What Is Sukkot

Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, is a week-long feast during which the Jewish community builds temporary shelters (sukkot means "booths" in Hebrew) to remind each generation that our forefathers lived as nomads, wandering in the desert for forty years (Lev. 23:42-43). The Bible also refers to this holiday as the Feast of Ingathering, which celebrates the final reaping of the crops at the end of the harvest (Ex. 23:16). Throughout the holiday it is customary to wave the Lulav and Etrog, or the four species (date palm, myrtle, willow, citron), representing thankfulness and joy for the present harvest, along with hope for winter rains to ensure an abundant harvest the following spring (Lev 23:40). The waving of the Lulav and Etrog also represents God's pervasive presence.

In the first century, the priests used to take a pitcher of water from the pool of Siloam and pour it out on the altar, following an elaborate processional up the hill to the Temple Mount. This ceremony occurred every day of the festival, with the most extravagant procession on the final day. The pouring of the water expressed Israel's hope for future rains to produce an abundant harvest. According to the Talmud, this tradition is derived from Isaiah 12:3, "with joy you shall draw water from the wells of salvation."

On the last day of Sukkot, possibly at the time of this final procession, Jesus stood in the midst of the people and declared, "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" (John 7:37-38). When He said this, some declared, "This is the Messiah" (John 7:41).

Anticipation for the arrival of the Messiah reaches its height during Sukkot. The prophet Zechariah speaks of a time when God will fight and defend His people when the nations gather against Israel (Zech. 14:1-9). After God establishes peace, all the nations will then travel to Jerusalem to worship God during Sukkot (Zech. 14:16). God promises to withhold rain from those countries that do not honor Him in Jerusalem (14:17-19). Sukkot thus looks forward to the day when God will establish His Kingdom and all nations will join together to worship Him.

Sukkot also looks forward to the day when God will dwell in the midst of His people. When John introduced Jesus as the Messiah, he said, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). The word "dwelt" can also be translated "took up temporary residence."

When Jesus revealed His glory to Peter, James and John on the top of a mountain, Peter asked to build three temporary dwellings (sukkot), one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah (Matt. 17:1-13). Peter's desire to build temporary dwellings is an allusion to Sukkot and represents a request for Jesus to establish His Messianic Kingdom. Later, while Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover, crowds gathered placing palm branches along the road, proclaiming, "Lord save us," and "Blessed is the King of Israel," a direct Messianic title. The crowds used palm branches as an allusion to Sukkot, expressing their hope for the coming Messianic Kingdom.

The Feast of Tabernacles animates our hope in the return of our Messiah and the establishment of His Messianic Kingdom.

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Additional Resources: The Fall Feasts of Israel - Excerpt
  Sukkot FAQs
  A Gathering of Messiah's Harvest
  Scriptures for Further Study
  Frailty of Life on Earth
  YouTube Link - The Festival of Sukkot - by Ben Volman, Messianic Rabbi of Kehillat Eytz Chaim 
  YouTube Link - The Feast of Tabernacles, a Prophetic Portrait of the Future Kingdom - by Dr. Mitch Glaser, President of Chosen People Ministries
   
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