Once again, it’s time to hear from our sister in Jerusalem about what she is witnessing there as a believer in Yeshua. Put your prayer shawls on and pray for Israel and Sister J. Now here she is —
I greet you dear friends, sisters and brothers, in The Name of Yeshua. May He be blessed and glorified and may you be blessed and encouraged.
It is near sundown − erev sukkot − (erev meaning “the evening when the appointed time begins”) and the weeklong festival of Sukkot (or Feast of Tabernacles in English) will start.
This is my favorite holiday and one of the 3 “commanded feasts” when God told all of Israel to come up to Jerusalem and present themselves to Him and bring an offering with them. (Deut. 16:16).
Although there is no longer a temple, the children of Israel STILL come up to Jerusalem and present themselves before Him. And I love it. We are COMMANDED to rejoice before Him, to spend time in the sukka, and to give thanks. What a mighty God we serve, so full of merciful love that He would COMMAND us to do such a thing whether in time of quiet or times of danger and trouble. (Dare I say it is like the doctor telling you to just please eat ALL of the ice cream and chocolate that you can.)
Until last year, the building of our sukka and having people over to rejoice with us brought me great joy. The apartment that we now rent in is not conducive to building a sukka. So my husband said, “No sukka.”
His words presented me with the perfect opportunity to accept what my flesh didn’t want and then NOT have a pity party. Instead we wander around the city and stop at strangers’ sukkas.
Yes, this is not only acceptable behavior, but is considered a blessing to the hosts. No one will turn you away and you are free to share the host’s food. It is a wonderful way to meet new people and experience different traditions.
If you google “photo sukka” or something like that, you will see a variety of sukkas.
I barely survived the crowds at the shuk yesterday. They were particularly huge this year due to the fact that Sukkot began at sundown on Sunday. Saturday –Shabat – everything is closed. Friday is of course the preparation for Shabat. Plus, the Yom Kippur fast preceded all this. Whew! It meant that the sukka and all of the feast preparations had to be squeezed into a race before sundown, beginning at the shuk. The shuk’s crowds were swollen by tourists from around the world here for either Sukkot or the various feast of tabernacles conferences and convocations.
Since I am short, the increase of tall people (Westerners) among the pressing crowd made shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables a particular challenge. The 7 species market was also in full action with the religious and curious shopping for the traditional lulav and etrog.
I will NOT spend the time to explain this tradition, but if you are interested, please google “shaking of lulav” or blessing of lulav for more information. It seems to me that this has progressively become a more and more central theme of religious observance over the past 21 years.
I had one fun encounter at the yams. In a small alley of the shuk (known for some reason as the “Iraqi shuk,” which used to be a less expensive area), I was squeezed between an older ultra religious man and an older lady with a big shopping cart. The man began to complain loudly and I said, “Sal’vla’noot, sal’vla’noot.” This is something EVERY Israeli hears ALL of the time, which means, “Patience…patience.”
“Ayn lee salvlanoot!” (I HAVE no patience) the religious man told me.
I raised my eyes and looked at his eyes and said, “Ah! But we NEED patience. It is commanded of us.”
“Yes, but I have none and I don’t know where to get it!”
My answer surprised me as it didn’t come from me. I pointed up and looked up. “It only comes from Him and it is more precious than gold, yet we must buy it.”
“And how do we buy it?” he asked sadly but seriously.
“Only by looking AT Him and asking Him for it.”
My heart felt like it smiled through my eyes. Suddenly our path to the yams opened up and we wished one another a “khag sameach” or “joyous holiday with patience.”
The hot weather and sand storm damaged much of the fruit and vegetables, forcing prices way up and bringing quality down. Our usually beautiful and tasty tomatoes, which generally cost between a shekel to 4 shekels a kilo were going for a whopping 16-18 shekels a kilo yesterday and were rather nasty looking. Although grapes, melons, pomegranates, and apples were in abundance, the prices were quite high and the usual variety was not so evident. Nonetheless, the COMMAND is to rejoice in the wonderful provision that He has made for us. He HAS provided and He WILL continue to provide. Period.
But Sukkot is more than a week of Thanksgiving, rejoicing over God’s abundant and faithful provision. I have found it to be a PROFOUND revelation of Who God is and what HE wants in a RELATIONSHIP with His children.
Through the years that I was blessed to have a sukka, I would sit out under the sky and look up through a thatch of woven branches, flowers and fruit and see the stars and think about our Big God. We think that we are so strong. We build strong houses and shelters and strengthen our bodies with food and exercise, but the truth is that HE wrote our days, our hours, and our boundaries. HE numbers the hairs of our heads. We work and we grow food, but only GOD gives the increase and makes it sufficient.
He calls us to come aside and sit for seven days…a week of shabats…a time set apart to BE with Him. Don’t we TREASURE special time set apart just to BE with those we love most? To me, THIS is the meaning of Sukkot.
Yes, it includes remembering how He brought us out of Egypt, but it was His Love that brought us out by His Long Arm. He set apart a peculiar people to learn to love Him through worship and obedience and to love Him for His provision.
And as He is our Home (Psalm 90:1-2 “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”)
He allowed us to build a Temple in the place where He put His Name. I have written also about this in depth over the years − how it came to me as a revelation while I was praying for the rebuilding of the third temple. His gentle rebuke to my soul and with a movement of His Hand over my eyes to understand that HE IS INDEED RIGHT NOW REBUILDING THE TEMPLE IN JERUSALEM − THE PLACE WHERE HE CHOSE TO PUT HIS NAME.
Even at this moment, there are clashes happening on the Temple Mount. GOD has called us His temple and yes, He is building His indigenous body, His temple, according to His pattern, HERE in this city again.
And so this week will be jam packed full of events, for both the country’s citizens as well as the visitors from the nations. Throughout this week, our President (Ruvin Rivlin) will open his sukka for anyone who would like to come and shake his hand and sit in his sukka from 8:30-noon daily.
When we first made aliyah, we were amazed that the president of the country was opening his door to everyone. We found it hard to believe, so we called the information number to find out what would be required of us to go. The amused woman on the phone said, “Why OF COURSE you can go. You and your family and anyone who would like to bless the president and be blessed. The whole country is welcome.”
So, of course we went and are planning to go again this year. There is dancing and singing in the streets in many neighborhoods. Free historical tours. Every sukka is open to everyone else, and all are welcome. All of the restaurants have sukkas as well as the hotels. There is the priestly blessing (“bircat Cohenim” or the blessing of the Cohenim) that takes place at the Western Wall, and the whole country EATS outside.
And then there is the prayer for rain.
Yeshua KNEW this well when He went to the feast of Sukkot in Jerusalem, where HE walked in the Temple and taught. HE cried out:
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39)
But now The Holy Spirit HAS been given to us. So the Christian feasts intertwine as the Jerusalem march takes place, probably the singularly largest event of the holiday and quite special to behold.
People march up to Jerusalem from all over the country. Not exactly as it was commanded, but it is the closest we can come to that at this point. Groups from all over the country participate, soldiers, schools, banks, scouts, phone company, builders, farmers, individuals and families, and plenty more, but by far the largest are the various groups of Christians who come for the feast of Tabernacles.
Many march in the traditional native clothes of their nations and carry banners, often sporting scriptures, throwing to the people flags or pins of their nations, candy, and Bible verses. The people lining the streets are deeply encouraged.
My husband and I stumbled upon the march for the first time, quite by accident. We were still VERY new, VERY green immigrants and were waiting at the bus stop, weary, ready to go home. Wouldn’t you know it − suddenly they roped off the street in front of us. So we sat down on a nearby bench. As with many big events here in Jerusalem, the actual time and place isn’t openly ANNOUNCED before hand to avoid terror attack.
Suddenly we heard music and it went on and on and ON for several hours. It wasn’t long before we saw believers with such loving faces, reaching out to us. The CROWDS of bystanders cheered them on, touching and blessing people and REALLY imparting strength and encouragement. What an experience. Toward the end of the march, the singing from ISAIAH 12 −
“And in that day you will say: ‘O Lord, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ”‘For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.’” Therefore with joy you will draw water From the wells of salvation. And in that day you will say: “Praise the Lord, call upon His name; Declare His deeds among the peoples, Make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, For He has done excellent things; This is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, O inhabitant of Zion, For great is the Holy One of Israel in your midst!””
As different parts of this great portion of scripture of Praise is sung, the prayer for water is integral, and while we stood there at that first Sukkot, wouldn’t you know that the rains began to fall upon us. Now that might be nothing much if you don’t recall that we live in a region that sees 6 months of rain and 6 months of SUN.
It is always easy for us to plan to be outdoors in the summer. It is ALWAYS clear skies. But we pray as a nation for rain and that particular rain, at Sukkot 1994, marked the end of a very long drought.
Yes, Sukkot – the last of the fall feasts – is a wondrous time, a time of joy and a time to remember that it is ALL in God’s Hands. The hearts of kings and the boundaries of nations as well as our own personal times and seasons. It is ALL HIM. We WILL see ALL of His promises come to pass and everything that is written.
May The Lord, Who is ALL in ALL, be glorified…blessed…and LOVED. And may His great mercy and peace draw us ever closer to abiding in Him Alone.
Sukkot ‘sameach ‘ (joy),
Your sister J