All Jewish feasts contain three dimensions. They originate from celebrations of nature religion and
thus tell of Creator and creation; they then become remembrances of God’s actions in history; finally,
they go on from there to become feasts of hope, which strain forward to meet the Lord who is
coming, the Lord in whom God’s saving action in history is fulfilled, thereby reconciling the whole of
creation. (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth)
The feast of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of the Tabernacles, is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the miraculous protection the Children of Israel received when they were running away from Egypt. It lasts a week and is celebrated 5 days after Yom Kippur, a day of atonement and forgiveness where prayer and fasting are practiced and most of the day is spent in the synagogue.
During Sukkot, a sukkah is built in gardens, yards or even balconies of houses. It is a hut that has 3 or 4 walls made from any material and a roof that must be made of unprocessed materials that have grown from the ground such as bamboo leaves or tree branches. The sukkah turns into the families’ home for a week; however, not everyone sleeps there but it is used to eat all the meals of the day and to do other daily activities. For the men, including boys who have reached 13 years of age, eating inside the sukkah is an obligation which is why most restaurants in many cities here build their own.
Chapter 7 of John’s gospel narrates an occasion in which Jesus celebrated Sukkot:
After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore, Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.
However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”
Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”
Since the feast commemorates the Exodus, spending some days in the sukkah and leaving the comforts of home is a proof of the Jews’ willingness to have faith in God’s benevolence.