16 “Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed. 17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.Deuteronomy 16:16-17
The last several years, my wife and I have been blessed to be able to be in Jerusalem for Sukkot and Passover. This year has been one of disappointments and lessons. Flight cancellations in the Spring and closed borders for the Fall feasts leave us barred from celebrating in Jerusalem for the first time in several years. My heart hurts so badly.
Before we began making the trek with frequency, I did not understand the ravings of those who made the pilgrimage at least once per year. Now, I share in their loss. There is a reason God commands at least the males to come up to Jerusalem at the feasts!
This year, celebrating in the nations instead of Jerusalem has only strengthened my burning desire to be in Israel at the feasts. Further, it has strengthened connections with other non-Jew celebrants that we have gotten to know from around the world. Each feast we would run into many of the same connections in the Old City, at Independence Park, at James Block concerts, and in various places around the country. Currently, Zoom, Skype, and WhatsAp along with email and telephone are having to suffice. But, the connections and brotherhood grow stronger!
In an article titled Flight Bans To Israel Aren’t Stopping These Christians From Celebrating Sukkot , Dr. Rivkah Lambert Adler quotes a number of Hebrew roots and Christian contacts that she has met over the years at the feasts. The consensus is a broken heart at not being able to be in Jerusalem for Sukkot.
The truth is, every time I’ve been in Jerusalem at the feasts, I’ve had a very mixed feeling. On one hand, I rejoice and am filled with a special sense of the Presence of God. On the other hand, I always look around me and mourn how few come from the nations. I look for friends and contacts I know in the US, especially ‘big name’ teachers, but they are never there. Excuses vary, but the bottom line is they’ll go to Israel at other times, but not the feasts. How sad.
This year, I have wondered if being barred entirely from the Land is a form of judgment against the returning exiles because we refused to go up when we could. Think about that.
I, along with others, have pleaded with the hose of Israel to go up for the feasts. Along with others, such as Camp Ephraim and Ani Yosef, we have worked to make the trip so affordable that we’ve managed to get two meals per day and a place to camp for less than $12/per person per day!! Still, numbers have been low. People would rather camp with friends in the exile instead of trusting Abba to provide so they can obey the commandment. (For those interested, hundreds of pics of previous years’ trips are here.)
My prayer this Sukkot for every reader, and especially the whole house of Israel, is that your heart will burn for Jerusalem. I pray Abba break your heart for the exile. May He rip the scales off of our eyes and turn our weeping faces toward Jerusalem.
9 “With weeping they will come,
And by supplication I will lead them;
I will make them walk by streams of waters,
On a straight path in which they will not stumble;
For I am a father to Israel,
And Ephraim is My firstborn.”
10 Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,Jeremiah 31
And declare in the coastlands afar off,
And say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him
And keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.”
11 For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
And redeemed him from the hand of him who was stronger than he.
4 “In those days and at that time,” declares the Lord, “the sons of Israel will come, both they and the sons of Judah as well; they will go along weeping as they go, and it will be the Lord their God they will seek. 5 They will ask for the way to Zion, turning their faces [c]in its direction; [d]they [e]will come that they may join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.Jeremiah 50
Because I love you and tell you the truth:
- May your hearts be utterly broken this Sukkot.
- May you realize the great emptiness of celebrating in the diaspora.
- May Abba create in you a burning desire to be IN Jerusalem for the feasts next year.
- May you turn away from any teacher that says it is okay to be outside the Land for the feasts.
- May teachers and guides who lead trips between feasts, but not during feasts, realize the great error they commit and lead the people in.
- May the whole hose of Israel be restored!!