The Tabernacle of God

Following the solemnity experienced throughout the “Ten Days of Awe״— the ten days of reflection, prayer and repentance between Rosh Hashanah (“Jewish New Year”) and Yom Kippur (“Day of Atonement”)— Jewish communities in Israel and all over the world end the season of the Fall Feasts in rejoicing and celebration with the festival of Sukkot (“Tabernacles”). This special feast was first given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai along with all the other moedim, or “holidays.”

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Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD. On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the LORD; it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious ork.

‘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 inbooths 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.’” – Lev. 23:34-36;39-43


As prescribed by God, the Israelites are instructed to set up a sukkah, or sukkot for plural, meaning a “booth” or “hut.” They were to live in these temporary huts built outside throughout the eight days of the festival. The purpose for this, as we read above, is God’s way of reminding the people of Israel of the time when He divinely protected and provided for the Israelites as they spent 40 years in the wilderness living in these temporary structures or booths.

In traditional Judaism and halakhah (Jewish law), there are specific instructions as to how these sukkah’s are to be assembled. The sukkah must have at least two complete walls with the third wall needing to be a minimum of the “length of a handbreadth.” The walls can be made from any material, simply that it be sturdy enough to withstand the wind. The structure must be covered with a schach, or a thatched roof, made only from organic material. Common roof coverings are made from bamboo poles, evergreen branches, reeds, corn stalks, unfinished lumber, or a special schach mat made especially for the occasion. The traditional view is that the sukkah is meant to remind us of the Clouds of Glory that sustained the Israelites in the desert as they sojourned in the wilderness.

The Four Species

Another observance related to Sukkot involves what are known as The Four Species (arba minim in Hebrew). God instructed Moses, “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” (Lev. 23:40). In Hebrew the terms for the four plants are:

1. ‘êṣ hāḏār ( ,)עץ הדרץmagnificent/beautiful trees
2. təmārîm (ְתּ ָמ ִרים ), palm trees
3. ‘êṣ ‘āḇōṯ (ֵעץ־ ָעב ֹת ), thick/leafy trees
4. ‘arḇê-nāḥal (ערבי נחל), willows of the brook/valley

In Talmudic tradition, the four plants are identified as:

1. Etrog (אתרוג) – the fruit of a citron tree
2. Lulav (לולב) – a ripe, green, closed leaf from a date palm tree
3. Hadass (הדס) – boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree
4. Aravah (ערבה) – branches with leaves from the willow tree

The palm branch (lulav), two willow branches (aravah), and three myrtle branches (hadass) are bound together and referred to collectively as the lulav. The etrog is held separately. With these four species in hand, for the eight days of Sukkot, one recites a blessing and waves the species three times in six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down) to attest to God’s mastery of all creation. In a traditional Jewish service in the synagogue, the lulav and etrog are held during the Hallel prayer. All four of the species require much water to grow and are found in nature near water sources. By taking these species, the Jewish people are voicing prayers for abundant rainfall for the coming agricultural year. Sukkot is also referred to as the “Feast of Ingathering,” a time of celebrating the harvest that God provided.

Reasons to Rejoice

God tells the people of Israel to rejoice before the Lord for seven days as a perpetual statute throughout all generations. This is an amazing season to celebrate the miracles God has performed for the people of Israel. We recall God’s sustaining provision and protection throughout the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. It can also be a time to look back in our own lives to the miraculous provisions God has provided for us and in the lives of our family. We should use this season as a time of thanksgiving for God granting us the produce of the earth and the ability to put food on our tables daily.

Finally, we know that the sukkah is representative of what has been and what will come to be. God Himself set up for Himself a tabernacle amidst the camp of Israel in the wilderness. God’s sukkah is called the mishkan and it was the tent where the Lord Himself dwelt and the cloud of God covered. We can rejoice that when Messiah Yeshua returns to establish His kingdom on earth, He will once again dwell with us and all of the people of the nations will come up to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zech. 14:16). Just as God did in the wilderness, we will see a picture of Sukkot in the Final Days when the “Lord will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy. There will be a shelter to give shade from the heat by day, and refuge and protection from the storm and the rain” (Isaiah 4:5-6). This year as we each sit in our sukkah, may we look up to the heavens through the thatched roof and remind ourselves that this world is our temporary dwelling place, but we can rejoice for God dwells within us now and we will dwell with Him for all of eternity in the tabernacle of God (Rev. 21:3-4).

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