Sukkot under Lockdown in Israel! (Feast of Tabernacles)


It is finally Sukkot time here in the Land of Israel!

The blistering summer heat has subsided as we ease into fall.


What is Sukkot? (Feast of Tabernacles)

As believers in Yeshua, should we celebrate it?

What impact does it have on our faith and relationship with God?


This blog is going to answer all those questions.

What is Sukkot? (Feast of Tabernacles)

Photo above: Our Sukkah in Israel 2020


Sukkot comes from the biblical Hebrew word ‘sukkah’ סוכה which is translated as ‘booth’ or ‘shelter’ in English.


(see online Hebrew course 'The Aleph Course' here)


We are commanded to build these ‘sukkot’ and sit in them for 7 days to remember when the Israelites dwelt in tents in the wilderness.


“For seven days you must live outside in little shelters. All native-born Israelites must live in shelters.” (Leviticus 23:42 )


Photos above: Decorating Sukkah with artificial fruit


We have a lot of fun buying the materials and building our sukkah, often decorating it with fake (or real) fruit because Sukkot is a harvest festival.

"Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh, when you have gathered in the fruits of the land, you shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a Sabbath, a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest.” (Leviticus 23:39)


Just before Sukkot, we keep Yom Truah (Feast of Trumpets) & Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) a time to solemnly examine our hearts and repent of our sins.

After this somber time of fasting, praying and emotional grievance we come into the time of Sukkot! The only biblical appointed time God actually commands us to rejoice!





“And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40)



This shows us that no matter how dark and desolate of a time we walk through, even if we face heart-break and pain, there is always joy on the other side of our sorrow.

God doesn’t want us to stay stuck in regret over our past mistakes and disappointments or become negative and cynical about the world.

We may walk through challenging seasons but they will always pass and God gives us new opportunities to embrace joy.



UNCONDITIONAL JOY


It’s interesting how God commands us to rejoice during a feast where we dwell in small booths outside. Not exactly ideal circumstances… (the King David Hotel sounds like a better plan to me)

Photo above: Walking through Israeli wilderness (Negev)


We set up our Sukkot to remember how the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness. I can imagine them setting up and tearing down their tents, getting dusty and sun-scorched from the desert heat, waking up through the night hearing howls from wild animals on the other side of their tent.


Somehow I don’t envision it being the ‘glamping’ experience that I’d prefer. You know, maybe with an RV, air conditioning, and minimal insect exposure.


Photos above: Watching the sunset in Southern Israel, Negev.


Yet, even without the comforts of Egypt, in the wilderness the Israelites had something they never experienced before… freedom.

They were no longer slaves under Pharaoh. They were free to serve God wholeheartedly and step forward into their destiny of reaching the Promised Land.


In the same way, we may find ourselves in an uncomfortable position. Maybe this year has stripped away the security and comforts we’re used to. Some of us may be struggling because we lost our job or have been feeling isolated from a lack of our regular community. I don’t want to minimize the hardship that 2020 has laid upon the backs of so many of us around the world.


Yet, as believers, we can rejoice because we are free.


We may not have everything we want right now but we are so privileged to know God and be able to rest in Him during this time everyone around us is panicking and full of fear. We can rejoice!

Photo above: Hanging Sukkah decorations


Sukkot this year hasn’t felt the same since Israel is in complete lockdown. All citizens are forbidden from traveling more than 500 meters from their home and in most circumstances, it is forbidden to have friends and family over to our Sukkah as we usually would. Police are reinforcing this law with heavy fines.


I was definitely tempted to sit and sulk in our Sukkah, however, no matter what restrictions the government decides to enforce, it is still Sukkot and we are still commanded to rejoice. Over physical freedom may have been taken away but our true freedom found in our faith in Yeshua, can never be taken away.


The sign of a true believer is to rejoice, not only when things are going our way but to rejoice in spite of our circumstances.


It reminds me of when Paul began singing while in a prison cell and wrote: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,”

(James 1:2)

This lockdown has felt somewhat like a prison at times for an adventure-seeking, people-loving person yet I’m thankful that I can learn how to embrace joy even in less than ideal circumstances because that is when we will experience true freedom.



As believers in Yeshua, should we celebrate Sukkot?

Short answer - absolutely! In fact, Yeshua himself would have celebrated Sukkot as a Jewish Israeli. In John 7 (in the New Testament) it says:

“About the middle of the feast (of Sukkot) Yeshua went up into the temple (synagogue) and began teaching. The Jews therefore marvelled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning when he has never studied?” 

Photo above: building our Sukkah


There is also a prophecy that all the nations will come up to Jerusalem to keep Sukkot!


“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” (Zec 14:16)


Photo above: Gathering of nations for Feast of Tabernacles Parade in Israel


God’s heart is still for the Jewish people but through Yeshua He has opened the way for all nations to worship and serve Him. We were never meant to have two separate religions and expressions of faith but rather Jew and Gentile becoming one through the Messiah.


It’s the same way that a parent with both biological and adopted children wouldn’t have two separate standards or love one more than the other.


We are one family in the Messiah.

The Sukkah of God



Not only did Yeshua celebrate Sukkot but it says that God has His own Sukkah! Never read that before? Check this out:


"For in the day of trouble He will hide me in His sukkah, conceal me in the shelter of His tent, and set me high upon a rock." (Psalms 27:5)


The times we're living in definitely feels filled with a whole lot of trouble. It can be frustrating, exhausting, and make us feel anxious and afraid.


It's hard to keep up with the constant changes and challenges that are coming our way.

Just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we are getting used to things being temporary and being rapidly altered. More and more we are going to have to learn how to rely on God and be flexible to do and go whatever and wherever He calls us to.


“But I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in Egypt. And I will make you live in tents again, as you do each year at the Festival of Shelters." (Hosea 12:9)


The good news is that we're invited to dwell in God's sukkah and He promises to be a shelter and refuge for His people.


Through Yeshua we can trade our fear and anxiety for peace and joy even in the midst of troubling times. He holds the future in His hands.



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