Our Jewish Roots: The Feast of Booths

All who are left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall come up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the feast of Booths — Zechariah 14:16.

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  I am enamored by the cooler temperatures that bring crisp night breezes wafting through the open windows and the beauty of leaves changing colors on all the trees.  College fight songs, stores filled with back-to-school supplies, and wardrobes that include warm and fuzzy flannels are harbingers of the peaceful days that will fill the season.  I'm not yet waylaid by inches of snow and slush nor am I suffering through the humidity of the dog days of summer.  Yes, in my heart, there is no other season that holds the magic of fall.

Autumn also ushers in the last of the fall harvests, the final crops.  Farmers Markets are filled with the best of the fruits and vegetables from the season and there is a smile on everyone's face as they peruse the succulent choices for purchase.  It is no wonder that this time of year is of special importance to our Creator, as well.  It is during this time that Sukkot, the feast of Booths, is celebrated.

The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Lord's feast of Booths which shall continue for seven days — Leviticus 23:34.

The equivalent of this fifteenth day of the seventh month translates, this year, into September 27th.  September 27th begins a seven day feast (see Deut. 16:15) so joyful that it has been said that to have seen it celebrated during Christ's time is to have seen joy beyond comprehending.  And it is no wonder that during this blissful time Jesus revealed Himself as the fulfillment of this pilgrim festival that calls everyone in Israel to celebrate at the Temple. 

 At the core of the Sukkot celebration is the Sukkah itself.  This is the booth, or tabernacle, that each family makes, according to specific guidelines.  Essentially, both building the booth and dwelling in it for the seven days, or some portion thereof (see Lev. 23:42) is considered a mitzvah, or good deed.  The booth is supposed to have only one permanent side and its roof is to be made of something grown from the ground but not tied together as it sits upon the tabernacle.  In a spiritual sense, the temporary structure reflects our own temporary existence and ultimate dependence on God.  The roof, while providing some protection, should allow the occupants to gaze up into the stars at night thus being able to know and worship God more intimately.  And of course, the entire structure harkens to the 40 years that the Jews wandered the desert, depending completely upon God for food and shelter.

Sukkot is on the heels of Yom Kippur, a time of fasting and atonement; the most solemn occasion on the Jewish calendar.  It is fitting that Christ would deliver such clear words about Himself and His ministry during this pilgrim feast because Christ is, for us, both atonement and then joy.  It is His blood that covers our sins and thus allows us to follow Him, the first fruits of death, to a joyful resurrection.

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, "Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: 'Rivers of living water will flow from within him.'" — John 7:37-38.

Sukkot ends with a celebration called Shemini Atzeret or the Ceremony of Water Drawing.  Also marking the beginning of the rainy season, Shemini Atzeret is a day devoted to the love of God and honoring His interest in spending time alone with His people (Num 29:35).  For seven days, visitors, neighbors, and friends have gathered in happiness and joy.  Now the guests have gone home and Adonai holds His people dear to His heart for one more day; a special time together.  The Torah readings come to completion only to begin anew showing that God's word is never-ending, just as our earthly life will come to its end, only to be renewed in an eternal life.

Water, so replete with meaning, here can be seen as the pre-figurement of the Holy Spirit being poured upon God's people at Pentecost as foretold in Joel 3:1: "Then afterward I will pour out my spirit upon all mankind."  During the Ceremony of Water Drawing, the Levitical priest would use a special pitcher with which to draw water from the pool of Siloam; where Christ cured the blind man.  Shofars would sound and the water would be poured on the great altar.  It is during this time that Christ reveals Himself as the giver of living baptismal waters; the sender of the Paraclete, the redeemer of men.

The Illumination of the Temple is yet another significant part of Sukkot.  During the Illumination of the Temple, candles are lit and bring such light that it is said nothing is to be left in the dark.  So when Christ says in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life," He is revealing that He is able, like the illumination of the Temple, to bring a light that has no end; in His light, nothing remains in darkness.  He lights the way to the Father and also sheds light upon our sins.  It is in this illumination that we are called to respond, to repent, to seek refuge in His atoning death.

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth — John 1:14.

Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all that the Feast of Tabernacles promises.  He is our Sukkah, our shelter; He is our water, our salvific baptismal water; He is our light, our illuminated path to the Father.  Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Booths, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Ingathering makes God's plan completely known to man.  In all ways, Christ is truly the fulfillment as He has tabernacled Himself among us and has provided us with a safe haven for our eternal life.  Of all holidays that the Lord calls His people to celebrate, this Feast of Ingathering is the most significant because it says to us Gentiles that we, too, belong to Him.  When Christ makes His return to gather the final harvest, we will find that we, too, are His fruit.

Avatar photo


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at www.BezalelBooks.com. To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at [email protected].

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage