I enjoy visiting my youngest daughter and her family in September. She lives in a predominantly Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Miami Beach. In September the Jewish faith observes Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. This year Sukkot begins today, September 18.
For forty years, Jewish ancestors traversed the Sinai Desert, following the Exodus from Egypt. During this period, miraculous “clouds of glory” surrounded and hovered over them, shielding them from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. Ever since, Jews remember God’s kindness and reaffirm their trust in His providence by dwelling in a sukkah–a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches–for the duration of the Sukkot festival. For seven days and nights, traditional Jews eat all their meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as their home.
So it is in my daughter’s neighborhood. Small sukkahs have been built in yards, some in the front yard and some in the backyard. For some families the children sleep in them. Meals are taken there. The first two days of this festival are a major holiday, when most forms of work are prohibited. On the preceding nights, women and girls light candles, reciting the appropriate blessings, and they enjoy nightly and daily festive meals.
Celebrations fill their homes with song and dance until the early hours of the morning. The remaining days of the festival most forms of work are permitted. They try to avoid going to work, writing, and certain other activities – many families use this time to enjoy fun family outings. Every day of Sukkot they recite the complete Hallel, Hoshanot, and Musaf, and the Torah is read during the morning service.
I am not Jewish. I am a Christian. But, I enjoy being In Miami Beach this time of year. It reminds me that Jesus Christ is my sukkah, my shelter, shielding me from the dangers and discomforts of the desert. In Him I find my sustenance. He is my light in the darkness. Through Jesus Christ I am one with the Father. I find my rest, my shabbat, in Him. Being in Miami Beach, one block off 41st Street, reminds me to celebrate my exodus from bondage to the world and freedom from the penalty of sin.
Sukkot is also called “The Time of Our Joy!” So, with this Jewish neighborhood, I celebrate my own exodus, my deliverance, my shelter, my Sukkot!