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Tabernacles is over now, but wait: did we get confused?

Passover is the Jewish holiday celebrated to remember the Exodus from slavery to freedom and a reminder of the hardships that plagued the Israelites in their wandering in the desert for 40 years. If so, why do Jews build the traditional booths, “Sukkot” in Hebrew, as a symbol of sleeping in the desert, at the Feast of Tabernacles, about six months before Passover?

Inspired by the past, as described in the Torah, we recently built our “Biblical Sukkah” on the banks of the Jordan. The Sukkah is used by our guests for Liturgy, gatherings and celebrations

Dear pastors, the venue is available for use on your next visit. Please book in advance at pr@yardenit.com

We are not the first to ask this question. The Sages of the Talmud offer their explanation:  in Nisan, the month of Pesach, people go out to the fields and build booths anyway because of the heat. Such booths, say the sages, can not be a proper “mitzvah”.

And perhaps the answer lies in the fact that Tabernacles is primarily an agricultural holiday, and that the roofing of the boot is made of palm fronds, which is appropriate for the season of the date harvest, at the end of the summer, in the Land of Israel?
You can view an example at the following link:

Symbol of Victory

The palm tree, whose branches are used as the roof of the sukkah (booth), is sanctified in the three monotheistic religions; in Babylon and Assyria as in Greece and Rome, it was a symbol of victory, eternal life and revival.  The biblical poet (Psalm 92:12) likens the righteous to a date tree: “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree” and in the Song of Songs (7:7) a loved one is compared to, what else, the palm: “Thy stature is like a palm tree”. The place in which Deborah sat and engaged in the task of judgment is called “The Palm tree of Deborah” (Judges 4:5); and the prophet Ezekiel sees his vision that the walls of the future temple will be decorated with figures of “Cherubims and Palm trees” (41:20).

In the New Testament, the date tree is mentioned at the reception held by the people of Jerusalem for Jesus and his disciples when they entered Jerusalem on the eve of Passover:

“[They] took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (John 12:13)

At the beginning of Christianity, the date palm became a symbol of devotion to the sanctification of faith. In the works dealing with martyrdom, the expression Palm of Martyrdom appears, and it is possible that date palm paintings found on the walls of catacombs from the beginning of Christianity are evidence that they served as hiding places for martyrs. Some pilgrims who returned from the Holy Land to Europe were nicknamed “Palmers”, because of the palm fronds they brought back with them.

“Bend thy branches, o Palm tree”

Finally, let us enjoy the charming description from the Muslim Koran and The Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew (a part of the New Testament apocrypha) on the childhood of Jesus.  During the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt from Herod’s terror, Maria was starved, and dates were the only available food in the vicinity, but they were high up in the treetops.  The Holy Child ordered the palm tree to bend its height, so that his mother could pick from its fruit.

 

And back to Sukkot

The date palm tree is connected not only to the fronds that cover the sukkah, but also to the commandment of the lulav:

And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.   – Leviticus 33:40

What is the lulav? Each year, at the head of the trunk, a group of leaves sprouts very close to each other, tightly arranged like a rose.  After these appear, the old leaves drop off.  In the center of the “rose” are the leaves which has not yet spread out. This is the lulav.  According to the laws of Sukkot, four species of plants are blessed, including the lulav, which must be shaken in four directions.

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