KosherTorah School for Biblical, Judaic & Spiritual Studies

The Apocalypse of Succot


by Ariel Bar Tzadok

Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.


During Succot, we celebrate all the good things that God has bestowed upon us over the previous year. In Temple times, when Israel was an agriculturally based economy, Succot was celebrated as the fall harvest. This context still exists, echoed in our waving of the four species, but the meaning of this has expanded upon over the many centuries of exile. Succot now focuses on dwelling in the Succah, the temporary booth in which we eat, and live during the week of the holiday.


The message of the Succot holiday is a simple one, yet universal in tone. God is control over nature, and we human beings are part and parcel of nature. As such, God is in control of us too. For one week we need to go outside of the comfort of our secure homes, and experience nature, in the precise way as defined by Halakha (Jewish law). We “dwell in booths (Succot)” to remind us that, as hard as we might try to forget it, we are nevertheless natural human beings, subject to God's natural laws, and ultimately, an integral part of this natural world, its destiny, and its fate.


With this said and done, we notice that the Prophets reading for the first day of Succot consists of Zechariah 14. The connection to the holiday is clear. The selection clearly states that after the great Day of God, and the destruction of the invaders of Jerusalem, God will finally be recognized as King over all the Earth, by all peoples. He will then demand that every nation observe the Succot holiday, dwelling in booths for a week, just as Israel does during this time period. So far, so good.


On the intermediate Sabbath (Hol HaMoed), we read a selection from the Prophet Ezekiel (38-39), which is complimentary to the reading from Zechariah. This prophetic selection ominously predicts the great war of Gog and Magog, what others have referred to as the final battle in history, Armageddon. Together with the reading of Zechariah, these two prophets outline for us a Messianic scenario that has been at the heart of Jewish apocalypticism since its inception.

Succot, it seems, focuses on the apocalypse, and the coming of the Mashiah. Again, the relationship between giving thanks to God over the previous year's harvest, acknowledging God as King over the whole Earth, and the final imposition of Divinely inspired enlightenment upon all of humanity (the Messianic age) are presented together, and are clearly inter-related.

Before the human race can experience the Messianic age, together with universal Succot, we together, as a whole, have major social and psychological issues to deal with first. The one common problem that has plagued humanity as a whole, and each individual therein, has been our lack of proper focus upon our collective humanity, and its natural relationship to the natural world in which we live. Human beings have been at war with each other since prehistoric times. Human beings, for the most part, especially in modern technological times, have treated Mother Earth, and the natural order of things, like an enemy to be conquered, and ruthlessly occupied.

“Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature” are popular modern metaphors of personification of the natural order. Yet, before anyone jumps to condemn this metaphorical description, I remind you that this concept is also embraced in Judaism by both rationalist, and Kabbalist alike. Maimonides, in his Law of the Foundations of Torah (3:9), speaks about the “stars and spheres” being alive, sentient, and aware. These would include the planet Earth herself. The Kabbalah is full of talk about the Shekhina, the Divine Presence, referred to as the “female face” of God Nukba, the sefirat Malkhut. This too, when interpreted properly, refers to what we call “Mother Earth.” The metaphor, and the personification of “Mother Earth,” therefore, should not be challenged.


Returning to prophecy. In the end of days, the prophecies state that it will be God Himself who arouses the nations to war against the city of Jerusalem. Curiously, this war is not fought against the Nation of Israel. It is not even fought against the Jews. Indeed Zechariah makes it clear that there will be Jews joining in the war against Jerusalem, (commentators attempt to explain why). The war is specifically against the city. Why this will be the case is always subject to conjecture, until the time when the prophecy actually unfolds. Judging from current events in the Middle East, this unfolding might not be too long in the future.


As for the exact scenario that will occur to bring about Armageddon, the terrible war of Gog and Magog, no one can say for sure with any rational certainty. Messianic prophecies are a garbled bunch of overlapping, and often contradictory stories, legends, and predictions. Maimonides speaks wisely when he says that no one can ascertain the full details, and that knowledge of the exact scenario is not relevant to our faith. Therefore, we will let prophecy unfold as God so wishes to guide the history, and destiny of humanity.


For us, here today, we focus not on the future, and its promise of Messianic enlightenment, but rather on the here, and the now. We focus on the meaning of Succot, and its universal message of humanity's final state of global enlightenment, eventual peace with nature, and harmony, finally, among ourselves.


This beautiful end-state for humanity will not come easily. It will only come about with serious Divine intervention. The prophecies of Zechariah and Ezekiel are both clear. God inflicts upon the nations of the world a powerful earthquake. The prophecy in Zechariah states that the Mount of Olives will be split in half, moving north and south, creating a tremendous valley. Ezekiel's prophecy predicts that this valley opening will possibly be forty-five miles wide, and will extend into the Mediterranean Sea. A valley that wide would wipe out most of the heartland of modern day Israel. Such an earthquake would be catastrophic, to say the least.


Before we contemplate the future significance of this event, let us first contemplate how strong a fore of nature must be unleashed in order to manifest an earthquake of that magnitude! Certainly such a catastrophic quake might be off the present-day chart of the Richter scale. As such, a quake of that magnitude might indeed shake the entire tectonic plates system of all the world's land masses. If this is the occur, we could be facing a global catastrophe the likes of which have only been seen portrayed in apocalyptic movies out of Hollywood. To think that something of that nature could ever happen for real boggles the mind. Yet, we have the prophecies of both Ezekiel and Zechariah that predict that this is exactly what is to happen.


If the prophecies of Zechariah and Ezekiel are to be fulfilled literally, as written, with the coming of a tremendous earthquake, this would be a sure way for both our Heavenly Father and Mother Earth to set the record straight by remove a warring humanity from the world, and replacing it with a humanity at peace, and finally in harmony with nature, and with one another. But, then again, this is after all, the message of the Succot holiday in the first place!

The relationship between the apocalypse and Succot is becoming clear, the message and purpose of the two are identical. Man in peace with nature, man in peace with one another, and how these two define what it means for man to be at peace with God.


Annually, Succot raises the specter of the apocalypse to come. Yet, while from a human perspective the apocalypse is a terrible catastrophe of the highest order, from God's perspective the apocalypse is only the final act of repair, and rectification, for the greater good of humanity.


God rectifies humanity using nature (the earthquake) as His tool. It is Mother Earth, herself, that is shaking herself free from those bothersome human beings who are so much out of sync with nature, that the only way to repair them is to remove them. These wayward souls are desperately in need of a Succot holiday of their own, to annually remind them that they too are part and parcel of nature, God''s creation, and have an integral interest in maintaining the natural order.


Thus, in the Messianic era, Succot will become a universal celebration and observance for all humanity to rejoice in our collective human harmony, and our restoration of peace with the natural world. The apocalypse is thus a means to a good end. The good end to which Succot points is a message that we can, and should, embrace today.


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