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
The wars of conquering Israel began in the 40th year of their journey in the desert.
A holiday of Battles in Ancient Israel