Tonight begins Sukkoth. Sukkoth, the Feast of Tabernacles (“Booths” in the ESV), is the third of three autumn pilgrimage festivals appointed by God in Leviticus 23. This particular festival is the celebration festival of the autumn calendar. The first two, Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are solemn, but Sukkoth is festival of rejoicing.
I was on the radio this week, and the guy on the board was talking to me during a break and relating that he saw on Facebook the admonition to not wish Jewish people a “Happy Rosh HaShanah,” because Rosh HaShanah is anything but happy. It is a solemn memorial. But to wish Jewish people a Happy Sukkoth would not be untoward. (Truthfully, I don’t know many Jewish people who would take offense at their friends wishing them a happy Rosh HaShanah, but the usual greeting is La Shana Tova, literally, “A Good Year,” referencing the greater greeting of “May your name be inscribed for a good year,” that inscription being in the Book of Life.) In our Detroit branch we gave away many baskets of apples & honey with that greeting. You can see those on the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ChaivShalom/?ref=bookmarks). But as Sukkoth is a festival of rejoicing, rejoice! Happy Sukkoth, or even better, Chag Sukkoth Sameach!
We built our booth, or Sukkah, on Sunday afternoon following our service. (You can see a picture and video on our Facebook page too!) The Sukkah is a relatively flimsy booth built with a roof of branches that do nothing to keep the rain or the sun out. It is a reminder of the booths we lived in in the desert as we schlepped from Egypt to Israel following God’s deliverance of his people from bondage. The message is that anything we build with our hands is flimsy indeed compared to the building that God is providing for us. A time of remembrance and a time of rejoicing in God’s constant care and provision.
In many ways, and I preached this during Yom Kippur, the three autumn festivals are a picture of God himself and are very Trinitarian. On Rosh HaShanah, God the Father blows a trumpet to get our attention off of ourselves and onto Him. Then he shows us our deliverance on Yom Kippur as God the Son takes on flesh and blood and becomes the sacrifice for our atonement. These are solemn acts indeed and our response is one of quiet solemnity. But at Sukkoth we rejoice as God, the Holy Spirit, is poured out upon us and shows us His sacrifice, His love, and His provision. All three persons of the Godhead are there in these three festivals! What a joy to share this truth with those who cannot see.