Less than a week after the Days of Awe, which conclude at Yom Kippur, we begin to celebrate Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-36, 39-44), which is a far more jubilant holiday. It is one of the three pilgrimage holidays when the head of the family is commanded to travel to Jerusalem to celebrate the festival before the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:16). The Feast of Tabernacles reminds us of the frailty of human life and that our joy comes when we completely depend upon God.
God tells His people in several parts of the Torah to rejoice during this Festival. It is a command! Moses writes,
“Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. For seven days celebrate the festival to the Lord your God at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.”
Jewish people set up sukkahs, special booths, in their gardens, on their patios or balconies and eat their meals there. Some decide to spend the nights in the “booths” as well, to keep the commandment recorded in Leviticus 23:42-43. Jewish people forego their usual comfort in order to remember their wandering through the desert, living in tents and looking to the Lord in every need or challenge.
The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the ingathering of the harvest, and as such it foreshadows the regathering of the people of Israel. The Prophet Zechariah envisions the nations of the world submitting themselves to the Lord and enjoying the grace and mercy found within God’s future tabernacle (Zech. 14:16-21). This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abram that the world would be blessed through the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3).