On Friday night, we celebrate the first evening of Sukkoth (Feast of Booths or Tabernacles). This weeklong holiday is a time to slow down, and focus on the goodness of God's provision in our lives. Every year, my family builds a Sukkah (Booth) on our patio overlooking the Jerusalem hills, and we sit in it throughout the holiday. We eat our meals in it; my wife and I have our morning coffee while sitting in it; we enjoy good, unrushed family conversations as we sit in the Sukkah, and maybe this year, my children will finally have the desire to sleep in it!
On Erev Sukkoth (the first night of the holiday), we have a little tradition in our home where we go around the table and share something for which we are thankful. This is inspired by remembering God’s amazing deliverance of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt into the Land of Promise, and His miraculous provision for their every need during their time in the wilderness. The Sukkah, in particular, reminds us of the fact that, throughout their journey, they dwelled in the booth as a temporary home on their way to the Land of Promise.
"On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the LORD.
Every Sukkoth, I marvel at how incredible it is that I can celebrate this holiday in our home in the Judean Hills, in the land that was promised to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob thousands of years ago; it is nothing short of a miracle! I am also reminded of the incredible privilege it is to serve the Living God, who is the same God that delivered our people out of Egypt, and provided for them in the wilderness as they lived in temporary booths, on their way to the Land of Promise. This is the same faithful God that we worship and serve today!
This year, in the midst of the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel it is especially important to voice those things for which we are thankful. Here in Israel, there is no lack of complaining about the many challenges we're facing: we are in a second full lockdown, and we cannot celebrate this very special season of appointed times (מועדים — mo'adim) with our extended family and friends; the virus is rapidly spreading despite our efforts to control it; children are learning from home, which is challenging on many levels, especially socially as they cannot see their friends; many in Israel are without jobs, and for so many families, covering basic needs is growing more difficult by the day; people are lonely and isolated in a time when we need one another most.
Yet, in the midst of all this, I have to stop and reflect upon the fact that my time on this earth is temporary. I am here on borrowed time, in my temporary “booth.” Just like the children of Israel, I can make a choice: will I have a short-sighted vision of the here and now, be bitter and complain all the time, or will I trust that the same God who delivered my people from slavery in Egypt and miraculously provided for their every need will do the same for me? That is not to say we shouldn't be honest about the difficulties of this unprecedented time! But just as in trials you have faced before, you can be sure that your Heavenly Father has not forgotten you, but sees you and cares for you.
My dear brothers and sisters, the truth is that we are on our way to the land of eternal promise and rest - our earthly dwelling is just temporary. What are we doing with our time, energy, and resources? Take time this Shabbat to reflect on this important question, rest in His presence, be renewed, and receive His strength to keep pressing on. May you have a blessed and meaningful Sukkoth - Hag Sameach! (Happy holiday!)
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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