Sukkot or The Feasts of Tabernacles
This feast day is to commemorate the dwelling in booths while wandering in the wilderness.
The Feasts of Tabernacles (or Booths) Sukkot
The feast of Tabernacles is talked about in Vayiqra (Leviticus) 23:34 Speak unto the children of Yisrael, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto YAHWEH. 35 On the first day shall be a SetApart (holy) convocation: you shall do no servile work therein. 36 Seven days you shall offer an offering made by fire unto YAHWEH: on the eighth day shall be a SetApart (holy) convocation unto you; and you shall offer an offering made by fire unto YAHWEH: it is a solemn assembly; and you shall do no servile work therein.
Opportunity For Merrymaking And Thanksgiving To YAHWEH
This feast was called by several names: The Feast of Booths (or Tabernacles, or Tents), the Feast of Ingathering, or sometimes simply The Feast. The Hebrew name of the feast Sukkot, means "huts" (referring to the huts which were built as a part of the celebration). Like the other pilgrimage feasts, this feast was was basically agricultural in nature, and it was celebrated as soon as the agricultural work of the summer and early fall had been completed. After the olives and grapes had been gathered and pressed, all the grain had been harvested and threshed, and the hard work of this final part of the agricultural cycle was completed. The Feast of Booths celebrated this completion by giving an opportunity for merrymaking and thanksgiving to YAHWEH. In this respect it bears some resemblance to the American feast of Thanksgiving which is observed about the same time. The antecedents of the Feast of Booths go back to the period of the Canaanites, who also had a similar festival at this season.
Even Today In Palestine The Farmers Continue To Construct Similar Huts
The Feast of Booths was the most popular of the pilgrim festivals and more
people attended its celebration than either of the other two. After the
Babylonian Captivity the Jews who remained in other lands often had to travel
great distances to celebrate this feast in Jerusalem, and many were unable to do
so more than once in their lifetimes.
At first there was no fixed date for its celebration since the actual observance depended upon the completion of the harvests of all of the crops. Later, however, the date was fixed to the 15th day of Tishri (September-October). It lasted seven days with an extra two days added for special observance at the end of that time.
Since the name of this celebration is the Feast of Booths, it is obvious that the customs associated with the celebration have something to do with "booths" or "huts" (a word that is nearer the meaning of the Hebrew Sukkot). Because of the tendency of people to steal ripe fruits from a vineyard, a field or an orchard, farmers usually constructed temporary shelters nearby in which they could spend the night on guard. They would put up several poles in the ground and spread green branches upon the tops of them to make huts that would not only serve as guard posts during the night, but would also keep away the intense heat of the sun during the daytime. In many instances, especially if the fields were a long distance from their homes, a farmer would literally live in these huts for days at a time. Even today in Palestine the farmers continue to construct similar huts out of branches of trees for the same purpose.
Harvests Had Been Thoroughly Completed; Psychologically Right For A Celebration.
When the harvests had been thoroughly completed, the moment was psychologically right for a celebration. Originally the Feast of Booths must have been celebrated right in the fields in the huts themselves. From the beginning there was much drinking and dancing associated with this feast. Up until the time of King Josiah's reform, any sacrifices which were to be offered were obviously taken to the local sanctuary but after Josiah made it illegal to sacrifice in any sanctuary but the tabernacle in Jerusalem, they had to make a pilgrimage to that city for this celebration. Of course, that meant that the actual booths which had been constructed in their own fields had to be left behind, but they began to make their own huts in Jerusalem after they arrived for the sacrifice. In many ways it was an ideal arrangement, since they were able to provide their own accommodations in the city without having to live in other people's houses. Since the winter rains would not have begun in the month of Tishri, there was little chance of getting soaked if one spent the nights in these shelters, and since the temperature is not at all uncomfortable at this time, the huts provided just enough shelter to be adequate. They constructed these booths anywhere they could find a space large enough-in the streets, in open squares and courtyards even on the flat roofs of the houses.
Danced Joyously While They Sung Psalms For Almost The Entire Night
Although scripture does not describe in detail some of the customs that were
observed at this feast, we know from the Mishnah that during New Covenant times
there were several very interesting observances which took place.
The first of these observances was the water libation. Each morning a procession of kohen (priests) would form in the Tabernacle area and proceed to the Pool of Siloam in order to get a pitcher of water. The pitcher was then solemnly taken back to the Tabernacle and the water was poured on the altar in front of the Tabernacle. Trumpets were blown and great crowds assembled to see this procession. It is probable that the original purpose of this ceremony was connected with the encourage of the beginning of the winter rains. All summer long the skies were devoid of rain clouds, but at this season the farmers needed their rains to begin again so that their agricultural cycle could be repeated. Thus symbolic rain was poured upon the altar as a kind of prayer for the beginning of the "former" rains, as the earliest rains were called.
Each night the Tabernacle courtyard was thronged with men who formed processions, carried torches, and danced joyously while they chanted psalms for almost the entire night. Every morning at dawn the kohen (priests) would assemble and go to the east gate of the Tabernacle and stand with their backs to the sun, where they would state that they were doing this action because their forefathers had apostatized ad worshipped the sun at this spot long ago. (Yehezqel (Ezekiel) 8:16 And he brought me into the inner court of YAHWEH'S house, and, behold, at the door of the tabernacle of YAHWEH, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the tabernacle of YAHWEH, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east.)
Walked Around The City Giving A Festive Air To The Occasion
When the people were not actively participating in the ceremonies at the Tabernacle, they would carry around with them an object called a lulab which was a collection of palm, willow and myrtle branches woven together to make a kind of ornamental switch. These would be waved in the air as they walked around the city giving a festive air to the occasion. They would also carry in their other hand a citron, called an ethrog. After the feast was over the lulab was taken apart and the ethrog was eaten. These branches and the fruit were similar to those that decorated the huts that the people had built upon their arrival in Jerusalem.
To Remove Temptation To Worship Pagan Fertility God Baal Even Further From The People
The character of these observances is obviously agriculture in nature, but as time went on, the feast, like the other pilgrimage feasts, became more and more historicized in order to remove temptation to worship pagan fertility god Baal even further from the people. The huts in which the people lived were said to symbolize, not the shelters made in the open fields at harvest time, but the tents in which the Israelites had lived when they were wandering in the wilderness after their experiences at Mount Sinai. Thus the tendency to historicize all celebrations reached even to this feast.
Mishnah (Etymology:Hebrew mishnah instruction, oral law Date:1610) the collection of mostly halakic Jewish traditions compiled about A.D. 200 and made the basic part of the Talmud (: the body of Jewish law supplementing the scriptural law and forming especially the legal part of the Talmud; Etymology: Hebrew halakhah, literally, way Date:1856)
NOTE: The reading of the Torah has always constituted the core of the synagogue ritual. For this ceremony, which was also in the past a form of study, only parchment Torah scrolls in good condition, and written in a special decorative Hebrew hand, may be used. Until the Middle Ages, only those synagogues which adhered to the Babylonian rite finished the reading of the Torah in one year; those adhering to the so-called Palestinian rite allowed a three-year period for its completion. The cycle is completed, and a new one begun, on the day following the conclusion of the Feast of Tabernacles, the day known as Simhath Torah, "the (Day of) Rejoicing in the Torah".
ALL FEASTS BEGIN AT SUNSET THE DAY BEFORE THE FEAST DATE.
Harper's Encyclopedia Of Bible Life cc1946
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