Succot: The Feast of Tabernacles
Saturday, October 3 - Sunday, October 11 2009
Part 1 of 3
"Speak unto the children of Israel saying, the fifteenth day of the seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days unto the YHVH." Leviticus 23:34
Succot is the Hebrew word for booths, or tabernacles. Jews around the world eat and sometimes sleep in these succot for seven days. The temporary nature of these structures signifies both the time the Children of Israel spent wandering in the desert (after their exodus from Egypt) as well as a reminder that our security is not found in dwellings or material items but only in God.
From Yom Kippur to Succot
Work on the succah begins immediately after Yom Kippur. Although this custom is often understood as simply a great way to 'get off to a good start' (spiritually) it also alludes to something more significant.
Yom Kippur was the day that Moses received the second tablets, revealing YHVH's Mercy to His people. YHVH agreed to Moses' plea and returned His Shechinah to Israel, even though He had taken it away in the aftermath of the golden calf. (Exodus 33:1-8) However, the Shechinah did not return immediately - only some six months later - after Israel built the Tabernacle. (Exodus 25:8; Leviticus 9:1-5)
After receiving the (Second) Tablets Moses gathered the people together and charged them with the building of the Tabernacle. Even though the Shechinah would return, Israel had to do something to 'receive' it. Just like Moses had to carve his own tablets, (the first tablets were carved by Yahveh Himself ~ Exodus 34:1) in a similar manner Israel had to build the Tabernacle.
Building the succah immediately after Yom Kippur reflects this same idea. Just as Israel began to work on the Tabernacle after Yom Kippur, we also begin building our succah where we can experience the Shechinah (God's Presence) in a similar way. Sitting in the succah symbolizes sitting under the 'Clouds of Yahveh's Glory' ~ i.e. fellowship with Him, with Yom Kippur as the preparation for this even.