On the first day (of Sukkot), you will take for yourselves a fruit of a beautiful tree, palm branches, twigs of a braided tree and brook willows, and you will rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. -Leviticus 23:40
This Jewish custom reminds me a tiny bit of our palms on Palm Sunday custom. During the Sukkot Blessings, the faithful wave four species of plant. In the left hand, one holds an etrog. This is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon native to Israel; in English it is called a citron. In the right hand, one holds a bundle of branches containing one palm branch, two willow branches and three myrtle branches.
There are two primary explanations of the symbolic significance of these particular plants. I love how these two remind me of teachings in the New Testament!
One: They represent different parts of the body – The long straight palm branch represents the spine. The myrtle leaf, which is a small oval, represents the eye. The willow leaf, a long oval, represents the mouth, and the etrog fruit represents the heart. All of these parts have the potential to be used for sin, but should join together in serving God.
Two: They represent different kinds of Jews – The etrog, which has both a pleasing taste and a pleasing scent, represents Jews who have achieved both knowledge of Torah and performance of mitzvot. (Mitzvot: A precept or commandment of the Jewish law.) The palm branch, which produces tasty fruit, but has no scent, represents Jews who have knowledge of Torah but are lacking in mitzvot. The myrtle leaf, which has a strong scent but no taste, represents Jews who perform mitzvot but have little knowledge of Torah. The willow, which has neither taste nor scent, represents Jews who have no knowledge of Torah and do not perform the mitzvot. We bring all four of these species together on Sukkot to remind us that every one of these four kinds of Jews is important, and that we must all be united.
From 1 Corinthians, Chapter 12: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body,” it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety. God has constructed the body so that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.
From the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 13: Jesus taught this parable. A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. … The seed sown on the path is the one who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it, and the evil one comes and steals away what was sown in his heart. The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy. But he has no root and lasts only for a time. When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, he immediately falls away. The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word, but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word and it bears no fruit. But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
VERY FUN SITE HERE @ http://biblebeltbalabusta.com/jewish-lego/
Excerpt: “The intersection of Jewyness and Lego is pure win. Why? LEGO doesn’t “do” Jewish. By default, anything Jewy we make out of Lego is a hack, i.e. creative modification: two words that are so Lego to begin with. When we build Jewish Lego, we convert the world’s best construction toy to Judaism. Then, add the simple tactile pleasure of messing about with Lego, and the simple pleasure of inviting your kid to do the same.”
The blog’s author is a creative Jewish mom who does wonderful things with and for her family to celebrate their faith. She makes me wish I had learned about Jesus’ Jewishness while I was still raising kids. Our parish did a Seder meal each year and my dd remarked recently how important that was to her and how few Christians she knows have any understanding of the Seder. It would’ve been so fun to include lots of the other Jewish traditions to our Christian home.
My husband would’ve had a ball building a sukkah in the back yard with the kids, that’s for sure! LOL And what fun to think about how, “When Jesus was a boy, he and his mom and dad built a sukkah every year and prayed in it and ate in it and slept in it too, just like we’re doing.”
Don’t you just LOVE how creative Jews can be? My fave is the pickup truck. Hey, if the only piece of outdoors you’ve got a legal right to is your parking space, well, then that’s where you put your sukkah! Is it any wonder these people are the apple of God’s eye?! 🙂
In honor of the holiday’s historical significance, we are commanded to dwell in temporary shelters, as our ancestors did in the wilderness. The temporary shelter is referred to as a sukkah (which is the singular form of the plural word “sukkot”). Like the word sukkot, it can be pronounced like Sue-KAH, or to rhyme with Book-a.
The sukkah is great fun for the children. Building the sukkah each year satisfies the common childhood fantasy of building a fort, and dwelling in the sukkah satisfies a child’s desire to camp out in the backyard. The commandment to “dwell” in a sukkah can be fulfilled by simply eating all of one’s meals there; however, if the weather, climate, and one’s health permit, one should spend as much time in the sukkah as possible, including sleeping in it.
Many Americans, upon seeing a decorated sukkah for the first time, remark on how much the sukkah (and the holiday generally) reminds them of Thanksgiving. This may not be entirely coincidental: I was taught that our American pilgrims, who originated the Thanksgiving holiday, borrowed the idea from Sukkot.
The pilgrims were deeply religious people, living their lives in accordance with the Bible. When they were trying to find a way to express their thanks for their survival and for the harvest, they looked to the Bible for an appropriate way of celebrating and found the fall harvest festival of Sukkot.
This is not the standard story taught in public schools today (that a Thanksgiving holiday is an ancient English pagan custom that the Pilgrims brought over), but that story doesn’t fit with the Pilgrims’ strict biblical views.