Simchat Beit Hashoavah:
The Water-Drawing Festival
During the time of YAHUSHUA, the high point of the Sukkot celebration was the "drawing of water" ceremony when the people called upon the YAH to provide heavenly waters for their next harvest season. This was a very grand event that was full of much pomp and drama.
It reached its peak on the last day of Succot called "Hoshannah Rabbah". Accompanied by throngs of chanting worshippers and flutists, the Levitical preists went to the pool of Siloam near the temple mount. There he filled a golden pitcher with water and returned to the temple.
The crowd entered through the Water Gate that was named for this ceremony. The choir and the worshippers began chanting the words of Psalm 118 called the "Hallel", or praise psalm.
(as in "Beth Hallel", house of praise)
O YAHUVEH, save us; O YAHUVEH, grant us success.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the YAHUVEH YAHUSHUA HA MASHICH. (in Hebrew: "boruch ha ba b'shem Adonoi")
From the house of the YAHUVEH we bless you.
This expressed the messianic hope of the people at that time, oppressed by their Roman overseers. It was very appropriate that YAHUSHUA appeared on the scene, with the multitudes chanting "Please deliver us, Son of David!" as they laid the palm branches associated with Sukkot in His path:
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees andspread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
"Hosanna to the Son of David!"
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of YAHUVEH YAHUSHUA HAMASICH!"
"Hosanna in the highest!"
This ceremony also held a deep spiritual significance. Water is a symbol of the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit. The people were aware of this as they gathered to pray for the fall rains. The prophet Joel spoke of the YAH pouring down the latter rains:
Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in YAHUVEH your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness.
He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before.
In Joel the connection is made between these rains and the Spirit:
"And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
During this water ceremony at Sukkot asks: "Why is the name of it called the drawing out of water? It is because of the pouring out of the Ruach HaKodesh according to what is said...(referring to Isaiah:)
“Then you will joyfully draw from the springs of salvation.”
This is the name given to our Messiah, for "salvation" in Hebrew is YAHUSHUA !
The Illumination of the Temple
Besides the water ceremony, there was the ceremony of the “illumination of the temple.” This is where four enormous golden candelabras were lit. This was a terrific spectacle that has been noted in JEWISH WRITING commentaries. it says that pious worshippers would rejoice and dance well into the night holding torches and singing songs of praise. It is said that the light from these candelabras on the Temple Mount could be seen for miles!
It is no coincidence that on this last day of Sukkot, Hoshana Rabba, with the themes of light and water on the minds of the multitudes, that YAHUSHUA came to the Temple to proclaim a message that offered better water and light that would totally satisfy the needs of the people:
“Now on the last day of the festival, Hoshana Rabbah, YAHUSHUA stood and cried out, “If anyone isthirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his inmost being!" YAHUSHUA struck a chord with the people who knew the scripture He was referring to:
“For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will our my Spirit on your descendants, my blessing on your offspring.” As bright as the lights were during this joyous occasion, YAHUSHUA proclaimed an even brighter light for all:
“YAHUSHUA spoke to them again: ‘I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light which gives life.”
YAHUSHUA offered life and redemption to all the pilgrims at Sukkot. He was announcing the coming of the messianic age.
Zechariah describes the return of YAHUSHUA when He will stand on the Mount of Olives. God will personally deliver his people:
"On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem..."
Later he describes the unique light also present in those days and the Living Waters flowing out of Jerusalem:
It will be a unique day, without daytime or nighttime--a day known to YAHUVEH. When evening comes, there will be light. On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half to the eastern sea and half to the western sea, in summer and in winter.
These are not just natural waters, but spiritual waters of salvation. The multitude could continue to rejoice because of what followed in Zechariah:
“Finally, everyone remaining from all the nations that came to attack Yerushalayim will go upevery year to worship the King, YAHUSHUA, and to keep the festival of Sukkot.”
What a great messianic prophecy! YAHUSHUA came to the masses on the last day of Sukkot and proclaimed that there was a way for them to be cleansed of their sin so that they no longer needed to atone for them year after year as they had just done on Yom Kippur. He was pointing to a time that Ezekiel had prophesied about:
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
This feast is the most joyous of Israel’s feast.
It came at a time when the crops had been reaped and the people’s heats had been naturally gladdened by the bounty. As they presented themselves in Jerusalem, they recalled when they were gathered there six months earlier, when they had dedicated their entire feast to the Lord during First Fruits. At that time they remembered the Exodus from Egypt and the Passover with its fulfillment of the true Passover sacrifice, the perfect Lamb of God - YAHUSHUA. Then they would recall that seven weeks after that they gathered again for the grain harvest, or Shavuot.
This was remembered as the time when the Law was given on Mount Sinai. It also points to the time when the Holy Spirit fulfilled this feast by writing the Law on their hearts at Pentecost. Now, gathering for Sukkot, the people remembered YAH’s provision in the wilderness when they had dwelled in booths. The fulfillment of this feast will be the harvest of the nations when they will all be gathered to worship YAHUSHUA when He returns to reign in Jerusalem:
“I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! YAH’s Sh’Khinah (YAH's presence) is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples and he himself, YAH-with-them, will be their GOD.”
There is a very good reason for rejoicing at Sukkot - especially for believers. Rosh Hashanah’s theme is to turn the nation of Israel to repentance with the sound of the shofar. Prophetically this will signal Messiah’s return. Yom Kippur’s theme is the redemption and forgiveness through the atonement of YAHUSHUA. One day all of Israel will recognize Him as YAHUSHUA. On Sukkot, we rejoice in the YAH’s gathering of His people to tabernacle with Him. Then they will truly "sealed in the book of life.”
“After this, I looked; and there before me was a huge crowd, too large for anyone to count, from every nation, tribe and language. They were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palm branches in their hands; and they shouted, ‘Salvation belongs to our G-d, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
Traditions in Sukkot
Almost as common as the sukkah are the "four species", or "lulav" and "etrog" ritual items derived from an interpretation of materials mentioned in Torah:
“On the first day you are to take choice fruit, palm fronds, thick branches and river-willows, and celebrate in the presence of YAH your GOD for seven days.”
These materials are to be bound together and waved in rejoicing during the festival. This is where we get the "lulav" and the "etrog".
“Etrog” is Aramaic for “that which shines.” Over time, it has come to mean a citrus fruit. this fruit is implied by the phrase “foliage on goodly trees” where “goodly” meant both, the taste of the wood of the tree, and the trees fruit. Only the citron fulfills these requirements. Another way to understand the etrog is by using the numerical values of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The number values in the phrase “fruit of goodly trees” matches the number values in “etrogim” (plural for etrog).
"Lulav" originally meant sprout, but has come to mean willow, myrtle, and palm branches. Myrtle was chosen because of the phrase “boughs of leafy trees.” There are various explanations for the four species that have been chosen. Each of the four species refers to a specific place on a persons body where he/she can serve YAH.
- The etrog represents the heart, a place of understanding and wisdom.
- The palm represents the backbone and one’s uprightness.
- The myrtle represents the eyes that give us enlightenment.
- The willow represents the lips and our prayers to YAH.
Both the lulav and the etrog are used in the synagogue each day during Sukkot. The etrog is placed in one’s left hand and the lulav (myrtle, willow, and palm branches bound together) are in the right hand and are to be waved in the direction of the four compass points during certain times of the Sukkot service.
Other traditions include inviting symbolic guests, or "ushpizim" to visit the sukkah. These are Bible patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac, Moses, etc. The idea is to recall those who went before us who were wanderers, those who depended on YAH's shelter and provision. We can turn this tradition into a time to teach our living guests about these Bible characters. This is a time to show hospitality by inviting others to share a meal under the sukkah.
This would be especially appropriate to offer to anyone who does not have a sukkah of their own. It is also traditional to recite the Hoshanah Psalm while circling around the synagogue. Some have turned this into a joyous celebration by including dancers, musicians and others waving the lulav and etrog in a loud procession.
The Megillah, or short scroll associated with this feast is the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). Its soul searching, somewhat dark, contemplative nature, more associated with Yom Kippur, is said to balance the joyous note of Sukkot. It is traditionally read on the last day of the feast.
The biggest tradition is the building of the sukkah. Traditionally, the first branches of the sukkah are lashed together just after the Yom Kippur break-fast. Each family can build one, or it may be a communal project, involving the whole synagogue. In addition, a small sukkah can be put together completely with children.
All types of natural items can be suspended from the "skhakh", or roof of the sukkah. Apples and pears are easily tied by the stem, and will keep for the length of the feast. Some use the seven fruits of harvest mentioned in Deuteronomy 8:8, such as wheat, barely, vines, figs, pomegranates, olives, and honeycomb. This is another symbol of YAH's rich blessing of provision for us.