Thoughts and Teachings: Sukkot 5776

The celebration of the mo’ed of Sukkot began on Sunday evening, September 27th. This is a period of rejoicing in the LORD’s provision and care, symbolized by “dwelling in booths” as a memorial of His care for Bnei Israel in the wilderness. All around Israel, makeshift booths dot balconies, parking lots and other common areas around apartment buildings. It is noteworthy that this time of celebration comes on the heels of the Days of Awe culminating with the mo’ed of Yom Kippur. It is has been said that traditional Jews, who spend hours in prayer during Yom Kippur, leave without any assurance that their prayers were heard. If this were so, how could one go from such apparent hopelessness to a weeklong celebration of the LORD’s goodness and care in just four days? The answer is simple. While Yom Kippur ends with the Shofar blast — Tekia Gedola preceded by the Shema and then Full Kaddish— the last prayer is Avinu Malkanu that ends with,

Our Father, our King, be gracious to us and answer us, though we have no worthy deeds; act with us in charity and loving-kindness and save us.

Yom Kippur does not end in doubt, it ends in dependence on the faithfulness and graciousness of a loving Father who cares for His people. Therefore four days later we can in fact enter into a period of rejoicing in that care and provision that He has provided. In fact, we are commanded, at least three times, to celebrate and rejoice at this time:

So you will rejoice in your feast—you, your son and daughter, slave and maid, Levite and Our Sukka
outsider, orphan and widow within your gates. Seven days you will feast to ADONAI your God in the place He chooses, because ADONAI your God will bless you in all your produce and in all the work of your hand, and you will be completely filled with joy. (Deuteronomy 16:14-15[1])

On the first day you are to take choice fruit of trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and rejoice before ADONAI your God for seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)

This mo’ed of Sukkot, this time of dwelling in booths, is dependent upon our acknowledgment of ADONAI’s care and provision for us His people. One author noted that “[t]he Jewish people go into their sukkah, the tent of faith.”[2] This joyous celebration is not motivated by an act of arrogance stemming from the assurance that pious prayers were answered. It is an act of faith and trust, a dependence upon the Holy One of Israel to continue His care and provision for His covenant people. During the Shabbat Ma’ariv service, three times in the Hashkiveinu prayer we pray that the LORD would cover us with His sukkat (His canopy) of peace. As you probably know, in biblical Hebrew shalom or peace is not merely the absence of war. It is a state of safety, of total provision and care, a place of wholeness and well-being. Peace in the Apostolic Writings carries the same connotation, that of tranquility and blessing.

The canopy or sukka of peace is not a new concept for Israel. In Parasha Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:78) we read:

Again ADONAI spoke to Moses saying, Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying: “Thus you are to bless Bnei-Yisrael, by saying to them: ‘ADONAI bless you and keep you! ADONAI make His face to shine on you and be gracious toward you! ADONAI turn His face toward you and grant you shalom!’ In this way they are to place My Name over Bnei-Yisrael, and so I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)

Here we see that it is the intent and the desire of ADONAI to pour out His peace and His blessing upon His people Israel.

In Besorat Yochanan, Yeshua told His disciples, “Shalom I leave you, My shalom I give to you; but not as the world gives! Do not let your heart be troubled or afraid,” (John 14:27). Peace, tranquility, completeness, and well-being have been the LORD’s desire for His people throughout history. We have not always experienced that peace, nor have we always resided in His tranquility. However, the mo’ed of Sukkot gives us the opportunity to physically express that promised peace as we dwell in temporary shelters, remembering a time when the LORD provided manna for food and for forty years neither sandals nor clothing wore out. (Deuteronomy 8:3-4)

During this celebratory period of Sukkot, we would do well to remember times in the past when the LORD took care of us, meeting our needs “far beyond what we are able to ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And then remember that what He has done in the past, He will do today and in the future, for He has affirmed, “I am ADONAI, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6).


[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are from the Tree of Life Version of the Bible, Snellville,GA: MJFB, 2014.

[2] Moshe Braun, The Jewish Holy Days: Their Spiritual Significance, Northvale, Jason Aronson Inc., 1996, p 89.

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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.