Sukkot – Home Is Where the Heart Is
Rabbi Robert. O. Miller
“On the first day (of Sukkot – Feat of Tabernacles) you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before Yahweh your Elohim for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to Yahweh for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. (Leviticus 23:40, 41)”
A major component to celebrating Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – is to erect a Tabernacle or tent.
“Celebrate this as a festival to Yahweh for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month. Live in סֻכָּה sük·kä’ (meaning temporary shelter or tent), for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am Yahweh your Elohim.’ (Leviticus 23:41-43)”
Why does Yahweh want us to live in tents? We are a modern society, is there really any need for us to know how to rough it in tents?
Here’s a story. Once there was a Rabbi (Rabbi Dov Ber, the celebrated Maggid of Mezritch), who lived on the outskirts of town in a sparsely furnished shack. Once a rich man came to visit. He was shocked at the living conditions of this celebrated Rabbi.
The rich man offered to build the Rabbi a house more befitting the Rabbi’s important stature.
In reply, the Rabbi asked the rich man to describe his own home.
The rich man expectedly described a beautiful mansion.
The Rabbi then asked him what kind of accommodations he lived in while traveling?
The rich man showed him the interior of his coach.
The Rabbi said, “I see that your accommodations are much more modest than the place you call home. It is the same with me. One day you will come to visit me in my true home and you will be astonished how different it will be.”
The sükkä’ or tent reminds us we’re just travelers in the present material world.
This World Is Not My Home
This world is not my home I’m just passing through
my treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
They’re all expecting me and that’s one thing I know
my savior pardoned me and now I onward go
I know He’ll take me through though I am weak and poor
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
Just up in Glory Land we’ll live eternally
the Saints on every hand are shouting victory
their song of sweetest praise drifts back from Heaven’s shore
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
O Lord you know I have no friend like you
if Heaven’s not my home then Lord what will I do?
the angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.
We have to remind ourselves, as nice as our homes are, they are not our true homes.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.
By faith we understand that the universe was formed at Yahweh’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered Yahweh a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when Yahweh spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.
By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because Yahweh had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased Yahweh. And without faith it is impossible to please Yahweh, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is Yahweh.
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because heconsidered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore Yahweh is not ashamed to be called their Elohim, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:1-16)
This world was not their home. All of these Ancient Worthies were strangers in this world, aliens in this land. And their behavior was dictated by the fact that this world had no hold on them. Their treasure was banked someplace else because their eyes were fixed on a heavenly destination.
Like the preacher that traveled across the country preaching. At one destination, his baggage didn’t make it. He needed a couple of suits so he went down to the local thrift shop.
He told the clerk, “I’d like to get a couple of suits,” the man smiled, led him to a whole rack of them and said, “Good, we’ve got several. But you need to know that they came from the local mortuary. They’ve all been cleaned and pressed, but they were used on corpses. Not a thing wrong with ’em. I just didn’t want that to bother you.”
The Preacher said, “No, that’s fine.” He tried a few of the suits on and finally bought two of them for about $25 dollars each.
When he got back to this his room, he began to get dressed for the service. As he put one suit on, he tried to put his hands in the pockets, but couldn’t. The suits looked as if they had pockets, but they were just flaps sewn on the coat. He thought about that for a second. “Of course! Dead people don’t carry stuff with ’em when they die.” They are no longer attached to this world.
“… they were longing for a better country— a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:16)
This is what King Messiah YahShua was teaching in His “Sermon On the Mount”:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Thiskind of mindset that impresses Yahweh. “… Yahweh is not ashamed to be called their Elohim, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:16)
Let’s take a look at what these 4 Believers of Hebrews 11:1-16did to please Yahweh:
- Abel: Scripture tells us that Yahweh asked for a sacrifice, and Genesis tell us: “Cain (Abel’s brother) brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to Yahweh.” (Genesis 4:3)
But by contrast, Abel “brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.” (Genesis 4:4)
Yahweh rejected Cain’s offering, but He accepted Abel’s. “By faith Abel offered Yahweh a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when Yahweh spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Hebrews 11:4) Abel invested in Yahweh when he offered up his sacrifice. His sacrifice was offered in faith because Abel believed that “Yahweh existed and that He was the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) In contrast, Cain was just going thru the motions of ritual. He had seen his parents doing this. He was told how Yahweh sacrificed to make coverings for his parents. He thought, “I’m a farmer, I’ll offer up my produce,” without checking to see if Yahweh would accept a change in the procedure. He wasn’t investing in Yahweh. Cain didn’t even bother to ASK Yahweh why He didn’t like the offering because he didn’t care. Cain wasn’t interested in investing in Yahweh … he was focused on himself. This is what is wrong with a lot of relationships.
- Enoch: “Enoch walked with Elohim; then he was no more, because Elohim took him away.” (Genesis 5:24) Enoch invested his life in Yahweh – He WALKED with Yahweh. Yahweh didn’t take anybody else away with Him because nobody else apparently wanted to spend that kind of time with Yahweh … but Enoch did. Enoch invested his life in Yahweh because he “believed Yahweh existed and that He was the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
- Noah: Noah invested – not only his life but – his social status in Yahweh. He built an Ark when no one even knew what a boat was. It had not rained, so there was no need to prepare for a flood. Life experience had taught mankind there was no such thing as a flood. But Noah believed Yahweh. Noah spent a major portion of his life working on a project he knew would please Yahweh even if his fellow humans thought he was insane. He invested his time, his resources and his whole family in making it a success. Yahweh didn’t select anybody else to work on this project because nobody else wanted to invest that kind of time in the things of Yahweh. Nobody else believed Yahweh’s message. But Noah was willing to do the job because he “believed Yahweh existed and that He was the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
- Abraham: He gave up everything to follow Yahweh. He left his home and his family. He walked away from everything that he’d once held dear so that he could obey the call of Yahweh. He literally became an alien and a stranger… a nomad wandering about the countryside. All because “…when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:10) Abraham believed in Yahweh … and he obeyed Yahweh because he “believed Yahweh existed and that He was the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
This world was not our home, we are just passing through. These “Men of Faith” in Hebrews 11:1-16were all held up as being people of great faith because this world was not their home. They were in the habit of investing their lives, their jobs, and their families in a Yahweh who they knew existed and Who is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. In order to become like them we’ve got to learn to think like those who don’t belong to this world.
That’s what King Messiah YahShua was trying to get through to the rich young ruler:
“A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good Rabbi, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘Why do you call me good?’ YahShua answered. ‘No one is good—except Yahweh alone. You know the commandments: “Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.” (Exodus 20:12-16; Deuteronomy 5:16-20)
‘All these I have kept since I was a boy,’ he said.
When YahShua heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.” (Luke 18:18-23)
This is not to say that every person coming into faith must sell everything they have. YahShua was honing in on this man’s problem – materialism. He wanted this man to reinvest – to invest in Yahweh. But the man just couldn’t. The young man’s wealth SHACKLED him to this present world. This world WAS his home!
This story reminds me of another story: There was this congregation that had struck oil on its property. Instantly they called a congregational meeting and adopted 3 resolutions.
#1. They decided they would pump as much oil as they possibly could.
#2. They would distribute the oil money equally among the members.
#3. They would not accept any new members.
Now correct me if I’m wrong but does it seem to you that that congregation was a little out of whack? If you’re like me you’re thinking to yourself – “what’s wrong with those people?” Have they forgotten their mission? Of course they had! They forgot that this world was not their home.
The problem for them was that they allowed the potential wealth of the oil field shackle them to this world. The lure of ready money made them desire to be citizens of THIS world.
“…remember you WERE formerly Gentiles by birth and called ‘uncircumcised’ by those who call themselves ‘the circumcision’ (that done in the body by the hands of men)— remember that at that time you were separate from Messiah, excluded from citizenship in the Commonwealth of Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without Yahweh in the world. But now in Messiah YahShua you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Messiah.” (Ephesians 2:11-13)
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both Yahweh and ‘Mammon’.” (Matthew 6:24) Mammon was the Syrian false god of riches, he was materialism personified.
Possessions and money have the most potential to chain us to this world – to rob us of our ability to be aliens and strangers in this world. And because of its power money can easily make the Believer lose sight of his mission to “sift Israel from the nations” (Amos 9:9) and become like that congregation that sold the oil and kept all the money for themselves. Money made them forget why they existed and made them become self-absorbed. That congregation no longer invested in Yahweh, instead invested in only itself. Its members focused only on their own needs… in their own wants. Not on Yahweh’s Kingdom.
Why do you think the sacred Scriptures teach us the importance of our tithes and offerings? Does Yahweh really need our tithes and offerings? He who owns cattle on a 1000 hills (and the potatoes under the hills), does He really NEED whatever I might give this week? No, of course not! But I need to give it.
My weekly offering gives me a way to invest in Yahweh. It gives me an opportunity to say that “I believe Yahweh exists and that He was the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
And my offering on Sabbath gives me a tool to remove the power money has on me. The only way money can chain me to this world is I become convinced that I can’t do without that portion of my paycheck that is my tithes and offerings.
“…at the …Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before Yahweh empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way Yahweh your Elohim has blessed you.” (Deuteronomy 16:16, 17)
Let’s face it, the only reason I wouldn’t give an offering “in proportion to the way Yahweh your Elohim has blessed” is because I have more faith in the power of money to give me security than I do in the power of Yahweh to continue to bless me year after year. By holding on to that offering chains me to this world, while giving it chains me – by faith – to Yahweh.
A Great Cloud of Witnesses
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on YahShua, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the gallows, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the Throne of Yahweh. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-4)
Who is this “great cloud of witnesses” the writer of the Book of Hebrews speaking of? In context he is speaking of the children of Abraham. They are children of faith, who have followed the example of Abraham. “By faith [Abraham], sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is Yahweh.” (Hebrews 11:9-10)
Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, described life as a “pilgrimage.” “Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.’” (Genesis 47:9)
The Hebrew word מָגוּר “mä·gür’” translated as “pilgrimage” means “sojourning or temporary dwelling place, pilgrimage, to be an alien or stranger.”
It’s a choice. Yahweh gave Adam the opportunity to choose life or death.
“…but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard Elohim said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die…” (Genesis 3:6-7)
Adam chose death.
“[Chavah] (Eve) also gave some of it to her husband (Adam) who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” (Genesis 3:6-7)
Yahweh set Life and Death before Israel:
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love Yahweh your Elohim, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For Yahweh is your life, and He will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20)
Joshua asked Israel to make a choice for life or death.
“…choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But I and my family will worship Yahweh!” (Joshua 24:15)
The People of Israel made a Choice:
“The people of Israel responded, ‘Far be it from us to abandon Yahweh so we can worship other gods!’ (Joshua 24:16)
Yahweh sent Israel His only begotten Son as the ultimate “Sin Offering” to re-establish Covenant with Them:
“…when the time had fully come, Yahweh sent his Son, born of a woman, born into the authority of the Torah, to redeem those living by authority of the Torah, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, Yahweh sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, Yahweh has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:4-7)
However, as Isaiah said: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)
Listen to the cry of our Savior:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of Yahweh!’ (Psalm 118:26)” (Luke 13:34-35)
“When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever Yahweh your Elohim disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to Yahweh your Elohim and obey Him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then Yahweh your Elohim will restore your inheritance and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there Yahweh your Elohim will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers.” (Deuteronomy 30:1-5)
Hear the charge of Rabbi Sha’ul:
“In the presence of Yahweh and of Messiah YahShua, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which Yahweh, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:1-8)
We cannot lose sight of our mission. This world is only a temporary dwelling. We are looking for a city whose builder and maker is Yahweh:
“I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from Yahweh, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband… One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from Yahweh. It shone with the glory of Yahweh, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadiain length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubitsthick,by man’s measurement, which the angel was using. The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass.
I did not see a temple in the city, because Yahweh Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of Yahweh gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:2, 9-27)”
Originally written by Rabbi Robert O. Miller on Sept. 27th 2010
(Robert Owen Miller 1957-2021)
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