Sunday, October 13, 2019

Succah – Succot – Symbol – Event – Time – Place


How have a few sticks with a couple of sheets for walls, and some cut off branches for a ceiling come to symbolize a momentous episode of the past, and another, which will culminate this age, as well as (symbolize) those who form an inextricable part of these events? 

Let us start with this last point. Psalm 139 says, “You covered me in my mother’s womb”. The Hebrew verb used here for ‘covered’ is “te’su’ke’ni”, i.e. literally, ‘You have made/formed me as a succah’.  Psalm 39:4-5 confirms our fragility and transience, much like the succah, which is a flimsy and temporary structure.

Before taking a journey to visit the succah and the feast of Succot, it has to be admitted that, the original succahs in the wilderness were structured differently than the typical ones which have been traditional for hundreds of years in the Jewish world. Our forefathers dwelt in structures that consisted of stone-marked circles in the middle of which was placed a stone or stick pole with skin draped from the top down, making it more like a tent (at least that appears to have been the case at Kadesh Barnea, where they remained for quite a few years).

The reason for Succot is stated thus:  “You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All who are native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 23:42-43 emphasis added).   

Quite frankly, this command seems curious and raises a question. Elohim performed great and mighty miracles and wonders for the people of Israel during their wilderness sojourn, protecting, rescuing, and providing for them in amazing ways, so why is it that out of all other possible symbols, the succah was chosen to commemorate this experience? Moreover, the succah is definitely not a secure shelter, and yet Amos 9:8-12 states:

"’Behold, the eyes of the YHVH Elohim are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob,’ Says YHVH.  ‘For surely I will command, and will sift the house of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.  All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, 'the calamity shall not overtake nor confront us. On that day I will raise up the tabernacle/succah of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles [nations/peoples] who are called by My name,’ says YHVH who does this thing”.

This text describes troublesome times, replete with judgment of the sinners from among the people of Israel. And yet, YHVH also promises “in that day” to raise up the “falling” (literal Hebrew) succah of David. The usage of the present continuous tense may be indicative of an on going action, and likely connected to man’s similitude to a succah, which does not cease falling until YHVH Himself raises it/them (His people) as His own kingdom, according to the text.

The words from Amos 9, relating to the succah, are quoted in Acts 15:16-17, albeit with slight modifications, and read thus: “’After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek YHVH, even all the Gentiles [nations/peoples] who are called by My name’, says YHVH who does all these things’”. Rather than “that they – Israel – will possess the remnant of Edom”, our present quote says, “so that the rest of mankind will seek YHVH”.

In looking at the words that were changed, in Hebrew, it is very easy to see how “yirshu” – will possess – can be changed into “yidreshu” – will seek, and how “she’erit Edom” – the remnant of Edom – can be changed to “she’erit Adam” - remnant of mankind, i.e. Adam.  But beyond the simplistic word switching possibilities, this alteration may be also viewed as the extension of YHVH’s plan - beyond the local and onto a world-wide one.

Let’s examine again the term “succah”, as it appears in the two cited excerpts. Why “succah of David” and not “temple of David”? “sacturary of David”, or “House of David”? Why is the succah one of the ultimate symbols of the establishment of YHVH’s kingdom on earth?

Isaiah and Micha’s parallel prophecies (Is. 2: 2-4: Mic. 4:2) describe one of the greatest peaks of scriptural fulfillments: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that, the mountain of YHVH's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2). 

On that great and auspicious day, what are the nations supposed to do? “And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, YHVH of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Succot” (Zechariah 14:16 emphasis added), whilst draught and plagues await those who do not obey this word.

Many are of the opinion that the birth of Messiah was around the Succot season, while, unlike the spring feasts which have had their fulfillments during Yeshua’s first coming and immediately after, Succot’s fullest manifestation has not taken place yet. Is it possible that His return will indeed take place around this time? When it says in revelation 21:3 “Behold, the tabernacle of Elohim is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and Elohim himself shall be with them, and be their Elohim” is it referring to the time of Succot? In the Greek original, “tabernacle” as it is used here, and “dwell” are both designated by a semitic originated term “skay-nay” which means a structure made of green boughs, skins or other materials. What makes this verse even more fascination is its context; this above-mentioned scene is to occur after the establishment of the “new heaven” and the “new earth” and also of the “New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from Elohim” (vs. 1, 2). Peter describes what precedes these occurrences: “… the heavens pass away with a great noise, and the elements melt with fervent heat” and “both the earth and the works that are in” are “burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). Here we gasp… even after upheavals on such a colossal scale, what seems to not pass away is Succot and with it the flimsy booth – the succah.

Remember our reference at the beginning, to Psalm 139:13: “You have covered – made a succah out of – me in my mother’s womb”? Psalm 27:5 says, “For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his succah”. That is to say that Elohim Himself has a succha, which for us is a place of refuge in time of trouble.

How may we conclude this survey, and what does it point to?
Let us review: I and my formation in the womb are likened to a… succah. The reminder of the wilderness miracles – YHVH’s incredulous provision for His people and His protection all add up to a… short dwelling time in a succah. The very establishment of Elohim’s kingdom is ‘funneled’ to a… succah. The Messiah’s return is in… Succot, and He Himself chooses to dwell with us (quite possibly) in a… succah, at a time of the new heaven, the new earth and the new Jerusalem.  

Does the imagery of the succah and of the Feast of Succot give us a glimpse into the Mighty Creator’s world view, as it were, where a flimsy and weak structure symbolizes His creatures, but also His own abode when He comes to dwell with His chosen, at a time of a feast that centers on the very same flimsy booth which points to the Messiah’s birth as well as to His much awaited return at the very peak of human history?

This survey will not be complete without citing what is said in Isaiah 4: 2-6: “In that day the Branch of YHVH shall be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing for those of Israel who have escaped. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy -- everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When YHVH has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then YHVH will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering - CHUPA.  And a tabernacle - SUCCAH - for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain”.  In the Hebrew original “succah” follows “chupa” without a break. Again, is this a hint as to the connection of succah to the wedding canopy, chupa, and to the time during which Messiah marries His bride, pointing to His return in order to dwell among His own?

Note: It seems that the succah ceases to be on the “eighth day” – Shmini Atzeret. In Leviticus 23:42 it says, “you shall dwell in booths for seven days”, while the eighth day, and not the seventh, is a “holy convocation” (v. 36). On this holy day, the eighth, there is no more booth dwelling. If we convert this day into a thousand years, then the eighth millennium symbolizes eternity where the proverbial ephemeral succah is not seen anymore.



Thursday, October 3, 2019

Lesson from the olive tree (part II)


Before continuing on the theme, “a lesson from the olive tree,” here is a comment that was made by one of my readers:

“...Togetherness seems elusive, and fear of the furnace paralyzes many. Plus, we have continued to cherish things we learned in our youth; things that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds - so deeply we do not recognize their unclean nature. Only submission to the fiery furnace can strip us of these foreign objects - worldviews, perspectives, interpretations, convictions, prejudices, ignorance, etc - and set us free to be one as He is one; to be transformed. Truth and renewal. May we see it in our day”.

The reader’s last remark, “be one as He is one” seems to be one of the greatest challenges that are before us.  In Ephesians 4 Paul states that we already are “one body”, just as the olive tree has only one all-inclusive root, while the branches form an inseparable part of the one tree.  In addition to the olive tree imagery, and parallel to it, is the metaphor of the “body of Messiah”, which although made up of many parts is still one; One “body”; One “tree”.  Paul’s exhortation to the members of the body cum grafted-in branches is very strong: “I beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling” (Ephesians 4:1-4).  Notice the nature of this tree/body and the fruit that it bears, so why not bear with one another in love, keeping the unity in the bond of peace?  This is the nature, characteristic of the “olive tree” of Romans 11, which is the evidence of “life from the dead” (see v. 15). 

The reader above mentions some of what is holding us back from achieving our corporate calling as the body of the Redeemer, the restored olive tree of Israel.  Perhaps as he pointed out: “we have continued to cherish things we learned in our youth; things that are deeply embedded in our hearts and minds - so deeply we do not recognize their unclean nature”.  I believe that James puts his apostolic finger on the reason:  But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lusts and enticed.  Then, when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).   Comparing this passage with the one cited above (from Ephesians), let us ask, isn’t this excitant duality curious? We are joined to a tree; or a body that is supposed to exemplify life from the dead, but yet we, as individuals, are still susceptible to being enticed by sin, and if we continue to cooperate with it, the result will bring forth death.  Hence the warning to the branches that have been grafted into the holy shoot of Jesse, “you are only here by grace through faith”.  Because sin will always result in death and disease, any sick branch is likely to be cut off, so that its illness will not spread to other branches.

The solution to the above situation is obviously “repentance” from a sincere heart, which must be accompanied by humility, by confession, and by going ‘outside the camp/gates’, so to speak, to receive the forgiveness from a crucified Messiah (see Hebrews 13:12-13). This, however, cannot take place before addressing one’s sin by asking forgiveness from the injured party or in other cases confessing one’s sin to trustworthy brother/s or sister/s and granting forgiveness, just as the Father has forgiven us “…lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). 

One very important point to understand about Satan’s devices, is that he can only tempt us, enticing the flesh.  He knows, along with his demonic forces, that He has no legal right over us.  However, if we listen to the allurement of the tempter and give in to the lusts of the flesh, it throws out a welcome mat for the unclean spirits (power of sin) to manifest through us, which produces death and more importantly grieves or makes sorrowful the body of Messiah.  “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). 

The Romans 11 olive tree of Israel is being restored as a tree of righteousness and peace. When its fruit (the olive) is pressed, the flowing oil may be used for healing, deliverance, and life from the dead, as well as for the light of revelation. The nature or the character of this light in its varying hues is described in Colossians as “tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with others, and forgiving …but above all these things is love, which is the bond of perfection” (Colossians 3:12-14 alterations mine).  If we are truly bonded/grafted to the olive tree, the clear evidence will be our love for one another, as Yeshua loves us.