What is Sukkot?
Sukkot—also known as the Feast of Tabernacles—is a Jewish festival to remember the forty years the Hebrews wandered in the desert.
The years of wandering came after they were freed from slavery in Egypt and before they were allowed to enter the land God promised them. Even though the Hebrews were stuck in the desert, God was with them. The Bible tells us “clouds of glory” hovered over the Hebrews’ camps. The clouds protected the Hebrews from the desert sun and comforted them with God’s presence. God took care of their needs, giving them just enough food to eat and water to drink. God also used this time to teach the Hebrews many lessons, turning their hearts towards Him and bringing them together as a nation. It took those years in the desert to transform former slaves into a people truly set apart.
During their desert wandering, the Hebrews lived in sukkahs. Sukkahs are small dwellings, like forts or tents. They lived in these temporary structures because they knew the desert was not their permanent home. They were destined for the land God promised them, the Holy Land.
After they arrived to the land of Israel, God wanted the Hebrews to remember the lessons he taught them in the desert. God commanded Moses that each year they should build sukkahs to remember their time of wandering.
“You shall live in booths seven days;” God told Moses, “all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.”
When Jews celebrate Sukkot, they build sukkahs in lots of different ways. The sukkah walls can be made out of canvas, tarp, or any material that will not blow away. For the roof, branches and sticks are laid across the top. Families often like to decorate their sukkah. During the seven days of Sukkot, Jews eat all their meals and spend most of their time inside the sukkahs. Some families even sleep in them (unless it rains).
Sukkot is one of the most important Jewish holidays during the year. Sukkot is meant to be a celebration, not a fast or a time of mourning like some Biblical holidays. In Bible times, Jews would go to Jerusalem during Sukkot to visit the Temple. King Solomon dedicated the first Temple during Sukkot. Jesus, on Sukkot, went to Jerusalem and taught in the Temple courts. The Bible says, in the book of Zechariah, that when the Messiah returns the whole world will go to Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkot.
Special prayers are said during Sukkot and Jews read from Psalms and Ecclesiastes. On the first two days of Sukkot no work is allowed but the rest of the days (except for the Sabbath) are treated like a family vacation. People try to spend a lot of time doing outdoor activities together and visiting family and friends. At night people gather to dance, sing, and play music.
During this holiday, Jews remember how they once had no land or permanent possessions. They had to depend on God for their food, water, and shelter. God’s provisions were enough then and He continues to provide for His people today!
Spending time in the sukkah is a reminder that God’s word is food for our spirit and we must seek Him first before anything else. All things will pass away, but God remains the same yesterday, today, and forever!
This year Sukkot starts at sundown on Sunday, the 18th of September, and lasts until the 25th of September.
Bread from heaven (Exodus 16:4-35)
Water from the rock (Exodus 17:1-6)
The Tabernacle (Exodus 36:8- 40:38)
The cloud and the fire (Numbers 9:15-23)
The Lord sends quail (Numbers 11)
Wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 14:11-35)
If you love to draw, we have a contest just for you! For the first time ever Jerusalem Connection is hosting a special kids drawing contest for Sukkot as part of our all new Sukkot for Kids section. We want kids of all ages to draw anything that relates to the Sukkot holiday: 40 years wandering in the desert, a Sukkah, Aaron, Moses, the Tabernacle, or whatever you think of when you think of Sukkot. Enter the contest by scanning your drawing and submit it by email to: SRN@TJCI.org. All entries must be submitted by September 28th. We will post the winners’ drawings on our website.
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. (Exodus 13:21)
“Live in booths for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 23:42-43)
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling [sukkah] among 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)
When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle [sukkah] that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12)
Story of the Tabernacle
While the Hebrews were in the desert God told Moses to build Him a Tabernacle, a place where He could live among the people and they could go to worship Him.
Moses asked everyone whose hearts were willing to bring offerings for the Tabernacle. The Hebrews were so happy to have a special place for God in their camps that they brought Moses even more than what was needed. They offered huge amounts of gold, silver, bronze, fine linen, wood, oil, and spices.
God gave Moses exact directions for how the Tabernacle should look and how it should be made. Many artists, seamstresses, and builders were needed to construct the Tabernacle and its furnishings. They made curtains, a special golden Ark with two angels on top, a table for showbread, a golden candle stand, an altar to burn incense and a bronze bowl. They also made special clothes for the priests to wear.
God blessed the people for having willing hearts. A cloud of the Lord was above the Tabernacle by day and fire by night. The cloud led the children of Israel throughout all their journeys.
Build your own Tabernacle model in one hour using this template
Decorate your Sukkah
It is tradition to decorate a sukkah, in fact its even a good deed (mitzvah). There are no rules however on what you decorate your sukkah with. Sukkahs often have hanging fruit, pumpkins, Israeli flags, strings of lights, and plenty of crafts from children. Also there should be symbols of Sukkot and the Bible. Here are some ideas for how to decorate your sukkah.
Game: Learn how to build a Sukkah
Sukkot is also known as the “Feast of the Ingathering.” This agricultural festival was connected to the time of year when farmers in ancient Israel harvested all of their crops from the field. Since Sukkot is linked to the harvest it is tradtional to eat lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
*For Kids is created by Shelley Neese, vice president of The Jerusalem Connection.