This month the third of three fall festivals happens, the festival of Sukkoth or the Feast of Booths. The biblical description of this feast is found in Leviticus 23:33-44, and it is a harvest festival and commemorative of the exodus from Egypt, “that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Traditionally, Jewish families will build a rather flimsy structure in the back yard, called a Sukkah, with the roof sparsely thatched with branches so that we can see the sky through the roof. It is a reminder that no matter how much effort we use to provide for ourselves, ultimately it is God who provides for us. The sparse thatching reminds us, as we look through it to the sky and stars, that God’s protection is so much better than anything we could devise. Some might actually go outside and live in this little booth in the backyard, but most find it sufficient to just eat there. We have hung little fruits from the boughs of the roof, and they and the meal we take also reminds us of not only God’s protection, but also his provision. We are reminded that just as God cared for and fed His people in the wilderness, he continues to care and feed us now.
Of course, traditions change over the generations. Our congregation has taken the celebration of Sukkoth to go camping, to literally tabernacle in the wilderness. Now by wilderness, I mean a 20 acre ranch that one of our members owns, but it is rugged nevertheless. We have a bonfire, music, food, take telescopes to study the sky under which we are protected and then sleep under that same sky. It is a lot of fun, but the last time we did it, a thin sheet of ice formed on my telescope! It was cold. This year for Sukkot my granddaughter Johnna and I were going to camp in the backyard and it rained for eight days in St. Louis. It gave me the title for a children’s book that I am writing…The Soggy Sukkah. Clearly, Sukkot in St. Louis is a little different than in the Sinai peninsula!
Another interesting new take on Sukkot happened this year at Washington University. They hosted Sukkah City STL, where 10 sukkah designs won an opportunity to exhibit their designs on the university grounds. One of them was featured on the front page of the Jewish Light, a group of architecture students from Kansas State University who built their sukkah out of hay bales and rebar. When I saw it, it looked a whole lot more permanent than any sukkah I have ever built! It kind of reminded me of the Pace Picante Sauce commercial where the cowpoke has his latte, goes to sleep on the third floor of his tent, and uses a clapper to turn the lights out. Well, however we celebrate Sukkot, may God be your covering, protection and provision through His Son, Jesus, who is God made flesh and has tabernacled with us, and provided all that we will ever need!