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Tabernacles is held from 15th-22nd of Tishri corresponding to September/October. The Feast recalls God’s command in Leviticus to live in shelters for 7 days. The origin of the Festival can be traced way back, being the sequel to Passover and the Exodus where the Israelites lived in temporary dwellings for their 40 year sojourn in the wilderness.

Christians are increasingly seeing the relevance of Tabernacles to their own Harvest celebrations. God gave the biblical festivals to teach the Jewish people about His character and so understand His plan of salvation. All Christians have been grafted in to the Olive Tree (Romans 11:17) and so share that same rich heritage.

TabernaclesSukkot1Leviticus 23:34; signals the journey through the Wilderness and the expectation of their ultimate arrival in the Promised Land; giving thanks for the productivity of Canaan, and the creation of a focal point for worship, the Tabernacle, and ultimately the Temple.

According to Jewish law, the walls of a sukkah can be made out of any material. Typically, they are constructed out of simple pieces of wood or from canvas. However, the roof of the structure, called schach, must be created out of natural materials like tree branches. In addition, while the covering must provide more shade than sun, it must also be sufficiently sparse to allow glimpses of the sky and to let in rain.

The holiday of Sukkot is also known as the “time of our joy,” based on the Bible verses that give this instruction, “Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles…Be joyful at your festival” (Deuteronomy 16:13-14). There is no greater joy than having complete trust in God, knowing that everything has, is, and always will be exactly as it should be — divinely ordained, perfect, and for our very best. It is so good to rejoice that God, indeed, is in control.

When Sukkot ends at sundown it is marked by the observance of Shemini Atzeret, which along with Simchat Torah, is a celebration of the completion of the annual Torah readings and the immediate beginning of the new year of Torah readings. It also provides a transition from the spiritual intensity of the season of celebrations back to the normal routines.

Chag Ha Asif, or the Festival of Ingathering also points to an end-time harvest when the nations are all gathered to worship the Lord picturing the Millennial Reign of Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

Tabernacles and the Desert

Shekinah Glory  

Sukkot firstly reminds us that God provides. For the Israelites who lived in temporary shelters on the way from Egypt up to the Promised Land, the Lord was their constant caretaker and provider, who saw to all of their needs. Secondly, Sukkot reminds us that God dwelt among us. With all of the focus on the meaning of the sukkah for the individual, it is easy to forget that God had a sukkah of his own—the Tabernacle. For believers, this aspect of Sukkot is of special significance, as we know that God again dwelt among us through His Son Yeshua, who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

The presence appeared as a Cloudy Pillar in the day and a Fiery Pillar by night (Exodus 13:20-22). God spoke to Moses out of the Pillar of Cloud (Exodus 33:9) assuring him His Presence2 would be with them.

Israel Camped around the Presence

The word Shekinah does not ...

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... appear in the Bible, but the concept does. Jewish rabbis coined the expression, a Hebrew word literally meaning He caused to dwell, signifying that it was a divine visitation — the Presence or Dwelling of Yahweh — God on Earth.

God’s Shekinah Glory was first seen when the Israelites set out from Succoth in their escape from Egypt.

Tabernacles and the Temple

The Lulav is formed by plaiting together branches of Willow, Myrtle and Palm Fronds.

  • Lulav3—represents the backbone of a person,
  • Myrtle—corresponds to the eyes for enlightenment,
  • Willow—the lips used in prayer.

The Etrog4 symbolises the heart, the place of understanding and wisdom, being an acronym for faith, repentance, healing, and redemption. Also, the initials of the Hebrew words Let not the foot of pride overtake me (Psalm 36:11) — spell the word Etrog, suggesting the humble heart is beautiful in the eyes of Heaven.

Lulav and Etrog

The word Lulav comes from 2 words to him and heart. A person who loves the LORD with all his heart, will be given spiritual backbone, real conviction, a bold heart and strength.

On the first day you are to take branches from luxuriant trees—from palms, willows and other leafy trees—and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days (Leviticus 23:40 NIV).

The four species the palm fronds (lulav), flanked by myrtle (haddasim) on one side and willow branches (aravot) on the other, and a lemon look-alike called a citron (etrog), together,  play a central role in the celebration of Sukkot. One of the explanations for the symbolism of the four species is that each represents a different part of the human body. The palm branch is long and thin. It represents a person’s spine, which is the source of our ability to move our limbs, perform physical tasks, and get around in the world.

The leaves of the myrtle resemble our eyes and symbolize our ability to see, internalize, and understand things. The leaves of the willow are shaped like the human mouth and represent our ability to speak, sing, and communicate with others. The citron looks like a human heart. This organ symbolizes our passions and emotions, which are the driving forces behind all we do.

Taken together, the species represent the talents and treasures that God has given to each of us. However, while God gives us the tools to do something wonderful with our lives, we are the ones who determine what we will do with them.

On Sukkot, as the four species are waved before God with great rejoicing, it is as though we are holding and celebrating all our God-given abilities. Then a blessing is made on the species and they are dedicated to God thus acknowledging that God is the true source of our talents and resources and therefore they are rededicated for His purposes — with joy, gratitude, and celebration.

The right hand holding the Lulav5 and the left holding the Etrog are brought together and waved in all four directions and up and down, to remind people that God’s presence is everywhere.

Tabernacles and Yeshua

The two great themes of Sukkot (סֻכָּה (see Leviticus 23:34 and John 7:2) during the Second Temple period were Water and Light. And as a reminder of the light which guided the Israelites through the desert, four giant lamps in the Court of the Women were lit. It was also a reminder of God’s Shekinah Glory which once filled the Temple and also reminded them of how the Pillar of Fire guided them in the wilderness. It is likely that Yeshua referred to Himself as both Living Water (John 7:38) and Light of the World (John 8:12) during one of these water drawing ceremonies.

Yeshua spoke of the Living Water that He would give to those who asked Him. This water, He said, would truly satisfy the thirsty heart and provide everlasting nourishment for life (John 4:14). 

Sukkot also reminds us that God has made provision for our salvation. In Biblical times, a special ceremony took place at the Temple during Sukkot that was called Celebration of the Water Drawing. Water was drawn in an atmosphere of joy and praise and was then taken to the Temple, where thousands of worshippers gathered to dance, sing, play instruments and praise God while the water was poured out in front of the altar. According to the Mishnah, Tractate Sukkah, “He who has not seen the rejoicing at the Place of the Water-Drawing has never seen rejoicing in his life.” In the New Covenant, John tells us that, during the last day of Sukkot, Jesus stood up and cried out “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). The joy of the Celebration of Water Drawing, great as it was, could not compare to the joy of salvation we have when we believe in Yeshua.

Tabernacles and the Future

The Feast of Tabernacles is one of the feasts described as moed meaning an 'appointed time' in Hebrew, in which the Jewish people remember God's provision during 40 years in the wilderness. It is also described as miqra meaning 'a rehearsal', in preparation for a future time to come.

Sukkot is unique among the Jewish festivals as it speaks of God’s loving provision of forgiveness for the entire world. It also speaks of Israel's role to bless the nations. The Harvest Festival yet to come will be the result of the greatest outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit since Pentecost6. Sukkot is also a reminder that God has a plan for the future. The prophet Zechariah tells us that, at some point in the future, during the Messianic Kingdom, all nations will celebrate Sukkot and worship the Lord (Zechariah 14:16). Only this one Festival will be celebrated by the nations: Sukkot.

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Yeshua's Birthday!

It's likely Yeshua was born during Sukkot being conceived during Hanukkah. The 1st day of Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated on 25th Kislev, and Yeshua is called the Light of the World (John 8:12, 9:5, 12:46). The same verb that says He dwelt with us (skēnoō, in John 1:14) derives from the same root used in the Septuagint to refer to both the Mishkan7 and the individual tents of Sukkot. So … could it be that Sukkot will be a worldwide Birthday party for Yeshua? All the other festivals having been fulfilled — but the remembrance of His birth would remain as a celebration!