This Friday evening, we begin to observe the Festival of Sukkot. Of all the sacred seasons that G-d commanded Israel to observe, this festival, also known as the Festival of Tabernacles has the strongest implications for the nations of the world. Even today, vast numbers of Gentiles identify with the holiday of Sukkot, and converge on Jerusalem just to be in the holy city at this time of year. It is as if their heartstrings are pulled by some invisible magnet, the source of which they know not. Some force draws them to connect between Sukkot and the location of the Holy Temple.
In the Written Torah and the Oral Tradition
This is well understood, for it is a connection emphasized by both the written Scriptures and the Oral Tradition. The relationship between the nations and the holiday of Sukkot dates back to ancient times, and arcs through our own period as well to form a bridge into that future, rectified world that we all yearn and long for, Jew and Gentile alike...the day when "the L-rd and His name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
The Sacrifice of Seventy Bulls
During Sukkot in the time of the Holy Temple, a unique sacrifice was offered on the altar...with a unique intention.
In chapter 29 of the book of Numbers, the Bible outlines the sacrifices that are to be offered over the span of the holiday. Counting the number of bulls that are offered over the seven-day period, we find that the total number was seventy. And in chapter 10 of the book of Genesis, there are seventy nations mentioned. These are the primordial nations, sometimes referred to as the "seventy languages," which represent all humanity. The Talmud (BT Sukkah 55:B) teaches that the seventy bulls that were offered in the Holy Temple served as atonement for the seventy nations of the world. Truly, as the rabbis observed, "if the nations of the world had only known how much they needed the Temple, they would have surrounded it with armed fortresses to protect it" (Bamidbar Rabbah 1, 3).
Here we can already sense that inherent within the very nature of the holiday, an inexorable bond-as expressed through its sacrificial requirements-links it to the earth's peoples. Sukkot was mandated by the Creator Himself to be a holiday for all the world.
Prophecies of the End of Days
The haftorah, the section of the prophets read in the synagogue on the first day of the festival, comes from the 14th chapter of the book of Zechariah. This prophecy deals with the end of days, when the nations of the world will all gather together to do battle against Jerusalem. At the culmination of this, the L-rd will be King over all the earth.
Here is a brief look at some of the key verses:
"Behold, a day of G-d is coming, when your spoils will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all nations to do battle against Jerusalem Then G-d will go forth, and fight against those nations On that day, His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives On that day there will be neither bright light, nor thick darkness, But it will be one continuous day known as G-d's G-d will be King over all the earth; on that day G-d will be One and His name One. All the land will become a plain but Jerusalem will remain elevated on its site Men will dwell in it Jerusalem will dwell in security."
May we merit together to see "Jerusalem elevated on its site" in the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and ...dwelling in security," and may we celebrate this Festival of Sukkot in joy.
With blessings from Jerusalem,
Rabbi Chaim Richman