This week is the Feast of Tabernacles, also known as Sukkot! Leviticus 23 tells the Children of Israel that they are to build temporary dwellings and abide in them for the eight days of the Feast. Specifically, it says that any that were actually born in the Land of Israel are to live in their sukkot (booths). But what about those of us who were born in the Diaspora? How can we obey the commandment too? How can we take part in remembering that God Himself is our shelter and strong tower?
Well, here at the TLV Bible Society, we celebrate this Feast by coming together and building a community sukkah (booth) for us all to enjoy together! We build and decorate it with gusto! And once we’re done, we give thanks for God’s goodness by having a meal together, under the stars. When we see the stars, we are reminded that God is faithful to care for us. When we break bread together, we are reminded of God’s provision in our lives. And when we listen to God’s creation around us as the sun sets, we are reminded that the whole earth sings of His glory.
Terri Gillespie, our resident Proverbs Maven, shares below her experiences with building a sukkah for the first time and how her family made this feast their own:
I didn’t grow up building a sukkah, blowing the shofar, or breaking a fast with a feast. For me, it was Christmas trees, stockings over a mantle and Advent wreaths. When God moved on our hearts to learn more about the Jewish roots of our faith, we fell in love with His Biblical Feasts—my favorite, the Feast of Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles or Booths).
The first time our family built a sukkah we got splinters, bruised thumbs and worked up more than a few beads of sweat than we anticipated. But the first night we ate under the stars was nothing short of magical. Our decorations were simple: dried cornstalks and fallen branches for the roof, homemade decorations, and lights. Simple though they were, each overflowed with imagery of God’s Word and His promises to us. A great many insights were discovered under the stars, while eating brisket and kugel.
If you are planning to build your first sukkah or just need some new ideas for decorations, here are some favorites from the Gillespie household:
- Lights: Light represents so many things in the Bible, most especially Yeshua the Light of the World (John 8:12 TLV). There are so many types and colors of stringed lights available these days, but we love the white twinkling lights because they remind us of stars. Candles on the tables are beautiful features that also produce a little warmth – nice on those cold evenings. By candlelight and twinkling light, we imagine what the Children of Israel saw their first night of freedom in the desert, and remember our first night of freedom when we accepted Yeshua into our hearts.
- Fruit: We love hanging fruit in our tabernacle. Pomegranates, apples, orange and lemon slices. Technically, squash is a fruit, so yes, pumpkins on the table are lovely, too. One year, our daughter made pomanders out of oranges and cloves then strung them up with a pretty ribbons. Oh my, our sukkah smelled so good that year! Whether artificial, or fresh, fruit not only adds beauty to your booth, but brings special opportunities for your family to discuss Biblical insights, such as the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23 TLV).
- Paper: There’s something sweet about a child’s rendering of a star, or a colorful paper chain draping from the sukkah’s rafters. For us, paper represents the scrolls upon which the Jewish scribes wrote the Scriptures. Making little scrolls and printing their favorite Bible verse on them can make wonderful decorations.
Imagine all the lively discussions your family can have about Moses reading to the Children of Israel (Exodus 24:7 TLV), how God’s Word became flesh when Yeshua came into this world (John 1:14), as well as sharing why a particular verse is so meaningful to them. Whatever media you choose to decorate your sukkah, why not make it more than just pretty? Make them symbols and reminders of God’s goodness and love for us! Chag Sameach!