Yeshua Celebrates Sukkot
The Torah is clear that it is incumbent upon every Jew that is of age to participate in the Feasts of the LORD as outlined in Leviticus 23. And not keeping the Torah is defined as sin (I John 3:4), and so for Yeshua to qualify as Messiah He had to be sinless and keep perfectly the Torah and thus celebrate the Feasts. We see in the Besorah (Gospel) accounts that Yeshua did indeed keep the Feasts, especially Sukkot.
The First Sukkot Yeshua ever celebrated is the day He was born.
There was no snow on the ground that fateful night, no wise men either; they didn’t come on the scene till two years later. Just animals and a few shepherds. The time of the year was not December but the Hebrew month of Tishrei, during the festival of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, which falls during September or October of the secular calendar.
Luke 2:1-5 And it came to pass in those days, that there
went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And
this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of
.) And all
went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Syria Galilee, out of the city of , into Nazareth Judaea,
unto the city of ,
which is called David ;
(because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his
espoused wife, being great with child. Bethlehem
You see, Caesar Augustus was a smart cookie. He knew the Jews would be all in one place, and going back to their hometowns for the last of the three pilgrimage festivals and He probably thought, “Since everyone is in one place, might as well kill two birds with one stone and collect taxes and a census.”
During Sukkot, every Jewish family by Torah is required to build a 3 sided hut for the festival to (if weather permits) live in or at least have a meal, a study or a time of prayer in there. It commemorates the 40 years that
and camped in the desert. If one’s life or health was at risk they were not
required to stay in a sukkah and seeing as Miriam (Mary) being pregnant with
Yeshua (Jesus) Yosef (Joseph) sought out an inn but to no avail. Israel
And as fate would have it, they ended up in a sukkah anyway! Have you ever noticed most nativity scene? The figurines are usually under a 3 sided structure with a straw like roof… in other words, a sukkah! For the Messiah to be qualified as Messiah He had to obey the Torah in everyway and God caused it so that Yeshua was born in a sukkah!
During the intermediary days of Sukkot when it is permissible to work communal sukkah’s would be erected at worksites so people could fulfill the commandment of dwelling in a sukkah and celebrate Sukkot even at work. People would take rest and meal breaks under the sukkah. Back then,
had gardens and farms in order to provide food for their guests who lodged
there. You just couldn’t run to the local supermarket or convenient store if
you ran out of milk. And so we find a sukkah build for the workers on the
property of this Inn Keeper where Miriam and Yosef had to stay because the Baby
wouldn’t wait for them to find a nice clean hotel room.
It was most likely the Eve of Sukkot when we find Miriam and Yosef at the
Now seeing as they wouldn’t be staying in a hotel room and by necessity for
Yosef to fulfill the command of building and dwelling in a Sukkah, according to
Rabbinic Law it was acceptable for the Inn Keeper to give the sukkah to Yosef
as a gift with the condition it be returned after the Festival, and for it to
truly be Yosef’s and for him to fulfill the command of building a sukkah all
that was required of Yosef is that he put a few branches on top the roof. I
believe he did this while being quite the MacGyver and turning a feeding trough
into a crib in a mad rush to prepare the sukkah for Miriam to deliver the Baby.
Yeshua said Himself that He is the Bread of Life (John ). Yeshua was born in Beit-Lechem,
, being translated, the House of
Bread. And when He was born He was laid in, of all things, a feeding trough, a
manger, in which grain, which is used to make bread, was put to feed the
livestock. And in the Scriptures, especially in Psalm 23, we are likened as
unto sheep, who at times eat grain. Bethlehem
John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
The word “dwelt” comes from the word “sukkah”. So we can say Yeshua housed himself in a sukkah of flesh and “sukkah-ed” among us. This word “sukkah” as in it the root word “Shekinah” which is used to describe the manifest presence of God dwelling or “sukkah-ing” among
in the Tabernacle and Israel .
So Yeshua the Messiah, the figurative Son of God, the emanation of God Himself
“sukkah-ed,” now in flesh among Israel as He did in a cloud in the Tabernacle
and Temple. Temple
Luke 2:21 speaks of the 8th day after Yeshua’s birth, which if indeed He was born on Sukkot would fall on the last day of Sukkot, which is now called Simchat Torah, His Torah Observant Parents took Him to enter into the Abrahamic Covenant via circumcision. Some may argue that the 8th day of Sukkot is like a Sabbath and no circumcisions were preformed on Sabbath, but they did not have all the Rabbinic rules they have today which some argue prohibits or discourages such activities. Yeshua proclaimed Himself that the tradition of His day was that it was permissible to circumcise on Sabbath (John ).
Fast forward to Yeshua as an adult.
Mathew 17, we see Yeshua going up to the place of His transfiguration. A few
verses before, in ,
He speaks to His disciples of denying and afflicting themselves; two themes
which are taught on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonements). Now, let’s look at the
timeline. In Matthew 17:1 we see that it is six days later is the second day of
Tabernacles. It was the second day, because the first and 8th day
they stayed put and didn’t travel anywhere because it those days are treated
and considered like Sabbaths in which it is required one to rest and not work
or travel. Also, they would have been attending services at the
and or synagogues
being a good Jew and as was His custom (Luke ). Temple
As we read on we find that Moshe (Moses) and Eliyahu (Elijah), representing the Law and the Prophets as well as current and future fulfillment of Messianic Prophecy, appear and converse with Yeshua as He had been transfigured before the eyes of his talmidim (disciples). At this point many Christians foolishly think Kefa (Peter) desires to build a shrine to all three in order to worship or at best revere them. No, he didn’t want to build a shrine to worship all three of them. He basically was saying, “Hey! If Moshe and Eliyahu are gonna stick around for Sukkot, let’s build them and You (speaking to Yeshua) a sukkah!” For it was required that all Jewish males of age have their own sukkah. Kefa also was a Torah Obedient Jew and was just zealous to obey the Torah concerning Sukkot on this unprecedented occasion.
Right after Yeshua and His three intimate talmidim (Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochannon/ Peter, James and John) descent from the mount they encounter a man with a demon possessed son in which his other 9 talmidim could not exercise from the boy. Immediately Yeshua proceeds to deliver the boy from this demon and return him sound and whole to his father.
On another Sukkot (John 7) we see falls on the heels of a very controversial time in Yeshua’s ministry as many Jewish authorities sought to kill him at this time. In chapter six of the Besorah of Yochannon (Gospel of John) we see Yeshua from Pesach (Passover) to Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) feeding 5,000, calming storms, walking on water, proclaiming Himself to be heavenly bread and the sustainer of life itself, in other words saying He was G-d in the flesh. This is also the chapter and verse 6:66 where it says many of his talmidim abandoned Him due to his unorthodox and mystical teachings about Himself which they misunderstood and took out of context.
Now we find the communities in an uproar about Him and it is time to celebrate Sukkot. His half-brothers from Miriam and Yosef, not believing His claims and possibly thinking He is crazy or possessed Himself, challenges Yeshua to stop poking around in secret and proclaim Himself publicly with signs and wonders to be the Messiah if indeed He is so. But as Yeshua said it wasn’t the right time to do this, implying there would be a right time to do what they challenged Him to do. So for now, Yeshua takes of his Rabbi’s tallit and kippah and dresses like a commoner and goes to the Festival of Sukkot incognito to escape the Jewish authorities who sought His life and He begins to teach the people looking like an uneducated, average Jewish Joe and thus the people say at first,
“How does this Man know letters, not having learned?” (The Scriptures) Yochannon 7:15
Then through His teaching the people realize it is Yeshua in disguise and thus teaching them not to judge a book by its cover, but its content (John ). The lesson hits home and the people become divided regarding if He is the Messiah and if so are the Jewish Authorities conspiring to keep this fact from the common man? By this time His detractors are gathering to try and apprehend Him, but they verse mysteriously says that they could not nab Him.
“Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come. (John 7:30, KJV)”
Next we see Yeshua at the Sukkot water pouring ceremony:
“He who has not witnessed the rejoicing at the water-drawing huts has, throughout the whole of his life, witnessed no real rejoicing.” (Sukkah 53b).
Yeshua wasn’t against man made traditions or Oral Torah as long as it didn’t nullify the Written Torah. For in the Brit Chadasha we find Yeshua keeping holidays and traditions not commanded in the Written Torah.
“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."” John 7:37-38 (NKJ)
If one carefully studies Talmud and Jewish traditions you will find where Yeshua even added himself into those things as well as the prophecies in the Torah and Tanak.
So how did this water pouring ceremony become such a fixed part of Judaism, even to this day?
While water was poured each day of the festival, the special celebrations were held only on Chol Hamoed since many of the elements of the celebration (e.g., the playing of musical instruments) are forbidden on Yom Tov.
Today, we commemorate these joyous celebrations by holding Simchat Beit HaShoeivah ("joy of the water drawing") events in the streets, with music and dancing. The Lubavitcher Rebbe initiated the custom of holding such celebrations on Shabbat and Yom Tov as well -- without musical instruments of course. The fact that we cannot celebrate as we did in the
And why was this ritual so significant, especially in Yeshua’s time?
Well, first off the Cohenim (Levitical Priests) had a special schedule during Sukkot:
The Kohanim were divided into three divisions and each day of Sukkot there was a special ritual. Division one sacrificed the animals and items prescribed out in Numbers 29. Division two went to the East Gate of the
According to the Mishnah Rosh HaShannah 1:2f says that it is during Sukkot that G-d decides who gets rains for next year and how much. Sukkot is also that time after Yom Kippur when it is said that the fate of each human is decided for the next year and the books in heaven are closed. So this is probably another reason for the water pouring ceremony, a type of supplication for rains.
These rituals and ceremonies are no where commanded in the Torah but the Rabbis and Sages feel by the spelling inconsistencies in Numbers 29 that spell the word ‘mayim” they nonetheless base the tradition of the water pouring ceremony on the Torah itself.
Rabbi Akiva (Ta'anit 2b) asserted that the water libation was alluded to in the Torah with the use of the plural form nesakhehah ("drink-offerings thereof") on the sixth day (Numbers 29:31), reflecting that one of the two libations consists of water.
“On Succoth even the humblest of all has its place on the Altar: water. The Midrash tells us that at the time of creation, the waters cried out to G-d that everyone has a place on the Altar -- oxen, sheep, wheat, barley, oil, wine. All except for water. The waters threatened to engulf the world until G-d promised them that on the festival of Succoth,
would offer a libation of
humble water on the Altar, accompanied by SIMCHAS BEIS HASHO-EVA, "the Joy
of the Water Drawing", which was so great that it brought people to
The water libation on Succoth is not written explicitly in the Torah but only allusively. Three seemingly minute anomalies in the Hebrew phrasing of the laws of the offerings of the second, sixth and seventh days of the festival of Succoth, enable us to trace the letters of the word Hebrew word MAYIM -- WATER -- running through the Hebrew text (see Rashi on Numbers 29:18).” – Gil Marks
Three anomalies are derived from looking at how words are rendered differently on the second, sixth, and seventh days of the Festival:
1. Second day - "their libations" (Heb. niskeyhem נסקיהם), where there is an extra "yod" (י) and an extra "final mem" (ם) in the usual rendering of "its libation" (Heb. niskah נסקה).
2. Sixth day - "its libations" (Heb. niskeyhah נסקיה), where the usual rendering of "its libation" (Heb. niskah נסקה) has an extra "yod" (י).
3. Seventh day - "after the manner" (Heb. KaMishpatam כמשפטם), which has an extra "final mem" (ם) when compared to the other instances of "after the manner" (Heb. KaMishpat כמשפט) in this passage.
And obviously Yeshua had NO PROBLEM with it and included Himself with in the derived tradition.
A custom, a tradition, something that the Pharisees and Sadducees did; something that made it into the Talmud that Yeshua did not oppose but participated in and used to proclaim His divine Messiahship! Therefore it stands to reason His own talmidim were there and participated too and the believers that came after his resurrection and ascension.
We see now why He said:
"If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
A further fulfillment was when Yeshua was executed on the Roman cross and blood (symbolizing the wine) and water flowed (John ).
GOD the Father obviously didn’t have a problem with this man made ritual for HE told Yeshua to go and deliver such a message, for Yeshua speaks only what the Father bids Him to (John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 14:28).
So we see that Yeshua, all through out His life celebrated Sukkot, even at the risk of death.
Kris Shoemaker - Yehudah ben Shomeyr