it is impossible for those who once were enlightened—having tasted of the heavenly gift and become partakers of the Ruach ha-Kodesh, and having tasted the good word of God and the powers of the olam ha-ba, and then having fallen away—to renew again to repentance, since they are again crucifying Ben-Elohim for themselves and publicly disgracing Him.
The people described in these verses above are just like those in groups two or three. Each one has been delivered from their Egypt and is on their own wilderness journey. They have seen and experienced the power of G-D personally. They know better, yet for whatever reason, choose to live in ways that fall short of the complete deliverance from Egypt/Sin that G-D has promised us. These people forget the real reason we live in sukkot on Sukkot. They have somehow lost connection to the truth that the only reason we can truly celebrate G-D’s blessings with Joy is because G-D has completely delivered us from our own Egypt.
It is my sincere prayer that if you are living your life in either group two or group three, as described above (that you are either heading back toward your Egypt or you are dragging your Egypt with you while trying to live within Israel), that you will reach out to G-D in prayer and repentance, and then reach out to the people who love you for prayer and encouragement.