Booths: Leviticus 23:33f

Five days after Yom Kippur comes Sukkot, or the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, to complete the high Holiday season. You take the first day of Sabbath rest, then observe for seven days, and end with another day of rest.

This is the end of the agricultural year, the vintage, the second harvest in the fertile region. Booths are built, likely begun as shelters for harvesters in the fields, later associated with tents in the Exodus, and now ritually prescribed as a reminder to the faithful everywhere of their sojourning traditions.

The festival ends with a day sometimes called shemini atzerat, the eighth day, either as its own festival or the end of Sukkot. In Babylon, the festival of Simcha Torah, celebration of the Torah, was observed on the ninth day. In current North American Reformed circles, these days are made one, celebrated as Simcha Torah, as the reading of the Torah is completed and begun again by unrolling and re-rolling the scrolls in some synagogues.

Our own fall rhythms of harvest, thanksgiving, then Christ the King or memorial Sundays leading to a New Year, convey analogous content. What could we learn by comparing our cycles of festivals to others?

Sometimes in our eagerness for encyclopedic fact collection about other religions, we fail to root ourselves in our own rhythms or recognize the textures of others’ faith traditions. God forbid these notes collude with that!

OK, this reading of Leviticus overlapped with the High Holidays in 2018, and few of us in Kitchener even noticed our neighbours’ observances. Our live conversations revealed that ‘booths’ are invisible around here – unlike in Toronto, where the leafy huts and lean-tos are ubiquitous, from the steps of Old City Hall to backyards across the city. Are they here, and we didn’t notice?

‘Trinity on Church’ is ‘pitching a tent’ on Church, in the spirit of these high holidays, remembering our vulnerability, forgotten in our affluent days. Let that be the devotional of the day – whence cometh your security?

33 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

34 Speak to the people of Israel, saying: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month, and lasting seven days, there shall be the festival of booths to the LORD.

35 The first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not work at your occupations.

36 For seven days you shall present the LORD’s offerings by fire; on the eighth day you shall observe a holy convocation and present the LORD’s offerings by fire; it is a solemn assembly; you shall not work at your occupations.

37 These are the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you shall celebrate as times of holy convocation, for presenting to the LORD offerings by fire —burnt-offerings and grain-offerings, sacrifices and drink-offerings, each on its proper day—

38 apart from the sabbaths of the LORD, and apart from your gifts, and apart from all your votive offerings, and apart from all your freewill-offerings, which you give to the LORD.

39 Now, the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall keep the festival of the LORD, lasting seven days; a complete rest on the first day, and a complete rest on the eighth day.

40 On the first day you shall take the fruit of majestic trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

41 You shall keep it as a festival to the LORD seven days in the year; you shall keep it in the seventh month as a statute for ever throughout your generations.

42 You shall live in booths for seven days; all that are citizens in Israel shall live in booths,

43 so that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

44 Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed festivals of the LORD.