Feast of Tabernacles 2018 .  .  .

Sunday Evening, September 23 - Monday, October 1

Sukkot Traditions

Enhancing the Beauty of the Festival

Tradition . . .  is not a "four letter" word!  Every family, every nation, and every church has it's own traditions.  Guess what!  The Jewish people have some too.  As believers in Messiah Yeshua, we sometimes believe He was agtradition definitionainst all Jewish tradition, but a closer look at His words will show that He only had problems with tradition when a person made his tradition equal to or greater than God's law, the Torah.  As long as a tradition was simply that, "a tradition", and assuming the tradition was not in opposition to the Torah, it appears that Yeshua, nor his disciples, had a problem with it. 

Scripture states that God's people were to REJOICE during the fall festival of Sukkot -

NKJ Leviticus 23:40   And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

By the time of the first century the Jewish people had developed a number of traditions to enhance the joy of the Festival of Sukkot . . .

Rejoicing in the House of the Water Pouring

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."   NKJJohn 7:37-38

What prompted Yeshua to say these words? Was He just using a metaphor, or was he referring to a custom His followers as well as His detractors were very familiar with? What would be the connection between living water and the 7th day, the last great day of the feast, Hoshana Rabbah - The Great Salvation. According to Jewish historical records, those who kept the festival in first century Jerusalem observed a special ceremony on each day of the festival in addition to the various sacrifices and libation offerings commanded in the Torah (Num. 29:12-40). Sometime prior to the first century this special ceremony, the water libation offering was added to the festival offerings in order to give thanks for the previous years rain, to petition God for more rain, and to picture the great outpouring of God’s Spirit that was to come during the 1000 year reign of The Messiah. This ceremony was connected to a very joyous evening celebration, the Festival of Lights. This evening festival was so joyful that it was said that 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).

Each day (except for the first day) of the festival, a group of priests would set out to gather large willows that they would wave back and forth as they proceeded toward the water pouring playtemple, thus making a "swooshing" sound, the sound of the wind or the ruach, Holy Spirit. While this was going on, another group of priests would proceed to the Pool of Siloam from which the High Priest would gather a flask full of "living water". Both groups would then return to the Temple, and while the group with the willows would circle the altar waving their willows, the High Priest with his flask of water and his assistant with a flask of wine would both empty their pitchers on the southwest corner of the altar, thus picturing the coming of the Holy Spirit as living water.

Shortly after the end of the first day of Sukkot, the priests would light four huge lamps in the Court of the Women, each with four huge bowls on each. Each bowl held 7 – 8 gallons of oil and had wicks made from "swaddling clothes", the worn out undergarments of the priests. When the lamps were all lit, it was said that they lit up the entire city of Jerusalem. All the men would then begin dancing and singing in a great celebration. This rejoicing would last late into the night.

These ceremonies and celebrations continued throughout the festival. On the last (7th) day, a change was made to the ceremony. On this day the priests, instead of circling the altar one time, would circle it seven times; this time singing with a loud voice a song of redemption and salvation - Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord . . . (Psalm 118:25-26)

These ceremonies are no where commanded in the Torah or the Tenakh, but the rabbis believed that because of some spelling inconsistencies in Numbers 29 that seem to spell the Hebrew word mayim(water) there was an underlying justification for them.

It appears that Yeshua had no problem with this additional ceremony and celebration.  From His childhood He would have become very familiar with these festivities as His parents made the pilgrimage from Nazareth to Jerusalem to observe the Festival of Sukkot. It seems evident that He used the occasion of the seventh or last day (the 8th day is a separate festival) of His last Feast of Sukkot to teach that He was the light of the world and the source of the Living Waters of salvation for all Israel and ultimately all mankind.

At the Season of Our Joy festival site, we teach about this ceremony on various days throughout the festival in order to help everyone build a mental picture of what it may have been like when Yeshua observed the festival just as we do today.

Waving the Lulavim

Waving the lulav (lulavim is the plural), is a tradition based again on Leviticus 23:40 . . .

NKJ Leviticus 23:40 'And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

Within this passage is the specific command to take four specific types of plants and use them in your rejoicing during the festival.  Though the prophet Ezra appears to understand the commandment as a mandate to use the plants as building materials (Nehemiah 8:15). the Jewish sages understood that a person was supposed to actually take these four species in their hands and worship with them.

According to Jewish sources, three of the four species - the palm branch, willow branch, and the myrtle - were held in one hand while the fourth species, the etrog (a lemon-like fruit) was held in the other while circling around the altar.   Apparently, this was done in conjunction with the Water Pouring Ceremony mentioned above.

This festive ritual was repeated every day of the festival except for the 8th day, which was a totally separate festival.

At Season of Our Joy we include our version of this tradition each morning in our worship service.  As the band plays "Our God is an Awesome God", many in the audience will take their personal lulav and etrog, or use one of the 'community lulavim' we've provide, and sing and dance in a large circle, waving the lulav with joy. 

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Waving the Lulav
Preparing for the Water Pouring Reenactment
Our 'Priests' Pour Water and Wine on the 'Altar'
Lulavim Come Together in the Morning Worship