Sukkot and Ecclesiastes – Life is short, eat dessert first!
You might think that the book we read at this time of year would be full of joy and thanksgiving, rejoicing over the final ingathering of the year’s produce, and praising God for his goodness, faithfulness and provision for all our needs. It’s a time to look forward with eager anticipation to the final ingathering of the nations to worship the God of Israel in Jerusalem, and to expect the coming of the Messiah leading home the exiles of Israel scattered among the nations.
But it is also, as befits the autumn season, a time of reflection and pondering over the transience of life. We read, of all books, the book of Ecclesiastes (Hebrew kohelet – the preacher), to remind ourselves that life is short, often seems to go around in circles, to be pointless, and leading us to despair. The rabbis had problems with this, questioning whether it should even be in the Bible at all, but they eventually agreed that kohelet’s unique perspective on life, suffering and meaninglessness could be harmonised by seeing things not just from our own human perspective, but from God’s, the one who sees everything that goes on “under the sun” yet is above it all, in control, and ultimately, working out all our circumstances for good.
If you are ever tempted to despair, to doubt that God cares, or even exists, Ecclesiastes is for you! We celebrate this most joyful of festivals, reminding ourselves that just as our ancestors pitched tabernacles (tents) in the wilderness as they relied on God to provide all their needs, so also we remember that Yeshua, the Word made flesh, came and ‘tabernacled’ among us. He bridges the gap between the weak, the fallen and the decaying strands that make up our human condition, and the perfection, purity and power of God, the Holy one of Israel. As Oscar Wilde once said, ““We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” At Sukkot we celebrate the star that was born among us, Yeshua, the Prince of Peace.