A Spiritual Sukkot
Rabbi Yehudah ben Shomeyr
The debate over whether it is best to observe the letter of the Law or the Spirit of the Law, rages on within Messianic and Natsari Judaism. Also in the mix is the Rabbinic concept of Life over Law; which is the ability to temporarily suspend a commandment in a literal life or death situation. This even Yeshua acknowledged and consented to (Matt. 12:11, Luke 14:5) regarding extricating an animal from a pit on the Sabbath day.
How is one to take these concepts? How does one apply such to ones life in regards to Sukkot? How much, if any, Rabbinic traditions does one observe when celebrating Sukkot?
Let’s look at the traditional passage in the Torah regarding Sukkot before we answer:
Lev. 23:33-44 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of tabernacles for seven days unto the Lord.On the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: on the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord: it is a solemn assembly; and ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the Lord, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, to offer an offering made by fire unto the Lord, a burnt offering, and a meat offering, a sacrifice, and drink offerings, every thing upon his day: Beside the sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your freewill offerings, which ye give unto the Lord. Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath. And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. And ye shall keep it a feast unto the Lord seven days in the year. It shall be a statute for ever in your generations: ye shall celebrate it in the seventh month. Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the Lord.
First off let me say that Sukkot is my absolute favorite High Holy Day of them all. I suppose because I like camping so much. Each year, here in the Great White North (Canada) I have spent a lot of time and money to faithfully built my Rabbinically and Biblically Kosher three sided Sukkah with a leafy roof only to become frustrated because I could only spend two good days out of the seven out in the Sukkah due to inclement weather. Either it would be frigid cold, rain to beat the band or gale force winds would wreck the Sukkah and ruin practically everything in it.
I may get a lot of flak for writing this, going against conventional Judaism and expressing my opinions based on Torah, but so be it. You are not my judge, but my Elohim is, may He judge me in His righteousness.
How can I truly rejoice and enjoy Sukkot and how does G-d get the glory when I can only use the Sukkah two out of the seven days!? Though the mitzvot are eternal and applicable to everyone, everywhere; it was written to be followed within the context of observing them within the Land of Promise, Israel. Though G-d in His omniscience knew that many of His Children would live and keep the mitzvot in the diaspora; the Torah Itself does not specifically show us how to keep the Torah in the various places of our exile round the globe. I therefore seeing as I am made in the image and likeness of our G-d, I must use my closeness to the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and coupled with my G-d given common sense and adapt in the land of my dispersion. In Divine foreknowledge HaShem knew some of His Children (like me) would live in areas of the world that have inclement weather when Sukkot rolls around and I know He doesn’t expect His Children to live outside and endure harsh weather to the detriment of their health just in order to fulfill the letter of the Law.
This year I will observe Sukkot in the Spirit of the Law and fulfill the Letter of the Law whenever possible. I am pitching a tent in my living room facing my eastern picture window so I can live all seven days in the Sukkah and still be able to see the stars from my tent.
Some may say I am compromising or getting soft or to liberal, so be it, I will let HaShem Himself judge between me and my observance of the mitzvot. I prefer to believe I am not compromising or getting soft, but becoming balanced in my observance.
The Lulav and Etrog. How many of you live where Etrogs, myrtle, willows and palm trees grow? So because the Torah and Rabbinic literature specify the use of these items does it mean we show pay an arm and a leg to have these items shipped to us so we can wave the before the L-RD during Sukkot? I don’t think so, at least for those of us living in the diaspora. Most of those items are not indigenous to the areas in which many of us live and therefore would hold little meaning. The ridiculous prices for Lulavs and Etrogs; it is a game of moneychangers! I for one in the spirit of Messiah am toppling such tables.
This year, I will look for relatives of the four species in my area. We have types of willow and myrtles here and I will use those. But instead of the palm, I will use the corn stalk, for it is actually a relative of the palm. And instead of the etrog I will use an apple. Sukkot is a harvest festival and we should use fruits of the land relevant and meaningful to us. Where I lie that would be corn, apples and potatoes, not dates, figs, barely or what have you.
I pray this will help those Torah Obedient Believers who find themselves in inclement areas in the diaspora and will settle their hearts and minds and give them the knowledge and courage to celebrate Sukkot in joy and freedom without any condemnation.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Messiah Yeshua, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Don’t know about you, but I plan for this to be the best Sukkot ever!