The Apocalypse of Succot…What Does This Jewish Holiday Mean for the World At Large
During Succot, we celebrate all the good things that God has bestowed upon us over the previous year. In Temple times, when Israel was an agriculturally based economy, Succot was celebrated as the fall harvest. This context still exists, echoed in our waving of the four species, but the meaning of this has expanded upon over the many centuries of exile. Succot now focuses on dwelling in the Succah, the temporary booth in which we eat, and live during the week of the holiday.
The message of the Succot holiday is a simple one, yet universal in tone. God is control over nature, and we human beings are part and parcel of nature. As such, God is in control of us too. For one week we need to go outside of the comfort of our secure homes, and experience nature, in the precise way as defined by Halakha (Jewish law). We “dwell in booths (Succot)” to remind us that, as hard as we might try to forget it, we are nevertheless natural human beings, subject to God’s natural laws, and ultimately, an integral part of this natural world, its destiny, and its fate.
With this said and done, we notice that the Prophets reading for the first day of Succot consists of Zechariah 14. The connection to the holiday is clear. The selection clearly states that after the great Day of God, and the destruction of the invaders of Jerusalem, God will finally be recognized as King over all the Earth, by all peoples. He will then demand that every nation observe the Succot holiday, dwelling in booths for a week, just as Israel does during this time period. So far, so good.
On the intermediate Sabbath (Hol HaMoed), we read a selection from the Prophet Ezekiel (38-39), which is complimentary to the reading from Zechariah. This prophetic selection ominously predicts the great war of Gog and Magog, what others have referred to as the final battle in history, Armageddon. Together with the reading of Zechariah, these two prophets outline for us a Messianic scenario that has been at the heart of Jewish apocalypticism since its inception.
Succot, it seems, focuses on the apocalypse, and the coming of the Mashiah. Again, the relationship between giving thanks to God over the previous year’s harvest, acknowledging God as King over the whole Earth, and the final imposition of Divinely inspired enlightenment upon all of humanity (the Messianic age) are presented together, and are clearly inter-related.
Before the human race can experience the Messianic age, together with universal Succot, we together, as a whole, have major social and psychological issues to deal with first. The one common problem that has plagued humanity as a whole, and each individual therein, has been our lack of proper focus upon our collective humanity, and its natural relationship to the natural world in which we live. Human beings have been at war with each other since prehistoric times. Human beings, for the most part, especially in modern technological times, have treated Mother Earth, and the natural order of things, like an enemy to be conquered, and ruthlessly occupied.
” Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature” are popular modern metaphors of personification of the natural order. Yet, before anyone jumps to condemn this metaphorical description, I remind you that this concept is also embraced in Judaism by both rationalist, and Kabbalist alike. Maimonides, in his Law of the Foundations of Torah (3:9), speaks about the “stars and spheres” being alive, sentient, and aware. These would include the planet Earth herself. The Kabbalah is full of talk about the Shekhina, the Divine Presence, referred to as the “female face” of God Nukba, the sefirat Malkhut. This too, when interpreted properly, refers to what we call “Mother Earth.” The metaphor, and the personification of “Mother Earth,” therefore, should not be challenged.
Returning to prophecy.
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