Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests

Sukkot: Judaism’s Holiday of the Apocalypse

Among the top 10 lies about Jews and Judaism that I listed a while back, No. 3 was:

3.) Judaism has no apocalyptic vision of the End of the World, similar to that in Christianity’s book of Revelation and certainly not one with a particular year as the deadline for wrapping up world history, as in the modern 2012 Mayan calendar doomsday prediction.

So here comes the festival of Sukkot, starting this Friday night, to correct the misunderstanding. My essay for Beliefnet on this too little appreciated feature of the Jewish calendar is here. Excerpt:


Little do most Jews know that this innocuous celebration of supermarket produce is, in the classical liturgy and literature, actually a rather edgy encounter with the apocalyptic strain in Judaism. You didn’t know there was one? When modern American Jews try to explain what makes them uneasy about Evangelical support for Israel, they often cite the Christian belief in the Apocalypse, when an evil superpower is expected to launch a world war, whose survivors then undergo religious conversions. But in broad outline, this happens to be just what Jews have traditionally believed about the End of Days.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 4:19 pm

Try reading Zechariah Ch13 v4 through Ch 14.
Ch13v8 “two thirds will be struch down” V9 “One third I will bring into the fire”.
Ch 14 v 4 The mountain splitting.
Seems like Israel has a really big disaster comming. Is is 2/3 of the land or of the people?

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posted September 30, 2009 at 10:06 pm

I suppose that those who teach there’s no apocolyptic vision in Judaism — if they never read these verses you presented, they’re bloody ignorant. If they /did/ read them, then I guess they’re liars.

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posted September 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch has a fascinating discussion on the symbolism of the sukkah (with walls but no effective roof) versus the symbolism of Gog – ??? (whose name is related to the Hebrew word “??” – “roof”). (I don’t remember the references for this (RSRH discusses this idea in his commentary on the Pentateuch and also in his essays on the Jewish year). If my memory serves me correctly, his son, R’ Mendel Hirsch, also references this commentary in his commentary on the haftara for Shabbos Chol Hamoed Sukkos.)
Briefly, according to RSRH, the sukkah symbolizes our dependence on God’s protection, while Gog symbolizes the effort of man to gain absolute human control over our environment, so we can be absolutely secure from all harm and danger. According to RSRH, this urge for absolute security – to declare independence from God – expresses itself in a totalitarian (he doesn’t use the term) subordination of all human activity to the state and society.

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John Bonanno

posted October 1, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Judaism has been experiencing apocalypse off and on for millenia. Sukkot is an expression of the need to find protection in the mere shadow of g-d.

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posted October 2, 2009 at 1:20 am

I guess that’s true, John. I guess the “ultimate” apocalypse for Jews is accompanied with the following:
“The many peoples and the multitude of nations
shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem
and to entreat the favor of the Lord.
Thus says the Lord of Hosts: In those days, ten men
from nations of every tongue will take hold – –
they will take hold of every Jew by a corner (Kanapf)
of his cloak and say, ‘Let us go with you,
for we have heard that God is with you.'(Zechariah 8:22-23)

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