“For seven days you shall present food offerings to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the Lord. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.”
Leviticus 23:36 ESV
“Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.” Zechariah 14:16 ESV
In the TV show Seinfeld, George Costanza’s father Frank creates a holiday he calls Festivus. It would be a non commercial alternative to Christmas and Hanukkah that anyone could participate in. And if you know the show, you can already hear the catchphrase:
While Frank was very proud of his made-up holiday, God actually beat him to it! Thousands of years before Seinfeld, the Lord had already created a festival “for the rest of us.” It is called the Feast of Booths, or Sukkot.
There’s a beautiful distinction about the Feast of Booths: It is the only one of the Feasts that Gentiles–even non-circumcised ones–were invited to celebrate along with the Jews. You don’t get it explicitly in Leviticus, but God will make it clear later in Zechariah. Even those nations that opposed Jerusalem are invited to go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths. If you have three and a half minutes, watch this fun video, which looks as though it might have been produced by a travel agency or board of tourism.
My favorite part of this video is its description of the rules for building your booth. There were limits on how high your booth could be. Perhaps the Jews remembered the lesson from the Tower of Babel– see (Day 003: What Was Babel About?). But there were no limits on how wide it could be. You could build your booth wide enough to accommodate all your friends and relations, and even strangers! This calls to mind the purpose of The Feast of Booths God lays out in today’s reading:
“You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.””
Leviticus 23:42-43 ESV
When we make our booths wide, we can remember that not so long ago, we ourselves were homeless. We ourselves were living outside the promised land. And for the stranger, the alien, and the prodigal, making room in our booth can remind them that God has made room for them in His eternal home.
There’s one more detail about the Feast of Booths that just blows me away. In the article The Feast of Sukkot (which I’ve linked to at the bottom of this post), the writer points out that more animals are sacrificed by the priests during the seven days of Sukkot than any of the other feasts (this doesn’t count the lambs sacrificed for each family for Passover). In Numbers 29:12-34, the number of bulls sacrificed adds up to seventy.
In Genesis 10:1-32, the nations descended from Noah are named. Want to guess how many there are?
At the Feast of Booths, God made a way for all the nations to come up to Jerusalem. Each one was represented before the Lord with the sacrifice of a bull.
When you go to Israel (and yes, at some point in your life you will go to Israel*) the high point of the experience is the day you go “up to Jerusalem.” When you do, take a moment to celebrate how God made room for us.
But as you pack your bags and check out of the hotel the morning you leave for Jerusalem, I hope the lesson God intended for His people when He commanded them to live in booths for seven days will also ring true for you:
You are a temporary resident in this place. This world is not your home. You are only passing through.
Chag Sameach! (Happy Sukkot)!
The Feast of Sukkot and Gentiles
*Would you like to go to Israel with me? I will be leading a study trip flying out of Atlanta on February 22-March 2, 2024. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details!
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