Sunday, September 27, 2015

What the First Golah Community Forgot About Sukkot

In the fifth century B.C.E., when a small group of Southern Kingdom exiles returned to Israel, they had mostly forgotten about the Torah.  They had survived a great trampling, like grain on a threshing floor, but they had returned bruised and beaten and on the verge of cultural extinction.  Like wheat separated from chaff, they had remained distinct up until that point.  But now, having forgotten about the Torah, they had also forgotten about who they were.  And so they had begun to intermarry with non-Jews at an alarming rate.  It seemed as though the returnees from the Southern Kingdom (i.e. the Jewish People) would be annihilated via assimilation just as the Northern Kingdom had been:
"Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud and as the early dew that passeth away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney," Hosea 13:3
But G-d, abounding in mercy and love for His People, raised up Ezra (pictured above).

Ezra knew the cure for cultural amnesia:  Sukkot--also known as a festival of ingathering (Exodus 23.14-16) which was appropriate given that G-d had "ingathered" the exiles like wheat from the threshing floor.  




And Ezra recalled what Moshe said regarding the purpose of Sukkot:
"Moses wrote down this Teaching and gave it to the priests, sons of Levi, who carried the Ark of the Lord's Covenant, and to the elders of Israel.
     And Moses instructed them as follows:  Every seventh year, the year set for remission, at the Feast of Sukkot, when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God in the place which He will choose, you shall read this Teaching aloud in the presence of all Israel.  Gather the people--men, women, children, and the strangers in your communities--that they may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God and to observe faithfully every word of the Teaching.  Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the Lord your God as long as they live in the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to occupy."  Deuteronomy 31.9-13.
So Ezra read the Torah.  And, wouldn't you know, just as Moshe had prophesied, Am Yisrael heard the words and decided to recommit to observing the Torah faithfully:
"And he [Ezra] read from it [the Torah] facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law....They [the Levites] read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading," Nehemiah 8:3,8
"[Israel then entered] into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes," Nehemiah 10:29
And so G-d saved the Southern Kingdom (i.e. the Jewish People).  But He also hadn't forgotten about the Northern Kingdom:
"And I that am the Lord thy God from the land of Egypt will yet make thee to dwell in tabernacles [sukkot], as in the days of the solemn feast," Hosea 12:9
He promised that the Northern Kingdom would once again dwell in Sukkot as in the days of old.  They would remember their Exodus from Egypt, the 40 years in the wilderness, and they would once again hear the words of Torah being read.

But how was this to come about?  After all, hadn't the Northern Kingdom been completely annihilated via assimilation?  

Perhaps not entirely annihilated as some might have supposed.  G-d promised to thresh the Northern Kingdom but He also promised that not a single grain would fall to the ground:
"...Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt?...For behold, I am commanding, And I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, But not a kernel will fall to the ground..In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old," Amos 9:7,9, 1 
I'm so excited as I'm writing this!!!  Dear Reader, do you see where I'm going with this?  Check this out:

Where do we see this Amos passage in the Apostolic Writings (aka New Testament)?  Do you recall?  We see it in the famous Jerusalem Council decision of Acts 15:
"After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent [sukkah] of David that has fallen..." Acts 15:16
And what is the purpose of this Sukkot for these ingathered Gentiles?  Yes!  To hear the words of Torah being read:
"For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues," Acts 15:21
And we know that there is a sukkah which will cover ALL of Am Yisrael because it is written:
"And in that day....there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain," Isaiah 4:1, 6 
The day of "hearing the Torah" is also the same day as the "threshing", a threshing that some nations will not survive:
"And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of theLord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem....But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel: for he shall gather them as the sheaves into the floor," Micah 4:2, 12
"And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil....And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions....and the moon [shall be turned] into blood..." Joel 2:28, 31
And, yes, Dear Reader, tonight is Sukkot and it is also, apparently, a significant blood moon.  But I am not a prophet and do not understand such things.  At any rate, this should be a season of joy for us, that G-d has called us back to hear the words of His Torah and to dwell in the shade of His sukkah.

May the lips of the faithful be opened to proclaim this Good News!  And may He shut the lips of those who preach that Gentiles have no place in David's Sukkah!

Shalom and Blessings to the Faithful Brothers and Sisters,

Peter


2 comments:

  1. reblogged on natsab.com, and I LOVE the closing statement/thought/prayer! I join you in saying, "May the lips of the faithful be opened to proclaim this Good News! And may He shut the lips of those who preach that Gentiles have no place in David's Sukkah!"

    Chag Sameach!!

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