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Judaism and Feast of Tabernacles

Customs and Traditions - Past and Present


From the book "Festivals of the Jewish Year" by Theodor H.
Gaster, written in 1952/53.

(Remember what you are reading is Judaism, some things correct
and some things not correct. Judaism has many traditions that are
not directly from the Scriptures - Keith Hunt)


The Festival of Ingathering

     Corresponding to the festival of Passover in spring is the
Feast of Booths (Succoth) in autumn. This, too, begins at full
moon in the first month of the season; this, too, is a harvest
festival; and this, too, is observed for eight days. Moreover,
just as Passover marks the beginning of the summer dews, so
Booths marks that of the winter rains.

The original name of the festival was Feast of Ingathering
(Asif); it celebrated the ingathering of summer-crops and fruits
and the close of the agricultural year. The date was at first
variable and indefinite; the feast took place whenever the
harvest happened to be in (Deut. 16:13). Later, however, when the
year came to be determined on an astronomical basis, the Feast of
Ingathering was made to begin either at the autumnal equinox
(Exod. 34:22) or at full moon in the appropriate lunar month. The
latter system is the one which has prevailed in Jewish practice.

(It was always set by the Lord within the calendar that the
elders of Israel formulated. So it still is to this very day set
by the Jewish calendar - Keith Hunt)

     The Feast of Ingathering was really but the concluding stage
of a longer festive season, the three principal moments of which
were: (a) the Memorial; (b) the Day of Purgation; and (c) the
harvest-home. The two former stages are now represented
respectively by New Year, on the first day of the lunar month,
and by the Day of Atonement, on the tenth. Prefaced by these two
solemn occasions, on which all noxious and evil influences are
ceremonially removed, the Feast of Ingathering marked both the
successful issue of the preceding year and the "clean start" of
the one which followed. It was therefore regarded as the most
important of all the seasonal festivals, and came to be known as 
"the festival" tout court.

     The principal features of the celebration were: (a) the
actual reaping of crops and fruits and the bringing in of the
vintage; (b) the performance of special ceremonies designed to
induce rainfall; (c) the custom of dwelling in booths (succoth)
or trellis-roofed cabins throughout the period of the festival.
Of these usages the most important was the last, and it was this
that gave the feast its popular name.


     The booths were originally functional in character; they
were simply the wattled cabins in which the harvesters and
vintners were wont to lodge during the time of the ingathering.
Such booths, made of plaited twigs of carob and oleander and
roofed with palm leaves, are still used in the Holy Land
throughout the period (from June to September) when the reaping
is in progress, and it is in this sense that the word "succah" is
usually employed in the Hebrew Bible.

     The primitive ceremonies for inducing rainfall can be
deduced only from a later survival in the days of the Second
Temple. The Mishnah tells us that on every day of the festival a
golden flagon was filled from the neighboring pool of Siloam and
carried to the Temple in gay procession. Delivered to the
officiating priest, it was then poured into a silver container,
the spout of which was trained upon the altar.
     This ceremony, known as the Water Libation (Nissuch
Ha-mayim), has abundant parallels in other parts of the world,
and is based on what is known as "sympathetic magic," that is, on
the primitive notion that things done by men may induce similar
actions on the part of nature or "the gods." Lucian of Samosata,
writing in the second century C.E., records an analogous practice
performed twice yearly in the pagan temple at Hierapolis
(Membij), Syria; while at Ispahan, in Iran, there is (or was) an
annual ceremony of rain-making which consisted in pouring water
on the ground; and in many parts of modern Palestine, rogations
for rain, accompanied by the ceremonial drenching of a little
girl known as "Mother Shower," are a common element of folk usage
in early spring. Interesting also is a more remote parallel from
the Mara tribe of northern Australia. In time of drought, the
local magician besprinkles himself with water and scatters drops
of it on the ground; this, it is believed, will induce rainfall.
The Mishnah likewise preserves the record of another magical
ceremony which would seem to go back to the  primitive observance
of the festival. On the evening of the first day, we are told,
men repaired to the precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem and lit
huge candelabra in the Court of the Women. "Men of piety and good
works" danced in front of them, waving burning torches, while
a throng of Levites, standing on the fifteen steps which divided
the Court of the Women from that of the Israelites, furnished
accompanying music. At the Nicanor Gate stood priests, holding
trumpets. At cockcrow, they ascended the steps and sounded a
series of prolonged and quavering blasts. When they reached the
gate which leads out to the east, they turned their faces
westward, in the direction of the Temple building, and cried:
"Our forefathers, when they were in this place, turned their
backs to the Temple of the Lord and their faces toward the rising
sun in the east [cf. Ezek. 8:16], but we - our eyes are turned
toward the Lord."

     This ceremony-known as the Rejoicing at the Beth Ha-Shoebah
- was originally a magical rite, its purpose being to rekindle
the decadent sun at the time of the autumnal equinox and to hail
it when it rose at dawn. Such a ceremony is likewise recorded by
Lucian, and a Christianized survival of it may be recognized in
the Festival of the Cross (Maskal) still observed by the
Ethiopian Church on September 26. Elsewhere, however, it is
usually combined with the idea of burning up all evil and harmful
influences at the start of the agricultural year. Thus, at Fez
and amid the Berber tribes of Morocco, it is customary to light
bonfires on the rooftops on the festival of 'Ashura, the
Mohammedan New Year, and for children and unmarried men to leap
through the flames while they say "We have shaken out over thee,
O bonfire, the fleas and lice and sickness both of body and of
soul!" The same custom obtains also in Tunis. Analogously, an
ancient Babylonian text which describes the ceremonies of the New
Year festival refers to the custom of tossing firebrands in the
air; Ovid tells us that the Romans leaped over fires and raced
through the fields with blazing torches at the beginning of the
year. To this day, bonfires are a standard feature of Halloween
ceremonies in most parts of Europe, and Halloween was, of course,
the eve of the ancient New Year.

(And so the Jews were influenced by pagan nations and their so-
called "quaint" customs, and adopted and added and adapted such,
to their festivals - Keith Hunt)

     For Israel, this purely agricultural aspect of the festival
was not enough. Like Passover and Pentecost, so too the Feast of
Booths had to possess a historical as well as a seasonal
significance; it had to exemplify the presence of God not only in
the world of nature but also in that of event; and it had in some
way to symbolize and epitomize Israel's continuing covenant with
     The transformation was accomplished by an ingenious device:

the traditional booths were interpreted as a reminder of those in
which the ancestors of Israel had dwelt when they wandered
through the wilderness on their journey from Egypt to the
Promised Land! The festival thus became a logical sequel to
Passover and Pentecost, which commemorated respectively the
escape from bondage and the conclusion of the Covenant at Sinai.
Moreover, by themselves dwelling in booths at this season, each
successive generation of Jews could be said to be sharing in that
experience and thereby endowing it with a perpetual character.
This interpretation was, of course, purely fanciful; the cold
fact is that people who wander through deserts live in tents, not
booths, wood and green leaves being unavailable except at rare
and intermittent oases. To be sure, the point is not really
important; the "myth" which is woven around a traditional
institution is usually more indebted to fancy than to fact, and
its validity lies not in its historical accuracy or authenticity
but in the transcendental truths which it focuses and conveys.
Nevertheless, throughout the ages Jewish scholars and teachers
felt a little uneasy about the story of the booths in the
wilderness, and alternative interpretations were therefore

(A good point - the Israelites in the wilderness would have had
tents, but the writer fails to see that some instructions for
this celebration was for the time that Israel inherited the
Promised land note Lev.23:40 and context. So yes, God already
made provision for when they would be in the promised land -
Keith Hunt)

     It was observed, for instance, that in sundry passages of
the Bible, the word succah - or, more precisely, its masculine
equivalent, sok-serves, by poetic metaphor, to denote the temple
of God in Jerusalem, and that both the First and Second Temples
are said expressly to have been dedicated at the Feast of Booths.
This at once suggested that the seasonal booths might be regarded
as a symbol of that holy habitation. The idea finds repeated
expression in the traditional liturgy of the festival. Typical is
a medieval hymn chanted during the morning service of the first
day, in which a sustained contrast is drawn between the heavenly
and earthly tabernacles. The poem is full of recondite allusions
and quaint conceits, but its general spirit and tenor may perhaps
be conveyed by the following partial and paraphrastic rendering.

Where flaming angels walk in pride, 
Where ministers of light abide, 
Where cavalries of heaven ride, 
Where souls have rest at eventide, 
There, 'mid the sapphire and the gold, 
God's tabernacle rose of old.

Yet here, as in a mead aflower, 
Here, as in a bridal bower,
Here, where songs of praise and power, 
Wreathe Him, every day and hour, 
Here, in an earthly booth as well 
His glory did not spurn to dwell. 1

1 Az hayethah hanayath sukko, by Eleazar Kalir; Adler-Davis,
Taber-nacles, p.212.

     In the same way, in a poem recited on the eve of the second
day, the ruined Temple is likened to a booth fallen to pieces:

Thy tabernacle which is fallen down 
Rebuild, O Lord, and raise it once again!

     Alternatively, the succah was given a continuing historical
meaning by being identified with the protective providence of
God, spread like a pavilion over His chosen people. Says the same
poem, in reference to the Exodus from Egypt:

Thy cloud enfolded them, as if that they 
Were shelter'd in a booth; redeem'd and free, 
They saw Thy glory as a canopy
Spread o'er them as they marched upon their way.
And when dryshod they through the sea had gone, 
They praised Thee and proclaimed Thy unity; 
And all the angels sang the antiphon,
And lifted up their voices unto Thee.
"Our Rock, our Savior He" - thus did they sing
"World without end the Lord shall reign as King!" 2

     Whatever meaning be given to it, Jewish tradition iinsists
that the seasonal succah must be in every sense a true booth; no
mere token substitute will do. Specifications are laid down
clearly in the Mishnah. The succah must not be lower than five
feet, nor higher than thirty; and it must possess at least three
sides. It may not be roofed with matting or burlap, but only with
lightly strewn leaves or straw. It must be exposed to the
elements and to a view of the stars. Moreover, since the task of
erecting it is regarded as an essential part of the commandment,
no permanent structure may serve.

2 "Yephi ananechd," by Jehiel ben Isaac (XIIIth cent.);
Adler-Davis, p.218.

     The duty of eating and sleeping in the succah is incumbent
upon all adult males; women and minors alone are exempt. Since,
however, it is often impossible to observe this rule in modern
cities, modifications of it have been introduced. According to
some authorities, at least one meal must be taken in the booth
each day and each night of the festival; according to others, it
is sufficient if one eats in the succah on the first night only.
In either case, nothing must be done to lessen the discomfort or
even hardship which may attend the observance; rain water, for
instance, may be baled out only if it "threatens to spoil the

(I have shown and proved in other studies that the physical
attachments to this feast are no longer an issue under the New
Covenant. The "spirit and heart" of the matter is today the MOST
important aspect of this festival. Those living in Greenland and
other northerly countries or the arctic circle, would find trying
to live in such a make-shift booth enough to quench any
enthusiasm for this feast, especially for children, the elderly,
and the un-cobverted - Keith Hunt)

     But the booth was not the only feature of the earlier pagan
festival which the genius of Israel transformed and transmuted.

(No, while pagan nations did have their fall festivals to their
gods, this Feast celbration was directly ordained of God. Some
pagan people, under the influence of Satan the Devil do "copy"
God's feasts, some very close to the same time; i.e. Sunday
observance, right next to the Lord's Sabbath day, of the 7th day
of the week - Keith Hunt)

     The Biblical commandment ordains that "ye shall take you, on
the first day, the fruit of a goodly tree, palm-branches, foliage
of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice
seven days before Jehovah your God" (Lev. 23:40). What is
envisaged is evidently no more than the carrying of a gay bunch
such as is borne by revelers at harvest festivals in many parts
of the world. The most obvious example is, of course, the
European maypole, in spring, for although this was later
conventionalized as a single beribboned post set up on the
village green, it was originally a green bough carried by each of
the revelers in token of nature's revival. In Cornwall, England,
for example, doors and porches used to be decked on May Morn with
boughs of sycamore and hawthorn; in Sweden and in parts of Alsace
boys and girls used to march around the villages carrying festive
bunches. Nor are such usages unattested in ancient times. At the
beginning of spring, it was customary in ancient Greece for
children to make the rounds of houses in the manner of modern
carol singers, bearing a leafy bough and chanting an appropriate
ditty; and the carrying of wands (thyrsoi) wreathed with fresh
leaves and topped with pine cones was a prominent feature of the
winter festival of Dionysus. Moreover, on a Cretan seal dating
from the second millenium B.C.E., suppliants of a female deity
are portrayed bearing flowering wands; while the prophet Ezekiel,
satirizing the pagan "abominations" performed in Jerusalem during
high summer, observes significantly, "The rod has blossomed -
arrogance has flowered" (7:10).

     In Jewish tradition, however, the festive branch and bunch
(called lulab) was invested at once with a historical as well as
a seasonal significance. The various ingredients of the bunch -
somewhat arbitrarily identified as the beautiful but scentless
palm branch, the beautiful and fragrant citron (ethrog), the
humble but sweet-smelling myrtle, and the simple, unprepossessing
willows - were taken to symbolize the characters and virtues of
the ancient patriarchs, and when they were carried in procession
around the synagogue during the morning services of the festival,
this was regarded as a memorial of the circuits which the priests
used to make around the altar on the Feast of Booths. Moreover,
the ceremony came to be accompanied by the chanting of
hosha'anoth--that is, of poetic litanies punctuated by the
refrain Hosanna (O save us!), and to this day these litanies are
associated specifically with incidents in the lives and careers
of the patriarchs and of other ancestral worthies.

     On the first day, God is invoked to remember all those inci-
dents which involved the number one, e.g., the fact that Abraham
had been the one true believer in his generation; that Isaac had
been delivered from sacrifice by the substitution of "one ram
caught in a thicket" (Gen. 22:13); that Moses had transmitted to
Israel the one true Law. 
     On the second day, reference is made to Abraham's journey to
Mount Moriah in the company of two servants (Gen. 22:3); to
Isaac's having been the ancestor of two great nations; to Jacob's
having acquired the parental blessing by dressing two kids for
his aged father (Gen. 27:9); and to Moses' having brought down
from Sinai two tables of stone. 
     On the third day, the litany alludes to the three angels
whom Abraham (Gen. 18:2); to Moses' having formed a triad with
Aaron and Miriam; and to his having divided the people into the
threefold division of priests, Levites and Israelites.

     Dexterously, and sometimes even tortuously, the same scheme
is carried through for the remaining days of the festival. On the
seventh day - known as "Hoshanna Rabba," or the Great Hosanna
example, when seven circuits are made, not only do these
commemorate the seven worthies, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses
and Aaron, Phineas and David, but they also serve to call to mind
the first seven days of the world; the seven lambs set apart by
Abraham in his covenant with Abimelech at the well of Beersheba
(Gen. 21:28); the seven years of famine endured by Jacob; and the
seven-day festivals ordained by Moses.

     Thus, although in itself not so readily capable of
historicization as is the succah, the lulab is nonetheless
securely wedded to the historical interpretation of the festival.
     The same process was applied also to the ceremony of the
Water Libation. All that now remains of the ancient rite is the
custom of offering special prayers for rain on the eighth day of
the festival, the cantor or precentor being usually attired for
the occasion in the same long white robe (kittel) which he wears
on Passover during the recital of the prayers for dew and which
he also dons on New Year and the Day of Atonement. These prayers,
however, have been thoroughly integrated with the historical
aspect of the festival. The rain is besought in the name of such
ancestral heroes as Abraham, Isaac, and Moses, and God is invoked
to remember all those moments of their careers in which water
played a part. The following lines from a medieval poem embodied
in the Ashkenazic (German-Polish) liturgy will serve to
illustrate the pattern: 3

Remember him whose heart outflowed to Thee 
Like water; unto whom Thy blessing came 
That he should thrive and flourish like a tree 
Beside a stream; whom Thou didst save from flame 
And water; that his offspring might abide
Like seed which grows the running brooks beside.

Remember him whose birth was heralded 
By angels, when his father washed their feet 
With water; 4  who his blood would fain have shed 
Like water; 5  whom his servitors did greet
With tales of water found where none before 
Had e'er been sighted in the days of yore. 6

Remember him who from the river deep
Was drawn; of whom the seven maidens said: 
"Water he drew for us and gave our sheep
To drink;" 7  who through the torrid desert led

3 "Zeehor ab" by Eleazar Kalir; Adler-Davis, p.138. `
4 Compare Gen. 18:1-4.
5 i.e., when he was destined for sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Gen. 

6 Compare Gen. 26:19-22, 32.
7 i.e., the seven daughters of Reuel (or Jethro); cf. Exod.      


Thy people and, himself for this accurs'd, 
Struck water from the rock to slake their thirst.

     At the same time, the Jewish genius insists that history is
a living and continuing experience, and not merely a remembrance
of things past. The ceremony is therefore wedded also to the
present and immediate situation of the Jewish people, for the
poem concludes:

Remember them for whom Thou didst divide 
The sea, and sweet the bitter waters make; 
Whose children's children, beaten and decried, 
Pour out their blood like water for Thy sake! 
Turn Thou to us, O Lord, and make us whole; 
For lo, great waters swirl about our soul!


     As in the case of Passover and Pentecost, so, too, in that
of the Feast of Booths, the seasonal and historical aspects of
the festival are made to run parallel, so that the same truths
may be expressed concurrently on two different planes. The
essential point about the festival, alike in its seasonal and in
its historical aspect, is that what it celebrates is not an
achievement but a prospect, not something finally accomplished
but something which has been but begun and the consummation of
which lies in the future. 

     On the seasonal plane, the Feast of Booths marks the
ingathering of the harvest and the onset of the rains; but the
harvest is consumed only in the ensuing months, and when the
festival actually takes place, none but the first token drops of
rain have yet fallen. 
     Similarly, on the historical plane, the festival
commemorates not the actual entry of the Israelites into the
Promised Land but the fact that, in the sure and certain hope of
it, they wandered in a wilderness for forty years, protected only
by the shelter of fragile booths.

All of these ideas are caught up and reflected not only in the
poems and hymns interspersed throughout the liturgy, but also -
and more strikingly - in the lessons from the Law and the
Prophets which are appointed to be read during the morning

     On the first end second-days of the festival, two portions
are read from the Law. The first is taken from that section of
the Book of Leviticus (22:26--33:44) in which the seasonal feasts
are ordained. It is here that the succah is explained as a
memorial of the booths in the wilderness, and it is here too that
the carrying of the festive bunch is prescribed. The other
portion is taken from Numbers 29:12-16 and describes the special
sacrifices offered in the tabernacle and the temple on the first
day of the feast.

     The Lesson from the prophets is the fourteenth chapter of
the Book of Zechariah. The ostensible reason for this choice is
that the prophet there foretells how, in days to come, "every one
that is left of all the nations that came up against Jerusalem
shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of
Hosts, and to keep the feast of booths" (vs.16). It would appear,
however, that there is really far more behind the selection than
this single passing allusion to the festival; for the fact is
that throughout the chapter the prophet seems to be playing on
the characteristic phenomena of this season, as if he were
delivering a sermon especially geared to the traditional
ceremonies. Thus, when he says that "on that day . . . there
shall be a singular kind of day (it is known to Jehovah), not day
and not night, for at evening time there shall be light" (vs.7),
it is not difficult to recognize in his words a projection into
mythology of the autumnal equinox at which the Feast of Booths
anciently took place (cf. Exod. 34:22). Similarly, when he goes
on to predict that "in that day, living waters shall go out from
Jerusalem . . . in summer and winter it shall be" (vs.8), and
that "upon those of the families of the earth that go not up to
Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of Hosts, there shall be
no rain" (vs.17), he is painting a picture of future times in
terms of the seasonal conditions which obtain at the Feast of
Booths, for that festival falls at a period of the year in which
rain is still scarce and the beds of the rivers have not yet been
replenished and the earth is moistened chiefly by the "perpetual

     The same tendency to project the features of the festival
into a picture of the future age also characterizes the lessons
chosen for the intermediate sabbath. The portion from the Law
Exod. 33:12--34:26) describes the conclusion of the Covenant at
Sinai and ends by relating to it the observance of the three
great seasonal festivals. The portion from the prophets, however
(Ezek. 38:18--39:16), deals with the war which Jehovah will
wage at the end of days against Gog and Magog. At first sight, it
is difficult to see why the latter passage should have been
selected, for it would seem to have no ostensible bearing upon
the Feast of Booths. If, however, we look more closely, an
extremely interesting fact emerges: the details of the doom which
awaits the opponents of Jehovah can readily be construed as a
projecyion into the future times of several leading features of
the autumn festival.

     It is said, for instance, that Jehovah "will rain upon Gog
and his hordes . . . torrential rains" (38:22); and this message
would, of course, have had significance when it was recited at
the festival, which, in fact, inaugurated the rainy season and on
which, according to a bekief recorded in the Mishnah, "the world
is judged through water." Similarly, the prophet declares that
Jehovah "will send fire on Magog" (39:6) and that "those who
dwell in the cities of Israel will go forth and make fires of the
weapons and burn them" (39:9); and these words would likewise
have sounded with particular effect upon the ears of people who
were actually performing the rite of kindling fires for the
Rejoicing at the Beth Ha-Shoebah. Moreover, when the prophet
further describes how Jehovah "will appoint for Gog a place of
burial in Israel" where "he and all his multitude will be buried"
(39:11), it might De possible to detect an ironic allusion to the
common pagan custom of burying and subsequently disinterring at
this season little dolls and puppets representing the god (or
goddess) of fertility who was believed to die and be resurrected
from year to year.

(I think the latter is stretching it to a degree that does not
need to be stretched. It should be obvious that this passage
being read for this festival of booth, is the overall knowledge
that when the Kingdom of God comes, when Israel is safe and in
peace, the Lord will put down all the enemies of Israel, and if
they try to harm the people of Israel they will be buried even on
Israel's soil - Keith Hunt)


     On the other hand, the portion from the prophets selected
for the second day strikes an entirely different note. This
describes be Solomon's dedication of the First Temple on the
Feast of Booths (I Kings 8:2-21). Its primary purpose is thus to
drive home the lesson that the seasonal booth is but a symbol of
that holy habitation lesson which also informs the selection for
the eighth day, when, as a supplement to Deut. 15:19--16:17 (the
laws of the seasonal festivals), the continuation of that
passage, containing Solomon's prayer on the occasion, is recited
(I Kings 8:54-66).
     There were, of course, some features of the earlier pagan
festival which did not lend themselves so readily to
reinterpretation and which were therefore discarded or survived
only in extremely attenuated form. The fire rites, for instance,
disappeared entirely, since it was contrary to Jewish belief to
imagine that men could rekindle the sun or in any way influence
the course of nature. Similarly, all that now remains of the
festival's original connection with the equinox is the custom of
solemnly blessing the sun on the Feast of Booths every twenty
years or so, when the lunar and solar cycles happen to be
completed at about the same time.

(The Jews over time, were willing to drop rites that were
introduced in times past, that had no bearing of the original
Feast of Tanerbacles as prescribed by the Lord under Moses - some
adoptions of pagan customs would be seen very clearly by nations
from whom those customs came, and would bring the Jews under
somewhat of a ridicule and made fun of; some things just had to
be dropped for the overall credit to be given the Jewish people -
Keith Hunt)


     On the other hand, there is one ancient "functional" rite
which has indeed survived almost unaltered, though so different a
meaning is now read into it that its original purport can no
longer be recognized. This is the custom of "beating hosannas" -
that is, of taking extra twigs and beating off their leaves upon
the lectern during the recital of the Hosanna litanies on the
seventh day. 
     The conventional explanation of this practice is that it
symbolizes the frailty of human lives, which fade and fall "thick
as autumnal leaves which strew the brooks in Vallombrosa." The
truth is, however, that it harks back to a primitive and fairly
universal belief that the willow is a symbol of fertility and to
the consequent custom of beating people with branches of that
tree in order to induce potency and increase. Throughout Europe,
for example, "Easter smacks," administered in this fashion, are a
characteristic feature of the great spring festival. Thus, in
Croatia, those who attend church on this occasion "beat health"
into one another with rods of willow, while in several parts of
Germany and Austria the same practice obtains on St. Stephen's
Day (December 26) or on Holy Innocents' Day (December 28); and in
Russia it is (or was) common on Palm Sunday. In ancient Greek
ritual, at the major seasonal festival, human scapegoats were
beaten with squills of willow or agnus castus in order, at one
and the same time, to beat out sterility and beat in fecundity.
Nor, indeed, was this beating always confined to human beings;
the poet Theocritus informs us that in times of drought the
youths of Arcadia used to smite the statue of the god Pan.

(This book was written in 1952/53 and such customs may have well
gone by the wayside today in those countries mentioned - Keith

     It must be confessed that of the three seasonal festivals
which punctuate the Jewish year, the Feast of Booths has suffered
most from the conditions of modern life and that, for all the
tenacity of its observance, it is the one which possesses for the
modern Jew the least contemporary relevance.

     The first reason for this is purely practical.

     Traditionally, as we have seen, the principal feature of the
festival is the erection of the succah in the precincts of one's
own home. This was intended not only to commemorate the
experience of the ancient Israelites but also to provide their
living descendants with a means of sharing in it. In most modern
cities, however, this is obviously impossible, and the
conventional substitute is a communal succah set up in the
courtyard of the synagogue. But this involves not only a
curtailment of the traditional rite but also an attenuation of
its significance. In the first place, the element of personal
labor and construction disappears altogether; the succah is put
up by paid employees or professional contractors. Second,
although the matrons of the congregation may indeed foregather, a
few days before the festival, to deck the structure with fruits
and flowers, in cities where most people live in apartments
rather than in private houses these do not, as a rule, represent
offerings from their own gardens or orchards, but are simply
bought for cash at the local greengrocer and florist. Last, a
perfunctory visit to the succah after the synagogue service is
obviously no substitute for actually living and sleeping in it:
what should be a reproduction of ancestral hardship becomes mere
attendance at a social function, and the succah itself is reduced
to an artistic showpiece. Small wonder, then, that the festival
loses its personal immediacy.

(For the true Christian it does not loose its personal touch, not
at all. The physical symbols, like many things under the Old
Covenant, are the least important. Some symbols have been changed
i.e. Passover service is now bread and fruit of the vine, as
instituted by Christ Himself. Other physical rites have been
abolished, such as physical circumcision. The physical is the
very least important concern, though some physical remains, like
putting out leaven and eating unleavened bread during the feast
of Unleavened Bread (see 1 Cor.5 and proven in other studies the
NT church did practice this physical part of that Feast); the
spiritual is the key of importance today, the worshipping of God
in spirit and in truth, as Jesus said had come and would continue
[that is found in the gospel of John] - Keith Hunt)

     The other reason for Succoth's decline is ideological.

     Passover and the Feast of Weeks, though geared to particular
events in the past, epitomize and focus elements of Judaism which
continue in the present - namely, the progressive mission and
adventure of Israel, its persistent struggle for freedom, and its
special Covenant with God. In this continuous adventure, in this
struggle and in this Covenant, every Jew in every generation is
personally involved, so that observance of these festivals is a
direct personal experience, part and parcel of his own individual
life, and not a mere act of pious remembering. The Feast of
Booths, on the other hand, seems (apart from its seasonal
significance) to be moored and anchored to a single specific
event, to the particular situation of a particular group at a
particular moment of time. At a distance of more than three
thousand years and miles, the modern Jew finds it difficult to
recognize in the incident of his forefathers' sojourn in booths
anything in the nature of a continuing experience which he can
personally repeat - especially when the historicity of that event
is itself more than doubtful. (What, hummmm, did he say
"doubtful"? Yes he did! Obviously this fellow does not take the
Bible as fully "inspired" - if he did, there would be NO doubt -
Keith Hunt)

     Once again, therefore, the festival degenerates into a mere

     Viewed in the proper light, however, the Feast of Booths can
indeed possess a continuing significance no whit inferior, and in
fact complementary to, that of the other seasonal festivals. For
if Passover and the Feast of Weeks exemplify, in the stories of
the Exodus and the Covenant, the trials, achievements, and
obligations, first of Israel and then of mankind in general, the
transcendental theme of the Feast of Booths is the persistent
hope and confidence without which all such trials are
insupportable, all such achievements impossible, and all such
obligations unacceptable. Thus interpreted, the festival is
pertinent not only to every generation but also to every
individual. For every individual can at once recognize in it an
experience which is paralleled in his own life; every individual
knows that the only sure sustainment of labor is hope, and that
the Promised Land is reached only after years of wandering. Thus,
too, it becomes clear why the dominant note of the festival is
joy and not austerity, why the Biblical commandment enjoins
especially that "thou shalt be altogether joyful" (Dent. 16:15),
and why the Feast of Booths is known in Jewish tradition as "the
season of our rejoicing."

(Now he gets at the truth of the matter and why this Feast of
Tabernacles IS important to the Christian today, and why is is a
feast of rejoicing. It protrays the GREAT KINGDOM OF GOD ON EARTH
FOR 1,000 YEARS. And all of that I have expounded upon in many
various studies on this Website - Keith Hunt)

     The Feast of Booths is followed immediately by a festival
which is called in the Bible by the name "Azereth." The meaning
of this term (conventionally rendered "Solemn Assembly"), and
hence the original significance of the festival, is quite
uncertain, no explanation of it being given in the Scriptural
text. In the Book of Deuteronomy, however, it is applied also 
(16:8) to the last day of Passover, and in the Mishnah to the
Feast of Weeks, while its Arabic equivalent is today the current
term for Easter. It must therefore have applied in the first
place to some feature of the seasonal celebrations common alike
to the vernal and autumnal harvests. What this feature was can
only be guessed, but seeing that the root of the word azereth
normally means "restrain," it is not impossible that it
originally denoted a day of abstinence and austerity which marked
the end of the reaping and the real beginning of the new
agricultural cycle.
The Festival of Azereth coincides in part with the extra day
which was added to the Feast of Booths. 


This feast and what the author writes concerning it can be found
in another study in this section of the Website.

Why does the author find it difficult to explain the meaning of
this LAST GREAT FEAST? It is because he and thousands of other
religious teachers, do not understand the PLAN of salvation that
the Eternal God is working out here below. That plan is all
explained on this Website.

Keith Hunt

September 2009

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