A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Sukkot
As We Camp, So Shall Our Journey Be
Another cycle of the moedim is behind us, and a new cycle lies before us. How was your Sukkot camp? Hurricane? Fire? Flood? High winds? Flat tires? Soaked tent? Arguments with the kids? Benadryl-level bug bites? All those were a possibility this year. Some of them are probabilities every year.
In Israel, both barley and wheat are sown in the fall. This means that many of the seeds we've planted during the fall feasts can be expected to ripen in the springtime from Passover to Shavuot. Hmmmm. Were those days of wilderness camping in Sukkot that important?
In the plan of the Holy One, Passover and Sukkot are inextricably linked. It's a declaration, a proclamation of what is to come:
'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. (Le 23:42-44)
Sukkot starts a new journey to Passover, and Passover to Sukkot. What we sow at Passover, we'll reap at Sukkot. What we sow at Sukkot, we'll reap at Passover. So yes, I suppose those camping days were important. What if, however, those little tribulations at Sukkot are experienced to deliver us from Great Tribulation? The apostles until the Fourth Century believed that the feasts "sealed" believers against destruction. Oh my goodness, you mean we've sealed up our bad experiences at Sukkot? Yikes! I don't want to reap an argument or a hurricane next Passover!
This is when disciples of Yeshua can say "Baruch HaShem, I have an advocate with the Father." The first Passover consisted of little more than killing a lamb, painting the doorposts, and having a simple meal in a state of readiness. The Sukkot that followed it consisted of little more than wide-eyed wonder, looking at the stars of freedom. The Father in Heaven did what Moses and Aaron could not: He forced Pharaoh to let the Israelites celebrate His feasts. Primitive obedience is honored, but then we grow.
For many returning to the Torah, years have passed, and the wide-eyed wonder has worn off, just as it is designed to do. Only when the wonder wears off can we be tested and grow out of our mumbling and grumbling stages of growth. When we grow out of our mumbling and grumbling stages, then we can grasp the holiness of observing the Father's feasts in the Father's Land, Israel. Wide-eyed wonder should never really disappear, but it should be renewed in the proper seasons, the moedim.
This renewal does not happen with a haphazard approach to the feasts. It comes with planning and preparing. Preparation is a huge part of the Torah, and it is one proof of faith. If we had a great Sukkot (we did), then within that great Sukkot comes the obligation to plan next year's Passover and Sukkot, starting now. Yes, now. Now. Now. Now.
Newcomers to the Torah have excuses for not always having their calendars in sync with the Father's. Those who have camped before have none. As we camp, so shall our journey be. Pharaoh, however, is the wild card for those who live outside the Land today.
And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'" But Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go." Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword." But the king of Egypt said to them, "Moses and Aaron, why do you draw the people away from their work? Get back to your labors!" (Ex 5:1-4)
In fact, three times in Exodus this chag (festival) sacrifice is emphasized in relation to Moses' and Aaron's specific chag request of Pharaoh to release the Israelites from their work, which would suspend the Egyptian economy for several days. It was three days' journey into the wilderness, then it would take three days' journey to return. Six days of the journey, and a seventh to sacrifice. A week off to celebrate a religious holiday? Pharaoh very emphatically refuses. His response is basically, "It's the economy, stupid."
Pharaoh expects business as usual: eating, drinking, marrying, planting, building, buying and selling. Wow, that sounds a bit Revelationistic, doesn't it?
And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed. (Lk 17:26-29)
So how can the wide-eyed wondering and wandering Children of Israel today escape the Pharaoh trap? If Moses and Aaron couldn't do it, then how can I convince my boss that I need off for over a week of Sukkot to celebrate a chag in the wilderness? After all, it's been years since the Death Angel passed through. My boss isn't likely to believe him if I tell him that a pestilence, flood, fire, and brimstone will fall upon me if I don't celebrate Passover or Sukkot.
How do you know that? Have you tried?
Okay, that's not the conversation starter with your boss, but a funny thing happened on the way to Sukkot this year. My husband and I were sitting in the Walmart parking lot in Meridian, Mississippi, using their free wifi to send out the last Shabbat Torah Tip Sheet, called "Shabbat, Shabbat." It is tips for newcomers to Torah, and this last one gave tips on how to sync one's personal calendar with Israel's on the special Shabbats of the moedim. The three points were "Signed, Sealed, and Delivered."
Imagine our surprise when the VERY FIRST teacher at Sukkot, Steve Hostetler, delivered his message, which consisted of three main points: "Signed, Sealed, and Sacrificed." When the Ruach is working, there are no coincidences. Steve's message was timely, and the point that hit the hardest was based on Leviticus 23:1:
The Lord spoke again to Moses, saying, "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'The Lord's appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations-My appointed times are these:"
Steve pointed out that we are not simply to observe these feasts, but to PROCLAIM them. In other words, don't just tell your boss and coworkers you're "going camping for a week." Proclaim the feast! Tell them exactly why! Don't be embarrassed, even if you know your boss will deny the request and your coworkers will giggle. Pharaoh takes a lot of convincing. If you're really full of faith, you might hint that Sukkot is the Feast of the Nations, and you'll be happy to pray for him while you're using your vacation days to worship.
Don't threaten your boss with pestilence or boils. Moses told Pharaoh that the pestilence would fall on the Israelites, not the Egyptians, and he did say, "Please." Please. Please.
Sacrificing your family reunions or vacations to Disneyland or Knott's Berry Farm for Sukkot is an act of wide-eyed, wondrous faith. This is where you take a step of faith and wait for the Father to meet you there. It doesn't mean there won't be hurricanes, fires, soggy tents, and arguments. It means you're sowing the seed that you have so that you can reap a better Passover.
In fact, it's proclaiming the feasts is an act that fights chamas, the cause of The Flood in the days of Noah. Chamas is violence and cruelty. How would you be cruel to your boss and coworkers? By not proclaiming the appointed times of worship through two things: your humble request and your self-sacrifice.
Thus says the Lord, "Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also
do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Je 22:3)
Her priests have done violence to My Torah and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them. (Ezekiel 22:26)
Her prophets are reckless, treacherous men; her priests have profaned the sanctuary. They have done violence to the Torah... (Zephaniah 3:4)
Chamas, or violence, led to The Flood. According to the Prophets, failing to care for the stranger, alien, orphan, and widow, a special commandment of Sukkot, is chamas. Not to teach the distinction between clean and unclean, holy and profane, Sabbaths and all other days, is chamas. Not proclaiming the Torah and teaching it by example is violence, chamas. A day will come when we will wish that we had proclaimed the appointed times to the nations, aliens, orphans, widows, and even our own families, any people separated from the appointed times of the Father in Heaven.
Your boss won't give you the eight days of Sukkot? Bargain for what you can. He won't give you the seventh day of Passover? Bargain for the first. Volunteer to work extra hours, work an unwanted shift, do a dirty job that no one else wants to do. Give a co-worker a ride to work, cover for another who needs to run an errand at lunch. Sacrifice. This is how we sign, seal, and deliver.
Be honest about why you want those days off, and you will proclaim the days until the time you are released. Service the relationships on your job and with your family that will in time bear fruit, freedom from buying and selling your labor on a Shabbat Shabbat. Who knows what kind of mixed multitude will tag along with you?
Now is the time to plan Passover. Now is the time to plan Shavuot. Now is the time to plan Sukkot. As we camp, so shall our journey be.
Torah Tip Sheets
If you missed the Shabbat Shabbat Tip Sheet in the last email, it is attached.
Torah Tip Sheets are practical instructions for the very beginner in Torah. The first series explains how to start observing Shabbat and making it Shabbastic. Feel free to print, forward, and share, for they are indeed free, no strings attached.
The Torah Tip Sheets will make a great collection of handouts for newcomers to Torah. If you have a fellowship or congregation, they may be printed in their entirety to give away to the very beginner. Print some extras to have on hand for the beginner who has found the truth of Shabbat, but still needs
al starting tips.
Alan and Hollisa Alewine