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Sukkot, the Autumn Harvest Festival

Discover the holiday where Thanksgiving may have originated.

by
P. David Hornik

Bio

September 20, 2013 - 10:00 am
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PJ-Sukkot1

Fifteen days after the stocktaking of Rosh Hashanah, and five days after the more rigorous stocktaking of Yom Kippur, falls the weeklong holiday of Sukkot—one of the most joyous and pleasant Jewish holidays. It began this year at sundown on Wednesday, September 18.

In ancient Israel, Sukkot was (along with Passover and Shavuot) one of three pilgrimage festivals in which Jews from throughout the land made their way to the Temple in Jerusalem. In its oldest origins Sukkot was an autumn harvest festival. Exodus 23:16 calls it:

the feast of ingathering, which is in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field.

But in the next biblical book, Leviticus, God confers on Sukkot a more specific significance as he tells (Lev. 23:42-43) the Israelites:

Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths:

That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt….

The reference is to the Israelites’ dwelling in rough, temporary structures during their 40-year desert-trek to the Promised Land. Hence the “booths”—sukkot in Hebrew—that observant Jews (and in Israel, some not-so-observant Jews) build, decorate, eat meals in, and even sleep in during Sukkot.

Hence also the holiday’s English name, the Feast of Tabernacles.

Indeed, some historians make a highly plausible case that the holiday of Thanksgiving has its origins in Sukkot.

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All Comments   (15)
All Comments   (15)
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Wow. The concept of Jewish cultural influence really irritates the hell out of some people. Tell me, were the Bible-reading, strongly O.T.-influenced Puritans (who also had no love for their own Celtic and Teutonic pagan ancestors) likely to have modeled an outdoor harvest feast of thanksgiving on the observance of Ikore or Dongmaeng?

And Trey555, darling, whatever Christians may think of it now, the Feast of Tabernacles sure didn't commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ over a thousand years before that particular event. Just FYI. Or aren't you content with Christmas?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
You are correct that the Feast of Tabernacles does not commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.

It is prophetic of the birth of Christ.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Islam claims all Christian and Jewish events, people, ideas, etc., as Muslim. Christianity turns Christian as much of pre-Christian Jewish thought, practice and ideology as it can. Apparently these are various version of Replacement Theology. The New Testament points to all sorts of 'proofs' that the Jewish prophets predicted Jesus' arrival, essentially inserting them into the Tanach where needed. It is an odd form of respect, perhaps, or a response to an awareness of the 'borrowing' - denial by retroactive annexation....people.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, Jewish cultural influence, wouldn't want any of that. Oh well. It takes all kinds.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with the holiday Thanksgiving. It was the only feast that lasted eight days. HE was born on the first day of the feast and circumcised on the eighth. When one takes the time to do a thorough study of the scriptures, he or she will learn that all of the three great feasts that YHVH commanded us to observe involve Jesus Christ.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Modern agriculture, and life in general has removed us from the seasonal pace of the lives of our ancestors. Such religious holidays are a great reminder. Likewise I love Thanksgiving because Jews, all flavors of Christians, and people of good will can all share the holiday fully, but it still has religious significance.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
When in captivity in Babylon, Jewish people borrowed heavily from Babylonian practices, while Babylonians borrowed heavily from Assyrians, which borrowed from Sumerians. We can trace beliefs, rituals, laws, observances from one culture to the next, how these beliefs evolved over time as they were modified to fit the next culture.
This being said, its hard to make the statement thanksgiving is borrowed from anything other than European Harvest moon festivals
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
round here we heartily celebrate the three seasons - huntin' season, football season and the holiday season. this weekend were having a tailgate festival, and you'll never guess where we celebrate it.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Indeed, some historians make a highly plausible case that the holiday of Thanksgiving has its origins in Sukkot."

Almost anything can be constructed out of whole cloth painted over with a nice coating of superficial resemblance.

I hope you can find a way to enjoy your succoth without needing to legitimize it by taking credit for a very different holiday.

God gave it all the legitimacy it needs. That should be sufficient. You really needn't manufacture any.

44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Over reach is a Hornick specialty.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
List of harvest festivals

Ikore: celebrated by the Yoruba people of Nigeria
Chuseok: Korea
Dongmaeng: Korea
Niiname-sai, Shinjo-sai: Japan

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Harvest_Festivals
Mid-Autumn Festival: China
Tết Trung Thu: Vietnam
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dozhinki is a Slaviic harvest festival.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
In Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times. Harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon

Did the Israelites invent the concept or anem Harvest Moon too?
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is not unusual for cultures that practice agriculture to have harvest festivals.
44 weeks ago
44 weeks ago Link To Comment
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