וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן, פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים, וַעֲנַף עֵץ-עָבֹת, וְעַרְבֵי-נָחַל; וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם, לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם–שִׁבְעַת יָמִים.
“And you shall take, on the first day of the feast, fruit of a beautiful tree, curved branches of a palm tree, branches of a willow, and you shall rejoice before the Lord for seven days.”
We are living in a season of desperate pressure. People around the world, from every tribe, nation, and tongue, sharing a global pandemic; fear, anger, restriction, loss, separation, and isolation are conditions perhaps more relatable now than at any point in living memory.
Yet, the appointed seasons of the Lord continue. While many of us have wrestled with how to celebrate communal holidays indoors, Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles, sends us out.
The deep significance of Tabernacles is beyond a single article, as it has historical, ecclesiological, eschatological, and prophetic significance, even today. Still, we will first look to one point: “And you shall take.”
Under the weight of enormous familial, societal, and occupational pressures, many of us have become tunnel visioned; so focused on the troubles before us that we scarcely take a moment to look up, look around, and remember that we are alive, after all.
This is not a commentary on meeting the immediate needs of the moment; rather, a reminder for all of us: look up.
I start this festival commentary, not in the grand endeavor of building a sukkah/tabernacle, but with a reminder to look. Look away from the mountain of pressures and problems before you, and look to the trees and waterways around you.
The Lord commands, “And you shall take,” implying that you are outside, and in the midst of life, but differently, the “fruit of a beautiful tree,” you have admired something other than your troubles, “curved branches of a palm tree,” movement once again, now down by the water, “branches of a willow,” to do what, “you shall rejoice before the Lord for seven days.”
Here the Lord takes us away from the confinement of our troubles, to His creation. We’ve had to look for fruit, look for beauty, touch creation, and visit flowing, living water. Life, beloved, is more than your troubles, fears, schedules, and pressures.
By this simple, overlooked, and often ignored command, the Lord is reminding us to saturate ourselves in His grace. All the rain has brought forth beauty, and fruit. The rain has caused the living waters to flow. The aroma of life fills, filters, and refreshes the stale air of worry. Beauty is what surrounds, the trials will pass.
Rejoicing before the Lord, waving the elements, the bouquet of His creation gathered in our hands, is the witness of victory. Yes, a victory even in anticipation.
Here is the final scene of Sukkot, a victorious people from every tribe, people, nation, and tongue, not fighting a virus or each other, but victorious in the Lamb:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9).
Hag Sukkot Sameach!
Be well. Shalom.