Nov 29, 2021
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Many people believe that Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) commemorates the Clouds of Glory that protected the Jewish people in the dessert on their journey from Egypt to the land of Israel. But head rabbi of Kfar Tapuah Rabbi Yehuda Richter, reveals that according to consensus among Torah sages, the booths erected on Sukkot actually represent fortresses that the Jewish people erected when they initially conquered the Land of Israel. The fact that the Jewish soldiers were unscathed in these “flimsy” fortresses while fighting better-equipped enemies like Bashan and the Amorites is the true miracle of the holiday of Sukkot according to the Rabbi.

Why it can’t be for the Clouds of Glory?

Rabbi Richter starts off by explaining that if the holiday were indeed celebrating the Clouds of Glory as many people believe, then it doesn’t make sense that there is no holiday for the other two blessings that kept the Jewish people alive in the desert which are the water and the manna bread that came down from heaven.

Furthermore, if the holiday was indeed celebrating the exodus from Egypt, it would make sense that it would be celebrated closer to the month of of Nisan which is during the holiday of Passover. That’s when the exodus from Egypt took place. But the month of Tishrei (October in 2020) coincides with the time that the Nation of Israel conquered the land.

Additionally, the concept of the four species were established to “remember the Land of Israel” as Rabbi Richter puts it. Those four species were non-existent in the desert:

On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Hashem your God seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)

An overlooked passage in the Book of Nehemiah

Most notably, the Rabbi refers to the prophet Nehemiah to show that the celebration of Sukkot was not marked in exile and that the Nation of Israel only started truly celebrating the holiday again when they returned to Israel . Nehemiah 8:27 shows that the last time it was celebrated was during the time of Joshua:

The whole community that returned from the captivity made booths and dwelt in the booths—the Israelites had not done so from the days of Yehoshua son of Nun to that day—and there was very great rejoicing.(Nehemiah 8:27)

A timeline of events

Rabbi Richter explains that the Nation of Israel began the conquest of the eastern part of the land of israel in the month of Elul (August-September) against the kingdom of Sichon who is the king of the Amorites.  He adds that they “continued with the battle for approximately two months. Also during Tishrei (September-October) they also fought against Og, the king of the country Bashan”.

The wars of conquering Israel began in the 40th year of their journey in the desert.

“It lasted from the month of Elul and then a half a year later in Nissan it continued when we conquered Jericho” he notes.
According to a highly revered authority in Jewish law and Torah called the ‘Rokeach’, the reason the Jewish people celebrate Sukkot is to remember the miracles that they witnessed in the 40th year when the Nation of Israel began the conquest of the land of Israel.
As crazy as it sounds, Rabbi Richter explains that the booths that the Jewish people build on Sukkot actually mimic the booths that the Nation of Israel used as fortresses during their battle against the Amorites and the Bashans in the Land of Israel.Those nations were considered to be world superpowers. The rabbi calls them the “China Russia and America of today.”

A holiday of Battles in Ancient Israel

The rabbi adds that there is a consensus that the reason the holiday of Sukkot is celebrated is because it marks the first battles for the land of Israel on the eastern bank of the Jordan River.
His sources include the Eliyah Rabbah in his book the Code of Jewish law, the Chahyei Adam. and the Chatam Sofer in his book Torat Moshe.
And so explains the Rabbi, just as many other Jewish holidays like Passover celebrate miracles, Sukkot also celebrates the miracle that the Nation of Israel were protected during wartime in such flimsy booths that they erected on the battlefield.