Tag Archives: Sukkot

Lessons from the Festival of Booths

Shalom and welcome to my Sukkah! Before I enter, I want to stop and say the special prayer.

ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו לישב בסכה. אמן.

Barukh Atah Adonai, Eloheinu, melekh ha-olam, asher kidishanu b’mitz’votav v’tzivanu leisheiv basukkah. Amein.

Blessed are You, Lord, our God, king of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah. Amen.

I wish you could walk around Brooklyn with me this week. It is a BIG PARTY! Sukkah booths are popping up everywhere.

The Feast of Tabernacles is all about joy, unlike Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, which are somber and sober.

And there is much to celebrate, especially for followers of Yeshua the Messiah, even in the midst of this pandemic, economic hardship, and social unrest.

The Bible enumerates a number of Feast of Tabernacles essentials.

Leviticus 23

Again, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the Lord. On the first day is a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work of any kind. For seven days you shall present an offering by fire to the Lord. On the eighth day you shall have a holy convocation and present an offering by fire to the Lord; it is an assembly. You shall do no laborious work. (Leviticus 23:33–35, emphasis added.)

There is more information about the festival in verses 39–44:

“On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the Lord for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day. Now on the first day you shall take for yourselves the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days. You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to the Lord for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” So Moses declared to the sons of Israel the appointed times of the Lord. (Leviticus 23:39–44, emphasis added.)

Let us look at some Sukkot basics.

The Date

Sukkot is observed in the seventh month on the fifteenth day of the month for a total of seven days. There is one additional day. and then Jewish tradition adds a ninth day.

Sukkot is also called the Feast of Ingathering

“Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord God” (Exodus 23:16–17).

Sukkot, like the other feasts, is God’s spiritual classroom

The game “Show and Tell” must have been God’s idea! He uses the physical to teach us about the spiritual. By touching, seeing, hearing (as in the case of the shofar), and even tasting (matzah, etc.), the festivals are His spiritual classrooms, where all of our senses are engaged to teach us profound and beautiful spiritual truths.

The Major Symbols and the Lessons

The holiday is filled with lessons, but we will look at three, based upon the biblical text and traditions of the festival.  

  • God Provides

The lulav and etrog teach us that God provides for His children.

We are commanded to take “the foliage of beautiful trees, palm branches and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days” (Leviticus 23:40–41).

We weave the following elements together to form what is known as the lulav, which represents the four species mentioned in the biblical text.


The foliage of beautiful trees is p’ree eitz hadar (פְּרִ֨י עֵ֤ץ הָדָר֙), which literally means “fruit of beautiful trees” and refers to what we call the etrog—a fruit that looks like a large lemon.

The palm branches

The palm branches, orlulav, is a frond of the date palm tree.

The boughs of leafy trees

The boughs of leafy trees refer to thebranches of a myrtle bush.

The willows of the brook

The willows of the brook refer to the branches of the willow tree.

The palm branch, myrtle, and willow are combined into what is called a lulav. We use three willow branches, two myrtle, and one long palm frond to which the others are tied.

The joyful shaking of the lulav reminds us that God provides through the harvest.

He causes the rain to fall, the sun to shine, and the seeds to germinate. Our job is to harvest what He creates. It is difficult for those of us who are not farmers to appreciate this firsthand. Some of us do not even go to the grocery store these days, choosing instead to have our food delivered!

Still, we are commanded to be happy because God is our Provider! Waving the lulav and etrog is an expression of joy—joy that is tied to the harvest.

Mustering up authentic joy is not easy in the midst of a pandemic. Our lives have been so disrupted, and many of us have endured such significant loss; of a loved one, a friend, a business, income, education, fellowship with others in worship, and the joy of everyday life. We miss our normal lives, and we are eager to recapture what we have lost.

Yet, God commands us to rejoice—even in the midst of suffering.

In some ways, this has been the story of Jewish life and history—smiling while suffering!

For followers of the Messiah Jesus, the command to rejoice during Sukkot reminds us of the words of Rabbi Paul again, who wrote, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you” (Philippians 3:1), and also, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

So, what is the secret to having joy? Should we rejoice when everything around us tells us not to? Are we speaking about some type of Jewish stoicism that ignores the hardships we face?

Not at all!

Sukkot reminds of God’s care for the Israelites through the desert wanderings.

We are encouraged to ask the Lord for the same provision and care today as we travel through the desert of this life. He provided the manna, quails, and even water out of a rock for our ancestors. He has not changed!

The Jewish people, my ancestors, experienced this supernatural provision. According to Moses:

He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint. In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ (Deuteronomy 8:15–17)

Yeshua said much the same, but a little differently in the Sermon on the Mount, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). And also, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” (v. 30). And He concludes, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (vv. 33–34).

Hardship and suffering purify our souls as we learn to distinguish between our needs and wants and to thank God who provides our “daily bread”. This is what we learn from fasting on Yom Kippur and what we learn from the lulav and etrog—God always provides.

Applying the Lesson

Which grows out of the first…

The Lord wants us to serve Him by serving others.

Sukkot calls upon us to be thankful and generous, be grateful to God for all He has done, and to rejoice, but also to remember the poor and those who do not have what they need.

You might look for one needy family this week and give from the abundance God has given to you. I believe God will bless and reward your generosity as you care for others the way God has cared for you.

As Yeshua said, again in the Sermon on the Mount:

So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:2–4)

  •  God’s Protects

Moses commands the Jewish people to live in booths for seven days. Moses wrote, You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 23:42–43).

The Hebrew word for booths is sukkot סֻּכֹּ֥ת—the plural, which is where we get the name for the holiday.

The booths are not built for long term occupancy; they are God’s classroom. These flimsy structures with see-through roofs are supposed to remind us of the structures we lived in while travelling in the Sinai desert for forty years.

Let me put it this way: If built correctly, without nails, with a see-through ceiling, and a fragile foundation, you would not want to be in a sukkah during a strong wind!

The Sukkah also reminds of the frailty of human life.

According to Jewish tradition, we are supposed to eat and sleep in the sukkah booth for seven days. The rabbis compare the sukkah to the human body, which is frail and eventually wears out. It reminds me that we are Chevrolets, built with planned obsolescence—we are designed to eventually wear out.

I love the old hymn that says, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” We need to view ourselves as perpetual tourists and live with the future in mind. A famous rabbi, Samuel ben Maier, commenting on Leviticus 23:43, believes the booths also call us to humility and to appreciate the simple things of life. He wrote:

Why do I command you to do all this? For the Lord your God brings you to a good … and you will eat and be satisfied, etc. As a result, your heart may become haughty and you will credit yourself with all this as your own achievement. (Deuteronomy 8:7–8) In order that this will not happen, and to show the Israelites God’s part in their success, they will move out of their solid houses as a reminder to the time when they had not been blessed with any of these benefits which they enjoy ever since inheriting the land of their forefathers. (Rashbam Leviticus 23:43)[1]

This lesson is repeated in the Shulchan Aruch, which means “the prepared table,” one of the guiding manuals on Jewish spiritual life.[2]

Jewish tradition suggests that God is our sukkah, and He is all we need. He protects us from life’s dangers. He guards and guides us through the twists, turns, and turbulence of life.

Unless He wants us to learn lessons from hardship or maybe He is simply calling us home. We agree with the rabbi from Tarsus, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). And David wrote in Psalm 23, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

God uses the desert to bring us to our knees. Deserts are not very hospitable to human life. The days are too hot, the nights are too cold, the water is scarce, and the oases few and far between. We have lived in a type of desert for the last six months, and we have learned more than we wish about life and death through the pandemic.

The pandemic has driven many of us into the arms of a loving, caring, and protecting Savior to seek protection. We have been humbled! The pandemic has revealed our weakness and limitations. We also recognize that we cannot easily defeat our enemies, especially when they are invisible. It is really hard to fight what you cannot see. The Apostle Paul reminds us of the battle we are really fighting as believers, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:12–13).

We are fighting against far more than an invisible virus; we are doing battle with the world forces of darkness and spiritual forces of wickedness. This battle will not be won with worldly weapons but with the power of God by His Spirit and the spiritual armor He provides to fight; truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, and the shield of faith.

So, it is time to read a Jewish children’s story! We learn so much about Jewish life and lessons from these stories. this is one for Sukkot.

Debbie and Danny were very unhappy.

When they tried to fast all day on Yom Kippur they hadn’t been able to go without food past 2 o’clock. Even though their parents had told them that when they were older they would have the self-discipline to be able to fast all day on Yom Kippur, they wanted to do it now.

And when they had tried to blow the Shofar after Rosh Hashanah family services they hadn’t been able to make a real sound; just a little squeak. Now their parents were telling them they were too young to sleep overnight in the Sukkah. It wasn’t fair.

Debbie and Danny had helped their parents build the Sukkah. In fact, the reason their family had a Sukkah of their own this year was because of Debbie and Danny. Their father had said he didn’t have the time to build a Sukkah this year, but the kids had offered to help with everything. When the Sukkah was finished their father was proud of how much they had helped. They carried a table and chairs into the Sukkah and prepared to eat their meals in the Sukkah. But when the kids said they wanted to bring their sleeping bags into the Sukkah and sleep overnight their parents said, “NO”.

First their parents said it was too cold to sleep in the Sukkah. Then they said the kids were too young. Finally, they said that it wasn’t safe.

Debbie and Danny said a Sukkah was as safe as a house. A Sukkah was God’s shelter for the Jewish people for all the years when the Jews lived in the desert after they left Egypt. And a Sukkah was the shelter Jewish people used in the Land of Israel when they were harvesting their crops and thanking God for the harvest. They reminded their parents that:

‘It is a Mitsvah [commandment] to build a Sukkah.’

‘It is a Mitsvah to eat meals in a Sukkah.’

‘And it is a Mitsvah to sleep in a Sukkah.’

Their parents were impressed that Debbie and Danny had such a great desire to do Mitsvot [commandments] so they agreed that the kids could sleep overnight in the Sukkah on Saturday night.

When Saturday night came Debbie and Danny were eager to sleep in the Sukkah. They had decorated the Sukkah with drawings and old Shanah Tovah [Happy New Year!] cards. They had hung different kinds of fruit and vegetables on the Sukkah. Now they got in their sleeping bags, ate a night-time snack from the fruit hanging on the Sukkah, and went to sleep.

In the middle of the night they were suddenly awakened. The Sukkah was shaking, but it wasn’t from the wind. The ground itself was shaking. It was an earthquake. They heard a loud crash. A tree had fallen on their house. They were scared. Then they remembered that they were in God’s Sukkah. They didn’t feel so frightened. They said the Sh’ma [a traditional Hebrew prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4] a few times and they felt even better. The earthquake stopped.

Their parents came out and they seemed to be more upset than the kids. The tree that had fallen had landed on the roof above the bedroom where the children slept. They might have been hurt if they had been sleeping in the house.

Thank God the kids had been sleeping in the Sukkah.[3]

  • Lesson #3.  God Gives us Hope

Like the children of Israel, we have a destination. Ultimately, it is not we who are going to Him, but rather He is coming for and to us.

If we pass from this life and enter His presence, or if we are taken up to meet the Lord in the air, the end of the story is all about His coming back to the world He created to establish His kingdom in a renewed and reclaimed earth.

Heaven ultimately comes to earth.

The sukkah reminds us that, one day, as promised, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters fill the sea. In fact, a day is coming when the entire earth will become his sukkah booth and tabernacle. We caught a glimpse of this with the coming of Jesus the Messiah, who, according to the gospel writer John, dwelled—literally tabernacled—among us.

I love Sukkot because it reminds me of the glory ahead. Knowing Him is a foretaste of the glorious future God has prepared for those who love Him. The sukkah reminds us of what is to come! As John wrote:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” (Revelation 21:1–5)


Are you joyful? Do you feel protected? How are you doing right now in the midst of our season of trouble and trial when it comes to hope?

If you have never received Jesus as your Messiah, now is not too soon.

Pray this prayer with me:

If you are a believer and you are running on one or two but not three of these cylinders; joy, safety, and hope, then maybe you need to dwell in God’s sukkah booth for a while. You have all week to find or build one! Either way, I urge you to turn to the Lord and experience His provision that will give you joy, sense His protection, once again enjoy a sense of safety. In Him, you will also find hope. We are not locked down by the present if we know the Lord and believe that He is with us. In fact, the hope we have for better days is good practice learning how to hope for the best days when He returns.

Chag Sameach and Happy Sukkot…may you always dwell in the presence of the Lord.

God’s Sukkah is Safe

A Story of Hope

With the help of his two young neighbors, Justine and Duane, elderly Mr. Roth builds a sukkah, a little hut built by Jews to commemorate the harvest festival and to remind them of generations of homelessness. After the two children spend the night in the hut, they go to the market with Mr. Roth to buy foods for a festive Sukkoth meal to be shared in the hut. While they are at the market, a firestorm that has erupted in the hills rapidly obliterates their neighborhood. Miraculously, the only building left untouched by the rampaging flames is Mr. Roth’s sukkah. Amid the ghostly stillness at the scene, where not even the crickets have survived to chirp, can be heard another miracle–the cries of Mr. Roth’s cat, Tikvah, who has managed to escape the fire.[4]

And guess what Tikvah means—hope! The author was trying to tell the children that the sukkah was more than a little tent or temporary shack, it is a symbol of the hope we have in a God who always cares for and protects His children.

May the Lord fill your heart with hope, as even if things do not work out well for us on earth, we put our trust in the One who has overcome the world and has gone before us to build a mega-sukkah—a mansion where we will live forever. And nothing—not a wildfire, hurricane, pandemic or far worse—can destroy what He is building for those who love Him.

Let me summarize and close:

God is always faithful to provide for our needs—it is His nature.

Provision should lead to our taking action by providing for others.

He protects us, which should calm our fears and enable us to trust the One who protected the Jewish people in the desert.

We can have hope because a new world is coming for those who love Him, and we will live with our glorious God and Messiah forever.

[1] Rashbam, “Rashbam On Leviticus 23: 43,” Sefaria, accessed October 2, 2020, https://www.sefaria.org/Rashbam_on_Leviticus.23.43.1?lang=bi&with=all&lang2=en.

[2] Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 639:1. According to very important Rabbinic document, the Shulkan Aruch – the Prepared Table, we are told the following about the Sukkah, “What is the Mitzvah of sitting in the Sukkah? That he should eat, drink, sleep, lounge, (Tur) and reside in the Sukkah all seven days, both in the day and in the night, in the same manner in which he resides in his house the rest of year. And all seven days a man makes his house temporary and his Sukkah permanent. How so? The fine dishes and linens, should be in the Sukkah; and drinking vessels, such as glass cups and mugs, in the Sukkah; but eating vessels after eating (Tur), such as pots and plates, outside of the Sukkah. The lantern should be in the Sukkah.” “Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 639,” Sefaria, accessed October 2, 2020, https://www.sefaria.org/Shulchan_Arukh%2C_Orach_Chayim.639?lang=bi.

[3] Allen S. Maller, “A Succot Story for Children: God’s Sukkah Is Safe,” The Jewish Magazine, accessed October 2, 2020, http://www.jewishmag.com/126mag/succah_children/succah_children.htm.

[4] Polacco’s story is based on the firestorm that ravaged her hometown of Oakland, California. Actual framed photos of family members shown on bureau tops and posters of sports idols on a bedroom wall helpÿ20convey the reality of the event and of the personal losses suffered. Polacco’s vibrantly colored illustrations pulse with energy and emotion as the characters bend with the whipping wind, comfort each other in the temporary shelter, and rejoice in the sukkah when Tikvah is found. Good Sukkoth stories are rare; rooted in an actual event as well as in ages-old tradition, this one is a priceless gem

Ellen Mandel, review of Tikvah Means Hope, by Patricia Polacco, Amazon.com,  https://www.amazon.com/Tikvah-Means-Hope-Patricia-Polacco/dp/0385320590?pd_rd_w=7BZfa&pf_rd_p=3fdb7f7b-31a2-4f37-b9bc-1469e3d4fb18&pf_rd_r=4P0M388T0HVKA6JFQ5PY&pd_rd_r=e4469531-db4c-4746-9a31-7579e745830b&pd_rd_wg=met5J.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Holidays

The Gospel in the Jewish Holidays

Shalom, dear friend.

September is the month that Jewish people worldwide observe the three major Jewish holy days commanded by God in Leviticus 23. These holy days are observed in the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, which usually falls during September and often spills over into October.

The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah), the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), and Tabernacles (Sukkot) are all within three weeks of one another.

This season is an important time for Your Mission to the Jewish People. Excluding Passover, we usually have more Jewish seekers attend our many services around the globe during this season than at any other time of the year!

The Jewish holy days, given to Israel at Mount Sinai, cannot be canceled. World wars, famines, even pandemics must bow to God’s commands and calendar! Your Mission to the Jewish People will observe the festivals as we do every year, but this year we will give our celebrations a small “twist.”

In fact, we expect more people to join us this year than in years past since we will be holding services virtually and space is unlimited! We plan to host all three holiday celebrations online. We will enjoy our beautiful high holiday traditions and the wonderful Messianic Jewish music of Joshua Aaron on Rosh Hashanah, Marty Goetz on Yom Kippur, and Paul Wilbur on the Feast of Tabernacles.

Each festival will focus on Jesus, who celebrated the Jewish holidays and fulfilled them as well.

Please Join Us

I am hoping that you will invite your Jewish friends to join our online services. Many Jewish people will have nowhere to go in person to observe the holy days this year. Join us in praying that Jewish non-believers will be drawn to our glorious and beautiful Savior through these holiday events.

The following is the list of services. Please visit chosenpeople.com/highholidays, register, and join us!

New Year’s Eve – Friday, September 18 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (EDT)

Day of Atonement Eve – Sunday, September 27 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (EDT)

Feast of Tabernacles Eve – Friday, October 2 at 4:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. (EDT)

Hopeful Holidays in the Messiah

The holidays are a great time to celebrate the hope we have in Jesus, the Messiah. When you combine His Jewish background with the glory of His person as the fulfillment of all the Jewish people hoped for over multiple millennia, it is a stunning experience. So, please join us and allow the Lord to re-energize your sense of hope in Him.

The holidays also illustrate some of the great biblical themes we appreciate. The New Year points to new beginnings. One of the traditional themes of Rosh Hashanah, (literally, the head of the year in Hebrew), is repentance for our sins, leading to the next holiday focused on atonement and forgiveness.

The Day of Atonement foreshadows God’s provision of atoning blood through the death of Jesus on Golgotha. The festival of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, points to the great day when He returns, establishes His kingdom on earth, and the world is filled with His presence as the waters fill the seas (Habakkuk 2:14).

The theme of life-giving water is tied to the Feast of Tabernacles, which celebrates the final fruit harvest and ingathering of crops. Without water, we would never make it to the final harvest. Traditionally, Jewish people even pray for rain during the festival.

Jesus claims that, when we believe in Him, rivers of living water will flow from our souls!

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Your Prayers and Support

Your prayers and support have been such a vital part of helping Chosen People Ministries advance the work of Rabbi Leopold Cohn, our founder. We continue to follow the rabbi’s vision—to reach out to Jewish people worldwide with the unchanging gospel of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.

We are able to continue this historic ministry because of your love, generosity, and prayers. Meanwhile, pandemic or no pandemic, we are preaching the gospel, and Jewish people are coming to faith. We are intensifying our online outreach campaigns in the United States and Israel. And we are following up on the thousands of contacts with Jewish people we receive through Zoom and phone calls, and God is blessing these efforts.

What is Next for Chosen People Ministries?

The future for our 126-year-old ministry will be similar to what believers have been doing since the day Jesus rose from the dead. We will depend upon the Lord to lead us, and in obedience to the unchanging Word of God, we will continue to advance His kingdom! Where He leads we will follow, knowing that He is always with us, which was His promise to His disciples (Matthew 28:20).

Your Mission to the Jewish People will continue to preach the gospel to the Jew first and also to the Gentile—you can count on this. Whether in the United States, Israel, or anywhere else in the world, we will look for new and creative ways to tell others about our eternal hope: the forgiveness of sins and the abundant life through Jesus the Messiah, which is available to all who believe.

We will minister online through Zoom, video, social media, and personally whenever possible…face-to-face and mask-to-mask! We know this present pandemic will pass, and we will safely begin conducting larger-group Bible studies and in-person worship services. We look forward to future street campaigns, campus ministries, and more! We experimented this past year with a new “gap year” residential campus work at New York University that was highly successful. We will do it again thanks to the generous support of a foundation.

My dear friends, the Light of the world has not been extinguished. He shines even brighter in the darkness. As the Savior said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (John 9:4–5).

And we will keep working for Him!

Again, we hope you will join us for one of our special holiday services!

Your brother in the Messiah,

Leave a comment

Filed under evangelism, Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Holidays

Finding the Hope of Yeshua in the High Holy Days

Dear friend in the Messiah,

I must admit that I am pretty tired of the pandemic! I cannot wait until it is officially over. I am praying for the Lord, our ultimate Healer, to work in the minds of brilliant scientists to come up with a vaccine and medications to counter the devastating impact of this disease that has killed so many people!

However, my hope is not in epidemiologists, though I pray for them and respect their hard work to find a cure. My hope is in the Lord.

We are social and spiritual creatures—especially as followers of Jesus—who love being with family and friends. We love sweet fellowship, praying as a community, worshiping and singing together, and hearing God’s Word unmediated by a screen.

All of us continue to mourn for what we have lost during the pandemic: schools, jobs, businesses, and, most significantly, loved ones who have suffered from the virus. I am grateful for our Savior’s words of promise, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Therefore, we will continue to seek comfort from the Lord and His unchanging Word.

Psalm 121 has greatly encouraged me: “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1–2). In Him, we find our help, our hope, and joy for living!


We are about to celebrate the Jewish New Year, which is called Rosh Hashanah. In Hebrew, Rosh Hashanah literally means “the head of the year.” There are ten days between the Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) according to the holy days calendar outlined in Leviticus 23:23–27. In Jewish tradition, these ten days are called the Ten Days of Repentance. Our Jewish sages tell us that we have ten days to make things right between ourselves and God and between ourselves and our fellow man.

As followers of Jesus, we do not believe we are able to earn God’s forgiveness—He provides salvation and forgiveness graciously and freely (Ephesians 2:8–9). Our sin always requires payment, and the Day of Atonement graphically illustrates this. The Scriptures depict the Levitical priests offering blood sacrifices at the Temple altar for sinful humanity throughout the centuries until the Temple was destroyed.

As Moses explained, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11).

Yet, we know that these offerings pointed to Jesus, the perfect sacrifice for our sins. As the author of Hebrews wrote, “He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrew 9:26).

This atonement, achieved through the Messiah’s once-for-all death, was effective for all sins, for all time, and for all people. Unfortunately, most of my Jewish friends and family do not understand this. Jewish people today are generally unfamiliar with the Temple’s sacrificial system, which ended when the Romans destroyed this magnificent house of worship in AD 70.

Sacrifice for sin is now only a corporate historical Jewish memory. Modern Jews now only read about the Temple sacrifices in the Bible or Jewish literature and visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which was an outer wall of the Temple mount that still stands and reminds us of what once was!

Most Jewish people do not think about sin or atonement in the same way Christians do. Contemporary Judaism adjusted to the destruction of the Temple and teaches that the performance of good deeds is a substitute for the sacrifices of animals. Modern Judaism teaches that one’s name is written in the Book of Life when good deeds outweigh wicked deeds.

Yet, Jewish tradition teaches that the Temple will be rebuilt one day and that sacrifices will be restored. However, most Jewish people do not know about this future rebuilding of the Temple as it is believed by only the most ultra-religious within the Jewish community.

In fact, the Jewish people to whom I am the closest seem to live as agnostics or even atheists most of the year. Yet, surprisingly, many open their hearts to God and even yearn for forgiveness of sin during the high holidays. Maybe this is why the Day of Atonement is the most well-attended Jewish service of the year!

All human beings appear to have a deep inner longing for forgiveness; to forgive others and to be forgiven—even to forgive ourselves.


As a Messianic Jew, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur cause me to think about my relationship to God more profoundly. They remind me that atonement for sin came at a high price—Jesus’ death on the cross. God’s love and grace move me profoundly during the holidays as I reflect upon my sin and the forgiveness I have received through Jesus the Messiah. My heart cries out in joy with the Apostle Paul: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Classical Judaism, on the other hand, teaches that humanity sins, yet it is not inherently sinful. Contemporary Jewish faith holds that we are free to choose righteousness or sin, and when we fail, atonement via repentance is always possible! Therefore, God’s offer of His grace, mercy, and forgiveness is received based upon our remorse and willingness to change.

When I found Jesus as my Savior, I became convinced of the opposite as I have broken with Jewish teaching on this topic because of what the Bible says (Romans 3:23) and because I know that I am sinful by nature. Yet, I do believe that regular personal repentance is a key to spiritual transformation. This is why I observe the high holidays. They are times for spiritual reflection, which are wonderfully enriching and essential for spiritual growth.


Your Mission to the Jewish People will observe the Jewish high holidays beginning with Rosh Hashanah, then Yom Kippur, and finally, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). We have planned three online services on September 18, 27, and October 2, 2020.

I hope you will join us and invite your friends—especially your Jewish friends who do not know the Lord and might not be able to attend synagogue services in person because of the pandemic.

It is one thing to tell a Jewish person they can be Jewish and believe in Jesus. It is quite another to sit next to them during a Messianic Jewish high holiday service listening to the blowing of the shofar, the chanting of familiar prayers, and hearing a Jesus-centered holiday message.


I would like to add one closing thought about hope—one of my favorite topics these days. The Jewish holidays bring us hope as each festival looks forward to our bright future in relationship to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As followers of Yeshua, we know this world will one day fade away, as the trumpet will sound and those who believe will rise to a new and everlasting life.

Rabbi Saul—the Apostle Paul—wrote:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

We have a great hope, brothers and sisters! Our hope is a person—Jesus, who died for our sins once and for all and rose from the grave conquering death. He is the resurrection and our life!

Thank you again for your faithfulness and generosity.

Your brother,

Leave a comment

Filed under Holidays & Festivals, Jewish Holidays, Jews and Christians

Tabernacles Tomorrow

The People, The Land and the Future of Israel Conference – Toronto, Canada, October 2-3, 2015


According to the Bible, the Jewish people are the chosen people but what are they chosen for exactly? What did God have in mind by making them a people set apart? The ancient prophets speak about Israel’s future repentance, redemption and eschatological rejoicing in the coming of her Messianic King in great detail. Yet, none of the Jewish Festivals are mentioned – none, that is, except for Sukkot, otherwise known as the Feast of Tabernacles. Among all the feasts of Israel, Sukkot is the only holiday that will be observed by all of the redeemed nations of the world, Jew and Gentile alike after the Second Coming of Christ (Zechariah 14:16).

The prophet Zechariah wrote about a future day when all the nations of the earth, not only the Jewish people, will be called upon to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. This command might seem mysterious, but in light of Israel’s biblical calling and mission, the place accorded to Tabernacles is actually very well suited.

The Calling and Mission of Israel

The future observance of Sukkot by the nations of the world is connected with Israel’s election and mission. The universal nature of God’s plan for the Jewish people stretches back to His covenant with Abraham. In that holy agreement, God promised,

“And I will bless those who bless thee, and one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

Israel’s election must always be linked with her mission to the Gentiles. From faithful Abraham’s seed, God would raise up His chosen people, Israel, to be a blessing to the nations! Israel was chosen to be God’s vehicle of blessing to the world!

Moses wrote regarding the choosing of Israel:

For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples (Deuteronomy 7:6-7).

God’s choice of Israel was not based upon Abraham’s merit or the obedience of the nation. God chose Israel because He decided to love the nation.

… the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery from the hand of Pharaoh King of Egypt  (Deuteronomy 7:8).

God’s electing love falls upon unworthy sinners as He is a God of grace and a God of purpose. Oftentimes His election is linked to a particualr purpose He wants to accomplish and He chooses and uses whomsoever He wills – including Israel. Rarely in Scripture do those God chooses to use deserve the privilege!

God chose the Jewish people as His means to bless all mankind. God chose to love the Jewish people, and through this nation, to express His love for the world.  Israel’s chosenness did not mean to assure indivudal Jewish people of personal salvation. Rather, God’s choice garauntees the chosen nation of ultimately fulfilling His plan as God never fails to keep His promises. So although it may seem like God limited His line of promise by choosing one nation above others, His redemptive plan was always universal in nature so that His plan of redemption would be offered to the entire world.

This is why the Apostle Paul wrote,

Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:12-15)

Witnesses of the One True God

The prophet Isaiah announces that the nation of Israel would be a witness for God among the nations:

You are my witnesses, declares the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen in order that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He.  Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me (Isaiah 43:10).

In this passage, the prophet paints the picture of a cosmic law court, where God is the judge, and the nations of the world stand trial for their idolatry.  Israel is the star witness for the prosecution, chosen to testify on God’s behalf. Isaiah further details the testimony of the Jewish people regarding the nature and character of God, the prophet writes,

I, even I, am the Lord and there is no savior besides me (Isaiah 43:11).

Israel’s mission was to proclaim to the world that the God of Israel is the one and only true God and there is no other Savior but Him.

Missionary Priests

Israel was to be more than a witness to the nations; they were also to be intercessors for the Gentiles. They were commissioned for this holy responsibility at Mount Sinai.

God called to Moses and said,

You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I upbore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now then, if you will indeed hear my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:4-6).

Once again God expressed His concern for the world when He declared, “…all the earth is mine.” He chose Israel from among all the peoples of the earth for an eternal purpose – that they might be His vehicle to restore and reclaim a rebellious world. Israel was not chosen for their own sake, but for the sake of the nations. God describes their unique position as “a kingdom of priests.” Their role was to intercede between the sinful world and a holy God.

In the passage above, God called the people by an endearing term: “a special treasure.” Although Israel was intended to be God’s treasure and possession, we must remember that the entire world belongs to the Lord and is the subject of His redemptive concern. It is God’s intention for Israel to serve as a nation of missionary priests mediating His truth and redemption to the nations.

Israel’s Failure

Israel failed in their mission to reach the world.  Not only were they disobedient to the commandments of God, but they did not extend themselves in missionary activity. And yet, the God of all grace did not renege on His choice. He would still use the nation of Israel to bless the world and ultimately fulfill His promises to and through the Jewish people (Romans 11:11-29).

Israel did not fulfill their mission as a witness to the Gentiles and so God completed the task Himself. He sent His Son Jesus to live perfectly under the Law, to be a light to the nations and to intercede once for all on behalf of Jews and Gentiles. The faithlessness of man can never thwart the faithfulness of God. The Gentiles most assuredly would share in the salvation brought by the divine seed of Abraham. Paul wrote,

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,” in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith  (Galatians 3:13-14).

It is tempting for some to think that Israel’s role in world redemption is completed, but quite the contrary– Israel remains chosen and still has a role to play in the future! The Apostle Paul declared:

Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be? (Romans 11:12)

And again he wrote, For if their rejection be the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? (Romans 11:15)

The Apostle spoke of a future day when Israel will once again don the mantle of obligation and fulfill her role as a missionary nation as Israel will again be used by God to bring the message of the Messiah to the nations; for Israel will be central to His Kingdom ministry.

Isaiah spoke of a day when Jerusalem would be restored, both physically and spiritually:

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, and her salvation like a torch that is burning.  And the nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will designate. You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord and a royal diadem in the hand of your God (Isaiah 62:1-3).

In that day,

Israel will not be the tail, but the head of the nations (Deuteronomy 28:13).

Jerusalem will be the spiritual focal point of the world because the King of Jerusalem, the Prince of Peace, will reign in His chosen city. Isaiah wrote of that joyful occasion:

Break forth, shout joyfully together, your waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord has bared His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God (Isaiah 52:9-10).

The day is coming when a restored and renewed Israel will be a light to the nations, as the destiny of Israel is linked to the destiny of the world. Their testimony will be glorious and true because the One who is all-glorious in truth will sit upon His throne. In that day, the Jewish people will be “life from the dead” for the nations of the earth.

Universal Themes in the Feast of Tabernacles

God’s concern for the Gentiles is evident in the Talmudic writings regarding Sukkot. In Jewish sources, Israel’s role in world redemption was thought to be a major theme of the Feast of Tabernacles. The rabbis suggest that the seventy bullocks offered on the last day of the feast correspond to the seventy nations of the world and therefore, on Sukkot, the nation of Israel offered sacrifices on behalf of the Gentiles.

This is reiterated in the Midrash:

“At the festival of Tabernacles we offer up seventy bullocks (as an atonement) for the seventy nations, and we pray that rain will come down for them”  (Psalm 109:4).

Israel is viewed here as a nation of intercessors for the sins of the Gentiles.  This universal theme is also recounted in the later and more mystical literature of the Kaballah and the Zohar as well.

The traditional Bible reading on the second day of Sukkot is taken from the fourteenth chapter of the book of Zechariah. An additional portion read on Sukkot speaks about the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:13-39:16). This seems incongruous – what thematic relationship could this Scripture portion have with the Feast of Booths? While it may not be evident to the casual reader, the common thread uniting these two passages is God’s universal concern for the redemption of the nations.

In Zechariah 14, the judgment against rebellious nations is pictured as God withholding life-giving rains from those nations disobedient and who do not come to Jerusalem to worship the Messianic King and celebrate Tabernacles.

Curiously, the judgment in Ezekiel 38 upon hostile nations is also described as rain – as judgment rains “hailstones, fire and brimstone.

The Lord declared, “I shall magnify myself, sanctify myself and make myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 38:23).

Whether in blessing or in judgment, God intends to show the nations that He is the Lord.

The Meaning of the Prophecy

The prophet Zechariah spoke of the end of days, when Israel and the nations would celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. In that day, Israel will be vindicated and her enemies destroyed. At the end of this great tribulation period, the Jewish people will cry out to God; and in His great mercy, the Lord will send His Messiah, Jesus, to deliver them from annihilation.

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zechariah 12:9-10).

Israel will be restored, both spiritually and nationally. Her enemies will be crushed and the Messiah will reign on His throne over Israel and the nations of the earth:

“The Lord will be king over all the earth; in that day the Lord will be the only one and His name the only one” (Zechariah 14:9)

God does not want to destroy the nations, but to bring them into submission to His Throne. He will command the faithful among the Gentiles to come to Jerusalem and celebrate the Feast of Booths (Zechariah 14:16).

Why did God choose Sukkot, and not one of the other major festivals, as the test of obedience for the Gentiles? Some scholars feel that Sukkot, as the Feast of Ingathering, is the most appropriate time for God to gather the human fruit for His kingdom. Others believe that the heathen, who have been brought out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of God’s kingdom, celebrate the Feast of Thanksgiving out of their overflowing gratefulness to the God who redeemed them.

Most importantly, though, Zechariah describes the conversion of the nations to the one true God. In every age, God gives His people obligations. The Feast of Tabernacles must be viewed as one of the kingdom obligations of the Gentiles. It is their opportunity to worship God as well as His test point for their obedience. The prophet warned the recalcitrant and disobedient nations that there would be bitter judgment for any who would not keep the feast. The judgment, in keeping with the theme of the Feast of Ingathering, calls for God to withhold rain. If the nations were not willing to worship God in Jerusalem, He would withhold the provision of food as well as His blessings.

Yeshua the Messiah and the Feats of Tabernacles

Jesus is the fulfillment of all the Jewish festivals and this includes Sukkot. First of all we understand that Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Festival in that He is God in the flesh who “tabernacled” among us. As John writes,

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

The Greek term used for “dwelt” is skene, a word which refers to pitching a tent. The image is easy to grasp – God pitched a tent which was His flesh, veiling His pure glory, through the incarnation. Jesus pitches His tabernacle and dwelled among us for a short sojourn until the day reign. In that day The Messiah King will pitch a far larger tent that would include both Israel and the nations under His sovereign leadership and Lordship.

Jesus celebrated the Festival in John 7 where one of His greatest and most profound announcements of who He is came at the time of the Feast.  It is actually the seventh day of the Feast, Hoshana Rabbah and it was the custom of the Jewish people during this period to send a band of Levites with choir and orchestra down to the pool of Siloam to gather running water in giant urns and to then bring them back to the altar.

They would march around the altar crying our Hosheanah – Lord Save us…Lord save us… many times over…they would then pour the water out from the urns at the base of the altar. This symbolizes the future hope of the Jewish people looking towards the day when Messiah would come and pour His Spirit upon the people of Israel in fulfillment of Joel 2:28-29:

“It will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind: And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. “Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

These events were to take place when the Messiah appeared on earth according to Jewish tradition. This pouring out was foreshadowed in the Temple by the pouring out of the water at the base of the altar.  The water drawing ceremony as it was known was a portrait of the day when God would send His Messiah and His Spirit and the Jewish people would come alive spiritually as never before.

Jesus understood this tradition and therefore, on the seventh great day of the Feast He stood up and the following took place:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39).

Clearly, Jesus was telling the crowds gather from around the Jewish world for the Feast – one of the three of which it was commended for Jewish males to go up to Jerusalem…He was the Messiah, the Spirit of God is now poured out…and He is the living water and those who drink or believe in Him will never thirst again!

The Ultimate Sukkot

We would be remiss not to mention the ultimate and eternal significance of the Feast of Tabernacles, for the Apostle John wrote,

And I heard a loud voice from the thrones saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among men and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, crying, or pain, the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).

We believe God will fulfill the kingdom promises to the Jewish people and establish the throne of Jesus in a literal but renewed Jerusalem. But that is not the end of the story – there is more to come. Ultimately, the whole earth will become the Sukkah booth of God and He will reign through His Son for all eternity. This reminds us of Solomon’s prayer, where he understood so clearly God’s intention to fill His redeemed earth with His very presence. Doesn’t this give a whole new perspective to why Tabernacles is called the Season of Our Joy? What greater joy can there be than to be in the presence of God forever?

Purchase Israel’s Glorious Future from our Online Store!

Leave a comment

Filed under Jewish Holidays