No Greater Joy
Yael Eckstein | October 13, 2023
Be joyful at your festival—you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levites, the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns. — Deuteronomy 16:14
This month, I will share with you weekly devotions based on my book, Generation to Generation: Passing on the Legacy of Faith to Our Children, about Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the lessons of faith found in this annual joyous observance.
The holiday of Sukkot is celebrated in the fall, just a few days after the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The Jewish custom is to begin building a sukkah, a temporary booth, immediately after Yom Kippur ends in enthusiastic anticipation of the coming festival.
In our home, all of my children enjoy taking part in building our sukkah. Once the walls are up, the children begin to decorate, just as my sisters and I used to do when we were growing up. They bring home school projects to hang on the walls of the sukkah and make paper chains out of colorful strips of paper to drape from the ceiling.
As the holiday gets closer, we put a “roof” onto the sukkah, which in Israel is usually comprised of large palm fronds that are conveniently delivered to our home. This unusual ceiling completes the sukkah and turns it into a sacred space with a magical feeling.
No Greater Joy
According to Jewish law, the walls of a sukkah can be made out of any material. Typically, they are constructed out of simple pieces of wood or from canvas. However, the roof of the structure, called schach, must be created out of natural materials like bamboo or tree branches. In addition, while the covering must provide more shade than sun, it must also be sparse enough to allow glimpses of the sky and to let in rain.
The purpose of the unusual sukkah ceiling is to teach us that our security does not stem from a sturdy roof over our head, but from God alone. We recognize that regardless of our material conditions, God determines how our lives unfold and is in control of our present reality. In this setting, we can let go of our worries and rejoice in knowing God will take care of us.
The holiday of Sukkot is also known as the “time of our joy,” based on the Bible verse that instructs us, “Celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles…Be joyful at your festival” (Deuteronomy 16:13-14). There is no greater joy than having complete trust in God, knowing that everything has, is, and always will be exactly as it should be—divinely ordained, perfect, and for our absolute best.
How has God provided for you during difficult seasons of life? Celebrate His provisions and give thanks!