The Message of the SukkahSeptember 27, 2023 - 12:00 am
Live in temporary shelters for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in such shelters so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in temporary shelters when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God. — Leviticus 23:42-43
At sundown Friday, Sept. 29 through Oct. 6, my family and I will join Jews around the world in celebrating Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. Please enjoy these devotions centered on this joyous holiday that immediately follows the High Holy Days.
In the Jewish tradition, there are two words that express the concept of faith. One is emunah and the other is bitachon. There is a profound difference between these two terms. Emunah is believing in God and that He runs the world. Bitachon is acting in accordance with that belief.
For example, a butcher who believes that his earnings come from God has emunah. However, if he panics when a competitor opens up, then he is lacking bitachon. Bitachon means knowing that only God determines how our lives will unfold and actively trusting Him even when we feel threatened.
Every year the Jewish people practice this active faith-living on the holiday of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles. For seven days, we leave the comfort and security of our homes and live outside in a rickety hut called a sukkah, where we are vulnerable to the elements.
The Message of the Sukkah
The sukkah is a reminder of our constant need for God’s providence and an affirmation that we trust Him to protect us. Just as God protected the Israelites while they wandered in the harsh desert following the Exodus, God protects us in the sukkah, and every day of our lives.
Living in Israel is in many ways like living in a sukkah. We are acutely aware of our vulnerability. My children have lived through wars, heard the piercing air raid sirens, and have experienced running to safety. We have had many talks about faith in God during these times.
At the same time, we are very aware that we live in the land where “the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it” (Deuteronomy 11:12). We know that He who guards Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121:4). We have experienced God’s providence and seen His miracles—we speak about them with our children and make sure that nothing goes unnoticed.
In truth, no matter where you may live, there are always risks and potentials for danger. But the message of the sukkah is that while we may be vulnerable, God also protects us. It is God’s job to watch over us and it is our job to trust Him.
Your turn: Was there a time in your life that you felt vulnerable and potentially in danger? How did God protect and guide you? Share your story!