"The Feast of Tabernacles" - Hag HaSukkot
|Both Jewish and Christian scholars agree that Jesus (Yeshua) was an observant Jew who celebrated the Festivals of Israel.|
Lecturer: Rev. Edward Daniel Brotsky, D.D.
|I. Historic Review of the Festival (a Rabbi's typical Sermon)|
(4) In Temple Times
Sukkot is primarily an agricultural festival, like the first two major festivals: Passover celebrated the first spring harvest of barley; Shavuot or Pentecost celebrated wheat harvest, fifty days later. Sukkot is our "Thanksgiving."
In Temple times, during Sukkot, the priestly ritual was a glorious pageantry of white-robed priests, musical instruments, choirs - a joyous and symbolic Festival. Extra lamp-stands were lit to illumine the Temple courts, as it was during Hanukkah.
Levitical choirs were accompanied by musicians on their string, wind, and percussion instruments during the chanting of the Hallel Psalms 113 to 118 - especially the messianic words of Psalm 118, verses 25 and 26:
We beseech Thee, 0 LORD, save now! We beseech Thee, O LORD, make us now to prosper. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the LORD.The shofars sounded frequently to give special emphases. Pious men danced for joy in the streets. It was truly a Festival of simchah.
The priestly ritual of pouring water and wine down the silver bowls which funnels led to the base of the altar of burnt offering, was symbolic - symbolic of their thanksgiving for the rain which produced the harvests of the year. Prayers for more rain were offered for the next spring harvest.
The Water-Pouring ceremony was also symbolic of spiritual joy and salvation. The prophet Isaiah reflected upon this Temple ritual and said -
Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3)The Talmud says:
"One who has not seen the rejoicing of the Beth ha-Shoevah has never seen a rejoicing in his life."
Each day during the Festival, the priests circled the great altar of sacrifices, once, waving their lulavim in all directions. Branches of beautiful trees: the palm, myrtle, willows of the brook were all tied together in one bunch - the kinds of branches prescribed in the Torah. This was carried in the right hand, and the etrog - a citrus fruit - in the left hand.
On the seventh day, called "Hoshana Rabbah" which means "The Great Salvation," the priests circled the altar seven times. They were chanting the words of the Hallel Psalm:
"We beseech Thee, 0 LORD, save now! We beseech Thee, O LORD, make us now to prosper! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the LORD." (Psalm 118:25 JPSA)
During the seven days of Sukkot, the great brazen altar received more sacrificed animals than on any other festival; 70 bulls, 14 rams, 98 lambs and 7 goats. (Numbers 29:12-34) Regarding the seventy bulls, the Talmud teaches that "the seventy nations of the world were represented in the offerings as Israel made atonement on their behalf." (Sukkah 55b)
The sacrifices without blemish were also made by the priests - the kohanim - for the atonement of the sins of the children of Israel.
The Sanctuary - the Temple - was permitted to be destroyed in the year 70 C.E. because of our sins. The daily offerings upon the altar ceased. The voices of the Levitical choirs were silenced. The voice of song was not heard in synagogues until the rise of the cantor who revived prayers in song about the fifth century.
In our synagogues, the "recital" of the Temple ritual for atonements are accepted "as if we offered the sacrifices."
But the Psalms and some of the Prophets speak of more desirable sacrifices than animals: the sacrifices of a broken spirit or humility. Humility is a tremendously essential grace in our day of affluence, of human achievements, and of the conquest of space. The sacrifice of thanksgiving: what have we that we did not derive from the All Merciful One? We have our health - we are not a liability but an asset to society. The sacrifice of praise: "Hallelu-Yah!" "Praise ye the LORD!" The prophets exhort us to "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her." (Isaiah 66:10)
With the rebirth of Medinat Yisrael (the State of Israel, May 14, 1948), and Jerusalem declared in 1980 as the "undivided, eternal capital of Israel," she shall yet be the "City of peace," "the joy of all the earth."
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: may they prosper that love thee" (Psalm 48:2; 122:6).
The sacrifice of prayer: the prayer of intercession for our national leaders. In the lands of our diaspora, we have always prayed for our national welfare. In the ancient days of our captivity, Jeremiah exhorted:
Seek the peace of the city whither I shall cause you to be carried away captive and pray unto the LORD for it; for in the peace thereof shall you have peace. (Jeremiah 29:7)This we shall strive to do, and we shall continue to pray: "Have mercy on us and on Thy Sanctuary; rebuild it speedily ... There we will prepare in Thy honor our ... offerings ..."
If we have repented of our sins to God, and made reconciliation with our fellowman - "T'shuvah; if we have prayed - "T'fillah"; and if we have been charitable to mankind without distinction of race or creed - "Ts'daqah", we may, indeed, wish each other Hag Samayah - Happy Festival!
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