September 26, 2007

Feast of Booths - Sukkot

This is the third Jewish fall festival in Leviticus 23, starting this eve at sundown, lasting seven days. Five days following Yom Kippur temporary shelters are constructed. It is the end of the harvest season. Did I mention earlier about the Hebrews returning from captivity, in Nehemiah 8, and hearing the Torah for the first time for many generations? and this was the first feast they celebrated.

I believe the pilgrims, reading scripture, celebrated this feast as our first Thanksgiving. Responding in thanksgiving after their first hard year in this new world.

This is the third of the harvest festivals when Jews made (do many of them still?) a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the highest city in Palestine. While traveling they quoted from memory Psalms 120-134, which are called the Songs of Ascent. Three times - Passover, what became Pentecost, and this festival of ingathering.

People live in huts for a week remembering and telling stories of Abraham leaving home and relatives, to follow God's calling, and lived in a tent. Then too the Israelites had no permanent dwellings in their wandering the wilderness. They often lived in booths close to the harvesting too. (II Corinthians speaks of our bodies as tents, and eventually we'll have heavenly bodies.)

The booths are decorated with harvest produce. A priest during this time pours water from a pitcher symbolizing gratitude for rain and more for the year to come. Jesus risked his life as a 'wanted man' coming into Jerusalem for this festival in John 7. It is here that he said, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water." The surrounding Jews were thinking water in relation to the festival. Jesus knew the drought of their hearts.

There's a great movie to give us the feel of this festival in the midst of modern-day Israel. It's the meeting of secular and sacred Jews. The movie done in 2004 is "Ushpizin", which means "holy guests". Moshe (Moses) and his wife Malli are poor and wanting a baby and hardly able to feed themselves and celebrate Sukkot, let alone entertain unexpected guests! It's a very good movie and story!!
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