Gene Benjamin II
Sukkot: Food for Thought
SUKKOT: FOOD FOR THOUGHT
By Avi ben Mordechai
No doubt, Sukkot in Jerusalem is a special time for huge numbers of folks. People come here from all walks of life, theology, and ideology; some making personal religious pilgrimages while others are here for some other undefined reasons. Perhaps for some, “just because” it feels right.
For me and my beloved wife Dina, Sukkot is a reminder of a spiritual principle; that our life in this physical world is much like that of dwelling in temporal tents, in a sense, as nomadic desert dwellers. Indeed, the Almighty, Eternal One of Israel has given us Sukkot to remind us that we are just “passing through” in life and that we should not get too attached to all of the physicality that this world often wants to hand to us on a silver platter, essentially tempting each of us to get comfortable with this life as we know it. The general philosophy of most people is this: if you really want to make your way in this world, you have to do it yourself, or as my step-mother used to say, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.” However, life and success is not about “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps,” as the old saying goes. Rather, the object lesson of the sukkah is to show us that we are all living in earthly tents and that we rely on the Creator and Master of Heaven and Earth to give us our daily bread; to teach us that we can’t be successful without Him; that we should store up treasure in heaven and not on earth; that we need Him for all of our daily sustenance, whether the package is perceived as large or small; that life is fragile and vulnerable to all the elements that surround us; that if we are going to learn anything about what real life is all about, then we should remember that the sukkah is about the temporal aspects of life as we seek to dwell in the glory of the Almighty. Interestingly, I think Sha’ul (Paul) put it best by saying the following:
For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from Elohim, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is Elohim, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. (2 Corinthians 5:1-5)
I am certain that I could go on to write an entire chapter of thought on these awesome words. However, allow me briefly to focus on the last statement in verse 5:
Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is Elohim, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
If we were to look at this in Hebrew, the term “pledge” is “Mashkon.” In modern Hebrew, a mortgage is called a Mashkanta.” However, what I want you to notice is that both words from the ancient Hebrew world and the modern Hebrew world are both derived from the Hebrew root Sheen Kaf Nun; a root that gives us the word “Shechinah” or the dwelling presence of the Spirit, which was shown to all Israel in the Mishkan; that is, the Holy House (i.e., “Temple”) that was called by His Name. This is the pledge that Sha’ul (Paul) was (is) speaking of; a pledge that promises us – all Israel, that the in-dwelling Shechinah (presence) of the Spirit was never meant to only dwell in the Mishkan of the Holy House of ancient days. The presence of the Spirit of the Holy One was also meant to dwell within each of us; in our Mishkan or Holy House – the body. The in-dwelling Spirit of YHWH’s presence (Shechinah) is Abba’s “promise to pay” (Mashkon) His obligation (Mashkanta) to the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, on the condition that we enter into His contract through the Torah of Moshe and through the Torah of Yeshua, the prophet like Moshe (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, “Yahweh your Mighty One will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16according to all you desired of Yahweh your Mighty One in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of Yahweh my Mighty One, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17“And Yahweh said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.”). In short, Sha’ul (Paul) is doing a rather brilliant play on words in Hebrew, helping us to understand that there is a spiritual connection between the Tent (Mishkan), the Spirit (Shechinah), and a pledge (Mashkon), which is nothing short of what we would call today a mortgage (Mashkanta) – a document of obligation that says, “I promise to pay.” Thus, the Spirit of YHWH has been given to each of us as a down-payment of His promise and obligation to pay His balance in full to all Israel. Therefore, let us walk in the Spirit and identify ourselves with the promise of the Father that He will deliver on His good Word. Of course, this leads us to one more thought: the connection between the Word and the Sukkot (Tabernacles) that we dwelt in, when we traversed through the desert for forty years!
In Hebrew, the term “desert” does not mean what most think it means; a dry, uninhabitable place. Not so in Hebrew. The term “desert” is from the Hebew word midbar, which is from the Hebrew root Dalet Bet Resh. You may recognize this from the term “WORD.” That’s right; the Word of God is related to the desert. Why? Because it was in our ancient desert wanderings where we truly learned to depend on the Word of God for 40 years. It was His Word that saved us; delivered us; took care of us; blessed us; disciplined us; gave us our daily sustenance. You see, in ancient Israel (and yes, even in modern Israel) the midbar (“desert”) is a place for grazing sheep. Shepherds know that sheep are not grazed in the cities; they are put out to pasture, to graze in the midbar – the desert. This obviously means that there is good food to eat in the desert but that it doesn’t grow from being planted and cultivated by man. Desert food grows from the blessings of YHWH, who brings the desert its rains in their proper time. Of course, we are like sheep (Ezekiel 34:30-31, “Thus they shall know that I, Yahweh their Mighty One, am with them, and they, the house of Israel, are My people,” says Sovereign Yahweh.’” 31“You are My flock, the flock of My pasture; you are men, and I am your Mighty One,” says Sovereign Yahweh.” and 36:10-12, “I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited and the ruins rebuilt. 11I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bear young; I will make you inhabited as in former times, and do better for you than at your beginnings. Then you shall know that I am Yahweh. 12Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, My people Israel; they shall take possession of you, and you shall be their inheritance; no more shall you bereave them of children.””). Our desert food is the Word and our desert dwelling was and remains in the sukkah of the Word. However, we must be ever so careful to pay attention to false shepherds “out there” who regularly fleece the sheep; who take their food for themselves; who foul the good desert waters with their feet; who run the sheep around in circles on the mountains (a quite-literal reading of Jeremiah 50:6 in Hebrew, “My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; they have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.”).
My friends, this is what the festival of Sukkot is all about: following the true shepherd to the waters of the Word; feeding on the Word in the desert; walking in the Spirit of the Holy One; living in temporary shelters to remind ourselves that we too, through our own physical bodies, that we are just living in temporary structures designed to be a dwelling place for the regenerated spirit that He truly wants to freely give to each of us (Ezekiel 36:24-27, “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. 25Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”).
We know that Jerusalem below is not a true and exact copy of what is in the Heavens. Jerusalem below is secular and its collective population is focused on seeking after the ways of the world and its ideology. Nonetheless, as a collective body of true Israel, we are a people of the Book – the manifest Torah of Moshe and thus, we are living, breathing copies of Jerusalem above; at least, we are supposed to be. However, in this life we know that things are not always as they appear. We are a spiritual people trying to live in a physical world and naturally; there will be conflicts and battles to overcome as we fight the good fight against the flesh and against the world. But in the end, the battle will be overcome and the declared victory will go to YHWH, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, who has given to each of us the pledge of the Ruach HaKodesh – the Spirit of the Holy One, so that we can each learn to trust in the Word and rely on YHWH to teach us that any religion of man is a religion of death. The true faith is manifest as we learn to walk in the Spirit and listen to the Spirit as it guides us in the ways of Torat Moshe (the Torah of Moses) by that still small voice, saying, “go this way; go that way; do this; do that; follow this path; don’t go here, go here; apply these words this way, not that way….”
But we must learn not to think of Torat Moshe simply as the Law given by a certain historical man within the context of Israelite history. Rather, we should look to the meaning of Moshe’s name, given in Exodus 2:10, when Pharaoh’s daughter said “for I drew him out of the water.” In a sense, we have all been drawn out of the lower waters of this world (born out of the amniotic fluid of mother), and we must learn to prepare our hearts to be born from the waters above, by the in-dwelling of that still small voice of the Spirit, that leads us through the midbar (wilderness), through the trials and tribulations of life, in our temporary dwellings, our body-vessels. Torat Moshe (the written Torah of Moses) was (and remains) the divine conduit for the Upper Waters of truth. This is where we must truly start our lives all over again and become “born from above” (Yochanan 3:7, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’”; Galatians 4:26, “but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”). This is the true essence of the Renewed Covenant that Yeshua re-inaugurated for us, to fulfill that which was spoken of in Exodus 20:19-20, “Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not Yahweh speak with us, lest we die.” 20And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for Yahweh has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.””; a truth that the prophet Yirmeyahu expanded on, saying in the Name of YHWH, “for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Jeremiah 31:34). It is not that just a select few have special divine knowledge and are selectively chosen to pass some of it along to the masses. We all have access to the whole truth of the Torah and we should all actively seek that knowledge for the purpose of serving one-another, not ruling over one-another. There is no reason to tolerate man-made “power-grabs” in the Kingdom of Elohim.
This year, in Jerusalem 2011, at the divine festival of Sukkot, we will take one more itty bitty baby step towards learning to live in this true faith of the Renewed Covenant and we shall do it by collectively gathering together in Jerusalem below, to manifest the reality of the Divine Torah as it lives in the Jerusalem above. We invite you to come and join us and together, we can take this journey! We’ll dwell in our own privately constructed group sukkah (not rabbinically certified); we’ll take our meals together; we’ll tour the land and learn the Bible on-location together; we’ll come to understand and appreciate each other; we’ll seek the good of one another in the bond of shalom. These things and so much more! Please, come join us. If you cannot make it to Jerusalem this year, 2011, then at the very least, try to come together with others that may be gathering for Sukkot celebrations in your country, state, city, or locality.
Shalom and Blessings from the soon-to-be City of the Great King
Avinoam ben Mordechai