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As We Celebrate Sukkot -“Be Joyful In Feast!”

In dramatic contrast to the solemnity and introspection of the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which Judaism has just observed, Sukkot, also known as the “Festival of Tabernacles” or the “Festival of Booths,” brings an atmosphere of joy, reflecting the biblical command to “Be joyful in feast.” (Deuteronomy 16:14)

The seven day celebration of Sukkot will begin this, Friday, September29 and be observed until sundown on Friday October 6th.

Sukkot is one of the seven holy days God has called “My Appointed Times,” and for which He has set as a covenant to be forever honored. It is one of the three Pilgrimage Holy Days mandated in the Bible, along with Passover and Shavuot, when the Jews were required to travel to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, a faithful call which was fulfilled each year until the fall of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

As we learn in the book of Leviticus, this holiday is a time for the Jewish people to rejoice in God’s bounty, whether it’s His hand of deliverance in taking them out of the bondage of Egypt, or providing them with plentiful harvests in the time of fall season bounty. The picture painted at Sukkot is one of grateful remembrance of God’s faithfulness during their wanderings in the Sinai on the journey which He guided to the Promised Land.

This week in the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, millions of Jews around the world are at work building “Sukkot booths” also known as “Sukkahs” –temporary dwellings of use during the holiday as a reminder of the structures and tents in which the Israelites lived in the desert after their Exodus from Egypt. In Jerusalem, as in all other cities, colorful “sukkahs” of every material are seen popping up on the downtown balconies of high-rise apartments, in parking spaces of smaller apartment buildings and individual houses, as well as in the rural landscapes of the most humble or extravagant homes.

The makeshift dwelling is a place of celebration, prayer, eating family meals, offering hospitality, sleeping, and as one Jewish sage wrote. “it represents the embrace of God within its’ walls.”

He went on to say: “As we sit in our sukkah we feel God’s presence. There, in the outdoors, vulnerable to wind, rain, and heat, we feel the loving presence of our Creator who protected the Israelites in the desert and shelters us still today. Jewish law requires the roof be somewhat open so that it is possible to see the stars. All year long when we look up , we can see a sturdy ceiling and roof as our source of protection But in the sukkah when we look up and see the stars in the heavens, we are reminded that our savior and protector is our God.”

We read on the first day of Sukkot of the feast’s ever- lasting relevance which it has to those who love God: “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.” (Zechariah 14:16)

It is for this reason that Jews everywhere on Sukkot pray not only for their own welfare, but for that of the entire world.

Chag Sameach! (Happy Holiday!)

President/Proclaiming Justice to The Nations

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