Every Jewish festival is celebrated with joy. Often there are additional emotions added to the mix: awe on Rosh Hashanah, regret on Yom Kippur, freedom from oppression on Passover. But the holiday of Sukkot is pure joy. In our prayers, we call it simply “the season of our rejoicing.” ~Menachem Posher
In Israel and throughout the world, Sukkot is being celebrated today and has been since the eve of October 5th. The festival will continue being celebrated until October 11, 2017.
Jewish families have been observing the special days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and now Sukkot since September when Rosh Hashanah, the first of the High Holy Days took place.
During the High Holy Days this year I have come away to a very special place that is set aside for times of prayer and writing. While thousands of Christians love and support Israel, I wonder why more don’t understand how deeply connected we are by faith. I will never forget when I first began reading the bible as a newly committed Christian and came across Romans 11
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. ~Romans 11:25
Somehow I knew that God was using Paul’s Epistle to tell us Gentiles that connection to the Jewish people, and part of His family, may be a mystery now but not forever. My thinking was that God is never happy if we remain ignorant when He is making a way for us to know better. Hence, I was convinced that a good study bible with footnotes and a big concordance were needed. (This was way before we had iPhone’s and computers.)
As I began studying I noticed that the feasts mentioned in the Old Testament were also kept in the Gospels. In fact, they were very key to the timeline. When I started working in Christian/Jewish relations there were many opportunities to learn about the festivals and High Holy Days. Sadly I also had opportunities to learn about Christian rejection of Israel and the Jewish people. I was born after World War II. My father was sent to Japan. We heard quite a bit about Japan, yet I was not quite in grade school before learning about the Holocaust. I broke my left arm one evening, and my mother took me to our regular doctor the next day. To my surprise a different doctor with a funny accent was in the office. After explanation that a new doctor had just come from Germany to help, Dr. Marcus wiped away my “crocodile tears” and set my arm with a plaster cast.
A few days later, mother took me to welcome Mrs. Marcus and her little boys to our small town. Never being a shy child, upon introduction I told Mrs. Marcus about my arm and my great worry that I would go for my very first day of school with such a heavy cast. She quickly rolled up her sleeve and gently showed me an ugly tattoo of numbers on her arm while encircling me with the other and quietly explained that she would always have to look at those ugly numbers. She would never be free of them. Then she changed her tone to a much more cheerful one, as she rolled her sleeve back down, and said that I would be free of my ugly cast one day; and even if Dr. Marcus couldn’t take it off before the very first day of school, she was sure I would be free of that cast very soon and always! I realize that kindness towards a little girl motivated Mrs. Marcus. In retrospect, I wonder if perhaps a life lesson for others in the room might also have been present: one for her older son, who knew the origins of her holocaust number, and one for my mother, a well-meaning Gentile, who might begin to understand the plight of the Jews and help in some way. Being an inquisitive child, I began asking mother about Mrs. Marcus’ “numbers” as soon as we left, followed up by a visit to my grandmother Keller. Slowly but surely both sets of grandparents began sharing bits of history with me and pictures they had saved from Life magazine that seemed appropriate for me.
Perhaps I always rejoice with deep joy for Israel and the Jewish people during their times of celebration and mourn with them during their times of mourning because I have learned of the tragedy that has come before their joy. I found another childhood memory among the Sukkot pages at Aish.com today, and just as I was not expecting to share about my introduction to the reality of the Holocaust, so it was for a young Jewish lad in Germany. It is a very touching story from a Jewish perspective told every year at this time. Here is a link to The Red ‘J’ of October by Laura F. Deutsch.
Isn’t it amazing that the Lord would put two such memories on web sites talking about Sukkot: one on an American web site sharing words of a Christian child who saw the tattooed numbers on an arm of a Holocaust survivor in her small home town and another from an Israeli web site sharing the High Holy Days recollections of a Jewish man from his childhood in 1938 when his family escaped the Holocaust. For myself, I believe that the words written in Romans 11 are very important for all of us. Verse 26-27, quotes Isaiah 59:20-21
And so all Israel will be saved,
“The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
For this is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
Learn About Sukkot
If you would like to watch over 6,000 Christians from nearly 100 countries from around the world celebrate Sukkot (or The Feast of Tabernacles 2017), you can sign up for free at the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. The starts October 8th in Jerusalem. They have been celebrating this feast with Israel for many years! ICEJFestival
Blessed be the Holy One of Israel always,