Why to Build and Dwell in Temporary Dwellings on Sukkot

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017

This article is a continuation of the article Should Only the Native Born in Israel Dwell in Booths on Sukkot? and both articles are meant to be a further development of the articles in the series The Appointed Times of YHVH: the Festival of the Booths and the Festival of the Booths and the Messiah. Should the reader need to get the whole context of Chag Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, and learn more about the appointed times of the Creator, he/she is encourage to do so.

After the Exodus from Egypt the children of Israel camped at Mount Sinai where they entered into the Covenant of YHVH, received the Torah and thus became a nation under one Elohim. Equipped with all that was necessary to march to the promised Land, they headed towards under the guidance of the cloud that covered the camp, the Tabernacle by day and it was like the appearance of fire by night. (Num 9:15-16) And whenever the cloud was taken up the camp departed. And in the place where the cloud dwelt, there Israel camped as the mouth of YHVH had spoken. (Num 9:17-18) Even when the cloud hovered many days above the camp or a few days, or only from evening until morning, Israel did not depart. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they departed. Whether two days, or a month or a year that the cloud hovered above, Israel camped, and did not depart. But when it was taken up, they departed. (Num 9:19-22)

Now, let us read again from Leviticus 23 and see how it can relate to the Festival of Sukkot,

And you shall celebrate it as a festival to Yehovah for seven days in the year – a law forever in your generations. Celebrate it in the seventh month. Dwell in booths for seven days; all who are native born in Israel shall dwell in booths, so that your generations know that I made the children of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am Yehovah your Elohim. (Lev 23:41-43)

In the aforementioned article we studied that the Torah requires those living in the Land of Israel to build and dwell in sukkot (temporary built booths) for seven days during Chag Sukkot, the Festival of Booths.

Also in Numbers 33 we find the list of the forty-two camps Israel visited during the forty year journey in the wilderness from the exodus from Egypt to the last camp on the east side of Jordan. Notice, however, that the campsites as found in the Biblical narrative in the Books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are more than forty-two, meaning that not every campsite visited by the children of Israel is listed in Numbers 33. The present author has no answer to this discrepancy excepting that the forty-two campsites Israel was stationed in during the forty years spent in the wilderness were not given unintentionally but for a reason. It is tempting to try to find any connection between these forty-two campsites and the forty-two months during which the chosen remnant will be hidden in the wilderness just before the coming of the Messiah, but as of the time of this study, the present author has not be able to find any feasible connection.

Why then were these forty-two journeys recorded and given to us to contemplate? Probably to inform us that they moved around from place to place wandering in the desert wandering all forty years and had no rest. So, if we deduct fifteen camps of them, for they all took place before the decree not to enter the land in the second year from their exodus from Egypt and subtract a further ten camps which took place after Miryam’s death in the fortieth year, we will find that (1) there is a time-gap of thirty-eight years, between chapter 19 and chapter 20 in the Book of Numbers about which we are given no record and (2) they made only seventeen journeys. In other words, Israel camped in only seventeen places within the thirty-eight years of the Arabian exile, or they made one journey every two years and three months.

Now, what does that teach us and how does that relate to the building and dwelling in temporary dwellings on Sukkot?

YHVH wants us to build temporary booths and then dwell in them seven days from the fifteenth to the twenty-first day of the seventh month. The building of the sukkah should be finished by the fourteenth of the month and then dismantled after the festival. And He wants us to do this every year, year after year: to do it for only seven days in the year. We may ask ourselves: “Why not twenty-two days: from Yom Teruah until the last and closing festival of all Yom HaShemini to cover all autumnal appointed times?” 

Since there are no vain words in the Torah, especially when YHVH requires something from us, we need to seek the answer. And the answer can be found in the Torah itself. We read,

Even when the cloud lingered many days above the Dwelling Place, the children of Israel guarded the Charge of Yehovah, and did not depart. And so it was, when the cloud was above the Dwelling Place a few days: according to the mouth of Yehovah they camped, and according to the mouth of Yehovah they would depart. And so it was, when the cloud dwelt only from evening until morning: when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they departed. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they departed. (Num 9:19-21)

The account in Num_9:15-23, concerning the journeys of the camp, is intended to bring out the importance of the fact and to awaken our consciousness of the absolute dependence of Israel upon YHVH. They did not know whether they would camp for a few days, months, a year, or even from evening until morning. They traveled whenever they were told to travel and rest whenever they were told to rest: this is what an absolute dependence upon Him means. When the cloud was taken up from above the Tabernacle, the Israelites pulled down their tents and departed, and in the place where the cloud dwelt, they built their tents again until the cloud was taken up for the next journey. Everyone in the camp did what they were commanded to do: from the common man to the Levites alike. In addition to taking care of their own dwellings, the Levites were charged with carrying the Tabernacle, the ark of the Covenant, the menorah, etc. of the Dwelling Place.

That was an enormous work to do, especially when they had to camp overnight and continue the long journey in the morning. Therefore, the phrase when the cloud dwelt only from evening until morning: when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they departed is telling us that YHVH moved them from place to place to teach them that Arabia was not their land; that the camp they overnighted, even when they camped for a year or so, was not their permanent dwelling place, but the land they rejected.

What happened to the fathers in the desert is given to us for an example to learn from. When we celebrate Chag Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, to YHVH and we build our sukkot, and dwell in them for seven days, and then take them down as if they have never been built until the next festival, and this we do for seven days year after year, as a law forever, we do it so that we know that YHVH made the children of Israel dwell in temporary booths when He brought them out of the land of Egypt. We build and take down, as they built and took down their temporary dwellings year after year until they took possession of the Land. We do, as they did, for the simple reason that He is Yehovah our Elohim. This is what is called “walking by faith. To walk with Him without even knowing where He is leading you.

The living in Israel, the native born and those who made aliyah (immigration), dwell in booths during Chag Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, so that they know that as Yehovah brought the fathers out of Egypt and they were totally dependent on Him to sustain them and guide them through the desert, so has He brought the new generation in Israel to build the Land and make it flourish until the Messiah comes. They remember that the lands of exile they or their fathers live in were not their lands, that there they were treated like unwanted Jews, “extras” in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere. But when they returned to the Land , they fulfilled the perpetuate mandate to live in the Land and to turn her into a land of milk and honey.

then Yehovah your Elohim shall turn back your captivity, and shall have compassion on you, and He shall turn back and gather you from all the peoples where Yehovah your Elohim has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under the heavens, from there Yehovah your Elohim does gather you, and from there He does take you. (Deu 30:3-4)

Yehovah had compassion on them and opened their hearts to love the Land. He then gathered them from all nations where He had scattered them, even out of the farthest parts of the world, and they returned home, thus they fulfilled the command to live in the Land promised to the fathers Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov.

In contrast, those Jews who are still in the Roman exile have chosen not to hear the call to return to Israel, but have chosen to live self-complacent lives in foreign countries. Yes, they can still build sukkot in their lands as long as this reminds them that as the sukkot are temporary dwellings so are the countries they live in; as long as this reminds them to return speedily to Israel at the time when their brethren most need them.

But the Jews in exile see the sukkot built in a foreign land through different eyes. They build their sukkot year after year until the heat of terrorism and anti-Semitism in Europe and North America is turned up on them. Then it could be too late for them to return: the door might have been already closed.

They have chosen to forfeit all the blessings of living in and building the Land. They are like those Israelites who rejected to put the blood of the Passover lambs on the doorposts and chose to stay in Egypt and perished; they are like the ten spies who rejected the Promised Land and perished in the desert; they are like those Israelites who rejected the common wealth of Israel and chose to leave and settle in Arabia; they are like those in Babylon who rejected to return to the Land and almost perished in the holocaust of Haman; they are like those who did not return to the Land, when she was opened for them as early as the late nineteenth century, got caught in the crossfire of evil Gentiles, and perished in the Holocaust of Hitler. Why should they do that again?

History repeats itself and those who do not learn from it are doomed to repeat it! For more insight on this issue, the reader is encourage to refer to the article “I Shall Certainly Fill You With Men As With Locusts”.

And this is the lesson of Chag Sukkot, the Festival of Booths: (1) the building and dwelling in temporary dwellings on Chag Sukkot, the Festival of Booths, brings to mind and teaches us that living in foreign lands is temporary as the sukkot are temporary dwellings and by no means they are to be accepted as permanent as the foreign lands are not permanent dwelling places; (2) the Land of Israel is home for all Israel as the Torah teaches us to come to Jerusalem and dwell in booths for seven days as we remember the days of the exile.

This article is a part of series of articles dedicated to the Appointed Times of YHVH and how His Messiah Yeshua has fulfilled them. For the rest of the set-apart days of the Creator, please, visit The Appointed Times of YHVH.

May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.