Parashat Sukkot 1 – Erev Shabbat 2 October 2020
Week of 3-9 October 2020
Torah portion: Leviticus 22:26-23:44 Haftarah: Zechariah 14:1-21
Theme: Keeping the Feast of Sukkot for Jews and other nations
The Feast of Sukkot or Tabernacles is a widely-known Jewish Feast. Yet, Zechariah’s prophecy extends the celebration to other nations. If this is so, then, Christians are also part of the celebration. However, as a Filipino Catholic, I did not know about this feast growing up and only when I studied Scripture as a young adult, was I introduced to this Feast! Even then, even if we built a sukkah in our school, I still would have regarded it as a Jewish feast. Zechariah is pushing the boundaries further. Would this be something that Christians can celebrate together with the Jewish peoples in the spirit of interreligious dialogue?
The Parashat HaShavua contains the list of Jewish feasts that the people of Israel were to observe and how these should be observed, especially by the kohanim. Leviticus 23: 39-44 contains the instructions regarding the four species which are part of the celebration: the lulav (palm branch), myrtle, willow and etrog (lemon). A comedy-drama film called Ushpizin (2004) depicts this feast beautifully. I highly recommend it! If you have time, watch it this week!
Zechariah’s prophecy, which is the haftarah, is surprisingly strong in its injunction to the nations, “All who survive of all those nations that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pilgrimage year by year to bow low to the King Lord of Hosts and to observe the Feast of Booths. Any one of the earth’s communities that does not make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to bow low to the King Lord of Hosts shall receive no rain.” [14: 16-17] How do we interpret this injunction?
Of all the feasts, sukkot was to be a common celebration with the nations. Etz Hayyim interprets the verse positively, “The prophet Zechariah […] speaks to all when he promises God’s heavenly bounty of rain to all those who will worship the Lord in Jerusalem on the Feast of Booths. This is the favor the Lord extends to those who acknowledge Him. It is the gift of life from the Lord of Life. The survivors of the death-dealing battles can appreciate its value.” [Etz Hayyim, 1252-53] One cannot help but notice the earth-centeredness of the celebration: something that is indeed common to all “nations” regardless of religious affiliations.
In the Christian tradition, although sukkot is not a widely celebrated feast, Christ is allegorically read into the text and the celebration of the feast, especially in the symbols of light and water. Sukkot is specifically mentioned in John 7:2 with all the messianic allusions pertaining to Jesus.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) How can we incorporate this feast into our spiritual practice as Christians? 2) In what ways can we celebrate this feast as part of Jewish-Christian dialogue with respect to the understanding or interpretation of both traditions?
Bibliography: Etz Hayyim (New York, 2001)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Sr. Petite Lao, RNDM,Canada/Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna 2010, 2014, 2019
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