Build Yourselves a Sukka!

Build Yourselves a Sukka!

“So the people went out and brought back branches and built themselves booths, sukka, on their own roofs, in their courtyards, in the courts of the house of God… The whole company that had returned from exile built booths and lived in them. And their joy was very great.” (Nehemiah 8:16-17)

Sukka: Hebrew word for tabernacle, temporary dwelling, booth, makeshift hut; pronounced sookuh.

The Feast of Tabernacles, or Succoth (pronounced sookoth, plural of sukka): the most joyous Old Testament feast of the year; a seven-day celebration in the Temple and in the homes of Jewish believers; also called Feast of Ingathering, because it is the greatest harvest feast of the year. Refer to Deuteronomy 16:13-15. This feast is mentioned more than any other in Scripture, so is the most prominent feast in the Bible. The Pilgrims in Plymouth referred to this Feast when they began what is now our Thanksgiving celebration.

God told His people to build sukka’s during this Feast in order to remember not only their liberation from Egypt, but also His care and protection of them during their long wilderness journey. (Leviticus 23:33-43).

For a rabbinic look at the sukka, consider the words of Rabbi Jonathon Sacks: “When we sit in the sukka, we recall Jewish history – not just the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, but also the entire experience of exile. The sukka is the most powerful symbol of Jewish history. No other nation could see its home not as a castle, a fortress, or a triumphal arch, but as a fragile tabernacle. No other nation was born, not in its land, but in the desert. Sukkot is a festival of a people like no other, whose only protection was its faith in the sheltering wings of the Divine Presence. The sukka itself, the tabernacle, represents the singular character of Jewish history with its repeated experiences of exile and homecoming and its long journey across the wilderness of time. As Jews, we are heirs to a history unlike that of any other people: small, vulnerable, suffering exile after exile, yet surviving. Hence the sukka.” (Jonathon Sacks, Covenant and Conversation: Leviticus)

As Christians, building a sukka enables us to identify with our rootage in the Jewish faith and experience. It helps us to celebrate God’s faithfulness during our journey now, keeping His promise to be our true security, our only permanent dwelling place as we walk with Him in faith and obedience. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Building Your Backyard Sukka:

1. Make it flimsy and shaky, to symbolize our temporary dwelling now as opposed to our permanent home in God and His kingdom;

2. Use whatever materials you can find… Make it a fun family search for anything available, like downed limbs, discarded lumber, corn stalks, leafy branches on the ground, etc. For fun, try building it without nails;

3. Try to have the inside of the sukka as shady as possible during the day, while leaving openings in the roof in order to see the stars at night;

4. Decorate the inside with harvest fruits and vegetables if you want;

5. Eat some meals inside the sukka, and even have a sleepover in it if possible. At least some time in the evening is meaningful and memorable, with flashlights, readings, etc.;

6. On the last night, see if you can have an “open house” for neighbors and friends, and maybe even a simple progressive supper (eg, some sukka soup?) with others who have built huts in their backyards, or who want to hear the story.

“The Word became flesh and spread a tent with us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).

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