Month 7:21, Week 3:6 (Sheshi/Kippur), Year:Day 5937:199 AM|
SUKKOT VII, Dedication of Solomon's Temple 7/8
Gregorian Calendar: Friday 25 October 2013
Sukkot VII 2013
By Ruach, Not By Sight
Continued from Part 6
Chag sameach Sukkot kol beit Yisra'el and welcome to the seventh and last day of this Feast of Tabernacles this year. Tomorrow we shall, of course, be gathering for Shemini Atseret or the Last Great Day which is a High Sabbath
Non-Biblical Traditions of Sukkot
Before I get into our main theme today I need to keep my promise made on the first day of Sukkot to talk to you about some of the non-biblical traditions that have crept into Judaism that have been copied by the majority of Messianics. If you go to the Jews they will tell you, as with the making of tzitzit and numerous other trifles, that unless you know and understand the oral law of the Talmudic rabbis, that there is no way we can know how to build a 'genuine', 'authentic' sukkah for Sukkot (Tabernacls, Booths) because, as they rightly point out, the exact measurements are not described in the Torah. And it's true - the Torah doesn't tell us how to make a sukkah at all. It just says:
Booths Made of Leafy Branches
"You shall dwell in sukkot (booths) for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in sukkot (booths), that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in sukkot (booths) when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am Yahweh your Elohim (God)" (Lev.23:41-43, NKJV).
We're also told that they should be made of leafy branches:
Attempts to Make Booths in Scandinavia
"Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of Yahweh for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest. And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim (God) for seven days. You shall keep it as a feast to Yahweh for seven days in the year. It shall be a statute forever in your generations. You shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall dwell in sukkot (booths) for seven days" (Lev.23:39-42, NKJV).
Notice that we are only required to live in booths for the seven days of Sukkot (Tabernacles) and not Shemini Atseret though I think many choose to keep using them an extra day. In a place like Scandinavia, northern Russia, Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Iceland (where there are no trees at all) there are no leafy branches of any kind at this time of the year because it is late autumn (fall), let alone the species of all these trees native to Israel which would be hard, if not impossible, to grow here. And by the time you had expensively imported such branches all the leaves would have fallen off them, so you have to use your common sense and discern the intention, which is simply to make a shelter. In the past we have tried to use leafy branches but after a couple of days most had dried, shrivveld up, fallen off leaving bare skeletoned booths and a smelly mess on the floor. So we can't be accused of not trying! In the end we opted for regular tents and decorated them with plastic branches, flowers and fruit giving, we feel, a delightful atmosphere. You can see the one designed and constructed by my youngest daughter this year below:
Meeting Room Sukkah at Kadesh-biyqah, Sweden - 2013
Ezra's Sukkot After the Exile
Centuries later, when Ezra and Nehemiah read the Torah out to the assembled exiles from Babylon at Sukkot (Tabernacles), they had no oral tradition and simply went ahead and gathered the materials that were mentioned and as well as some more:
How Did the Returning Exiles Build Booths?
"Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all the people, with the cohenim (priests) and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Torah (Law). And they found written in the Torah (Law), which Yahweh had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in sukkot (booths) during the feast of the seventh month, and that they should announce and proclaim in all their cities and in Jerusalem, saying, 'Go out to the mountain, and bring olive branches, branches of oil trees, myrtle branches, palm branches, and branches of leafy trees, to make sukkot (booths), as it is written.' Then the people went out and brought them and made themselves sukkot (booths), each one on the roof of his house, or in their courtyards or the courts of the house of Elohim (God), and in the open square of the Water Gate and in the open square of the Gate of Ephraim. So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made sukkot (booths) and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Torah (Law) of Elohim (God). And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day there was a sacred assembly, according to the prescribed manner" (Neh.8:13-18, NKJV).
Though it had been centuries since sukkot (booths) had been constructed and there was no 'oral law' to tell them exactly how to do it, the people just went ahead and built sukkot (booths) wherever they could. There must have been a general understanding that they were to be built outside though the Torah nowhere commanded it. There is nothing to stop us making them inside either, as we necessarily do in our harsh sub-Arctic climate here in Sweden otherwise we would be utterly miserable at what is supposed to be a Season of Simcha (Joy) and probably go down with pneumonia. Most of us are down with colds as it is because of the variable weather we've been having this year. Obviously we cannot build on our roofs because they are not flat here but such was a logical place to build given the construction of Middle Eastern houses, or elsewhere.
Building Attempts by Modern Believers in Northern Lattitudes
I know one brave Messianic soul in Wisconsin who built a booth on his balcony and was most miserable, nearly freezing to death when the cold winds blew through the branches at night. I don't think it was that waterproof either. I believe he has stopped that Spartan practice and have followed our example by building indoors as he realised that Yahweh did not intend us to be utterly miserable. So we have to use common sense too. The important thing is, as I said yesterday, to experience simplicity and connect in some way to our ancestors who included not only Hebrews but many African Egyptians and Numbians who joined the Exodus to escape a miserable life in the hope of a better one. We do that in our way and others do it in theirs. We have the liberty to be a little creative so long as we don't go overboard and keep it simple.
The Talmudic Na'anu'im Tradition
The Talmudic rabbis insist that these sukkot, tabernacles or booths are to be made of four species of plants native to Israel, namely, the palm, myrtle willow and etrog. The chances are not all of these grow in your own country or locality, as I have said, making them impossible to obtain except at great expense through importation though I don't know of anyone who does this. Perhaps some use plastic imitations of them, I don't know. These four species, they say, have to be 'bundled together' in special way, then they must be shaken and waved three times to each of the four points of the compass, including upwards and downwards, leading to a total of 36 to and fro motions. They call these shakings and wavings na'anu'im. If you ask a Jew what this means, he will tell you the shaking and waving is to restrain harmful winds and dews in the winter, when water is abundant, and that this testifies that haShem (G-d) is the master of the four points of the compass, heaven and earth included.
Beautiful But Unscriptural Talmudic Sukkot Traditions
Do Not Follow Human Tradition Unordained by Yahweh
We can dismiss the na'anu'im ritual of shakings and wavings as so much ritual nonsense, however liturgically pretty, not ordained by Yahweh, along with the 140+ halachic rules that Jews are expected to follow. It smacks even of magic. We can learn nothing of use from this and we should certainly not imitate it. It is spiritually worthless and mere man-made religion. Our sole interest is to carefully note the scriptural elements of Sukkot (Tabernacles, Booths) and seek for their spiritual root so that we can better understand the Sukkot annointing and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
Beware of Outer Beauty: Prince Vladimir of Kiev
If ritual beauty were to govern our choice of religious elements in our worship then we should probably all become Eastern Orthodox Christians and follow Prince Vladimir of Kiev who, in 978 AD, when visiting the St.Sofia Church in Constantinople (now a Muslim mosque in Istanbul), regarded by many to have once been one of the wonders of the world, declared: "We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth" because of gold mosaics on the domed ceiling which were mirrored throughout the church's polished surfaces. The marble columns were in such subtle and beautiful hues that the historian Procopius compared them to flowers blooming in a meadow. Indeed, probably few buildings have been created to be so overwhelming in their sheer beauty . As a result of this visit Russia became Eastern Orthodox because a Prince was more impressed by Orthodox ritual than Catholic. And it true, Eastern Orthodox Churches can be stunning beautiful.
A Place for Beauty, but Not in Competition with the Ruach
As one who loves and appreciates fine art and architecture, I am not trying to depricate beauty because I think we should absolutely pursue it. At the same time, we must not - cannot - add to the "the simplicity that is in Messiah" (2 Cor.11:3, NKJV). This was one of the reasons for the rise of the Puritans in England who were opposed to what amounted to gaudy idolatry in the Church of England. I know many Messianic Jews who re-convert back to Judaism because they miss all the ritual splendour of their former Talmudic religion. But this is not what interests Yahweh and we must never forget it. He wishes us to be be focussed on the most important things. We are not saved by ritual in any case. Remember that it was the beauty of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that in part seduced Eve (Gen.3:6) just as it was the beauty of Bathsheba that seduced David (2 Sam.11:2):
The Simplicity that is in Messiah
Origins of the Displays of False Religion
"But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Messiah" (2 Cor.11:3, NKJV).
All false religion, which is devoid of the Ruach (Spirit), appeals, ultimately, to sight, whether it is by means of fantastically imposing buildings or colourful rituals. This is, however, all of the psyche and not of the Ruach (Spirit) and we must beither be deceived nor distracted by it. Beauty has its place but we must be careful how we introduce it into our worship, or indeed even into our lives in general, so that we are not distracted by the things of the earth as we seek to retain the heavenly. We can, of course, go too far in either direction if we are not careful which is perhaps why Sukkot can guide us in finding a pleasant balance. Its symbols focus around natural things just as the internal decorations of the Temple of Solomon did. But that was Yahweh's House where His Presence dwelt, and whilst man has been tempted to turn churches and synagogues into replicas of this Qodesh Mishkan or Set-Apart (Holy) Temple/Tabernacle, there is only one such place, not many, and only one New Jersualem.
Satan as an Angel of Light
Man's attempts at duplicating these things in his own way have always led to corrupt religion and a loss of spirituality. We must never fall into the same temptation. There is a reason why "Satan himself transforms himself into a malakh (angel) of light" (2 Cor.11:14, NKJV) because he appeals to the senses and not to the Ruach (Spirit) which he is entirely devoid of. He must impress to seduce by devilish means. Beware.
Were I to identify one word that has encapsulated the spirit of Sukkot then it would have to be "joy". It's easy to understand how the Bride would be rejoicing at her wedding feast after the long trial of waiting. That is why we gather here for our dress rehearsal every year - to look forward to our joyful reunion in Heaven with our Master and Redeemer, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)! May His Blessed Name be praised! Amen.
Continued in Part 8
 Colin Wilson, The Atlas of Holy Places and Scred Sites (Dorling Kindersley, London: 1996), Santa Sophia, p.33