Today marks the end of a long string of holidays in Israel, each of them contributing to the overall significance of the season. Each day includes deeply meaningful traditions and spiritual implications for the various communities that partake in the celebrations. We have asked Rittie Katz, a faithful Musalaha participant and Hedva Haymov, our Women's Coordinator to shed some light on the meaning Sukkot, and it's implications on reconciliation, from a Messianic Jewish perspective.
To an outsider, how would you explain the meaning of Sukkot as a Messianic Jew?
Rittie: Sukkot is the culmination of the Fall Feasts in which we celebrate Rosh Ha Shana (The New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). The ten days of Rosh HaShana culminating in Yom Kippur are a time of introspection and taking stock of ourselves individually and corporately. It is a quiet and holy time, in which we pray for a better year and resolve to make it so. On the heels of this comes Sukkot which is "The Season of our Rejoicing." We build "sukkahs" (temporary dwellings) on our porches and yards and remember our wandering in the desert. We reflect on the temporary nature of our lives and that the only safe place is truly within God's will.
Hedva: Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) is mentioned in the Old Testament in several places. After the children of Israel were led out of Egypt, G-d told them to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles in the desert to remember that everything we have here is temporary, and we should rely on G-d and not on our houses to protect us. As a Messianic Jew, there is nothing that prevents me from keeping the holiday, so I choose to keep it. There is also a correlation in the cycle of feasts from the Old Testament that lends itself to symbolize the plan of salvation that G-d provided for the world. If we take Sukkot as the first holiday to symbolize Yeshua's birth, and later his circumcision (first day and last day of Sukkot when we dance with the Torah and celebrate the Word of G-d), and go through the cycle as symbolism, we would end with the Day of Atonement, which would represent G-d's judgement of the world. Many Messianic Jews would say that this time of year would be more likely for Yeshua to have been born than say, December, because the shepherds would be in the fields now, but not during the rainy season in December.
What aspect of the holiday is most meaningful to you?
Hedva: Staying in the Sukkah is meaningful for me to remember that we depend on G-d, and not anything that we build or buy, for our protection.
Rittie: Traditionally, we invite guests, both living and dead, to join us in our Succa. These include Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Moses, Aaron. We also invite friends and family to join us for festive meals. To be invited into someone's Sukkah is an intimate and honoring thing.
Do you see any connections between the message of Sukkot and reconciliation?
Rittie: The implications for reconciliation are obvious. We have often had Palestinian friends join us at our Sukkot table. In addition, Women Wage Peace deliberately planned their march and their demonstration for this time, in which we all must remember that our lives are intimately interconnected and, in the words of Martin Luther King, "We cannot walk alone." I believe that God Himself had given us this piece of land and has commanded us to share it and work this out. In doing so, we will open ourselves to unimagined blessings on every level.
How could the holiday season be a stepping stone to engaging other communities?
Hedva: There is a tradition during Sukkot called Ushpizin. It means it is a blessing to invite as many people as possible to sit in your Sukkah. It is an opportunity to invite ALL types of people to come and share a meal together under G-d's protection.
Rittie: We must avoid the next war. We must avoid any more bereavement and loss. To do this, we invite each other into our tents, our temporary dwellings, knowing that it is all temporary, and we live and work and walk with one another. Additionally, Sukkot has prophetic significance in that when Yeshua returns, He will come for a Body that is comprised of every tribe and nation. All the nations will come to Jerusalem and all flesh will see Him. We are, historically, children of Abraham and spiritually, children of God. God likes it when his kids get along. Sukkot is a time for us to come together.
Hedva: From the beginning of Rosh HaShana until the last day of Sukkot, all you hear in Israel is "Acharei HaHagim" (After the Holidays). Whenever we try to move forward at work or get something done in the banks, we're told "Acharei haHagim." The same tends to be true when it comes to the difficult work of reconciliation; but how much longer can we afford to put it off? There is too much at stake to continue avoiding these issues. Today it is the last day of Sukkot - It's Acharei haHagim. Let's get to work.