THE SUKKAH AND THE MISHKAN
THE HAFTARAH FOR THE SECOND DAY OF SUKKOT I KINGS 8:2-21
The Haftarah reading for the second day of Sukkot focuses on the dedication of King Solomon’s Temple during the festival of Sukkot – referred to simply as he-chag, ‘the feast’.
But the connection between the Temple and Sukkot is deeper: The building of the sanctuary – mikdash – in Jerusalem represented the creation of a permanent dwelling place – mishkan – for the Eternal One. In the wilderness, by contrast, the mishkan was a tent, made of cloth and animal skins, which was carried by the people from place to place throughout their forty year journey. In this sense, it was a sukkah.
But what is a sukkah? In Leviticus chapter 23, the biblical calendar, we read, concerning the festival of Sukkot (:42-43):
You shall dwell in sukkot seven days; all that are home-born shall dwell in sukkot; / in order that your generations may know that I caused the Israelites to dwell in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Eternal your God.
Technically speaking, the Israelites dwelt in ohalim, ‘tents’ in the desert, not sukkot – which were the ‘huts’ that their descendants put up in the fields during harvest time. Nevertheless, the image of the sukkah expresses, both, the experience of impermanence and fragility, which characterised the wilderness years, and the longing for the enduring presence of God in every place – with or without the Temple; a concept that became encapsulated in our prayers: u’phros aleynu sukkat sh’lomecha ‘spread over us your tabernacle of peace’.
Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah