The Universal Festival of Sukkot – for Jews and Gentiles Alike!
Unlike Passover and Shavuot, Sukkot is not an exclusively Jewish festival. Rather, it is a holiday for the entire world to celebrate.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
While Passover is an exclusively “Jewish” holiday in which we celebrate our freedom from Egypt and becoming a nation united under God, and Shavuot is a “Jewish” holiday in which we were given the Torah and charged with being a “light unto the nations,” Sukkot, on the other hand, is not a “Jewish” holiday. Rather, it is a holiday for the whole world! For Jews and Gentiles as one!
Let me explain and give but a few examples.
There are two famous passages in scripture that discuss the Sukkot holiday. One, in the Book of Kings, Chapter 12, talks about Sukkot as the most elaborate and joyous holiday in ancient times. The other passage, in Zacharia, Chapter 14, talks about Sukkot in the future. In both passages, we find that Gentiles played (and will play) an active and integral role in the Sukkot celebrations.
Another Sukkot-Gentile connection can be found regarding the construction of the Holy Temple. As is well known, the Temple was built by King Solomon. The construction of the Temple lasted seven years and was completed in the month of Cheshvan, roughly late November.
Nevertheless, the Temple was not dedicated when it was completed. Rather, King Solomon waited almost a year in order to hold the dedication festivities on the holiday of Sukkot – the holiday for both Jews and Gentiles. This is closely connected to the fact that the Temple is “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56), for Jews and Gentiles. So too, at the dedication of the Temple, Solomon explicitly prayed that “when a Gentile prays facing this house, hear his prayer and grant him all he asks for” (I Kings 8:41-43).
Yet another Sukkot-Gentile connection can be found in the number of animal sacrifices that were offered on Sukkot. On Sukkot, more animals were offered than on any other holiday, including 70 offerings representing the 70 nations of the world. In this way, all Gentiles would be blessed with rain in the coming year, bringing livelihood and prosperity to all. Again, a universal holiday.
Finally, the sages tell us, “If the nations of the world would have known the greatness of the Holy Temple [and what it does for them], they would have ensured that it would never have been destroyed.”
Allow me to take this opportunity to wish all United with Israel friends, both Jews and Gentiles, a very happy and joyous Sukkot holiday!