I have many friends in the Messianic community who are coming from a Protestant Solo Scriptorum tradition. I of course believe, as do Orthodox Jews and Catholics, in an oral tradition. I understand the Protestant desire to strip away traditions of man and get back to the Torah, that of course is a good and worthy goal, and something we must do. However as I have so often said before, that often leads to throwing out the baby with the bath water. By looking at the oral traditions, we can see how others have fulfilled the mitzvah and made it easier to fulfill them, and possibly find a way for us to more easily, or more meaningfully fulfill them in a way that helps us on our walk in the path of YHVH.
So since I do not ignore the Talmud and other Rabbinical commentaries, I get to see interesting insights into how the Jewish people fulfilled mitzvah and their understandings of scripture.
I was just reading a little on Sukkot, and came across an interesting article from Chabad, with lots of reference to quotes from the Talmud. I will paraphrase parts of the article below, and add comments regarding some things I noticed.
The Biggest Party in Ancient Israel–Envision streams of families, farmers, shepherds, merchants, craftspeople, and scholars pouring in from everywhere, converging upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and celebrating day and night, non-stop for eight days.
At the close of the first day of Sukkot, Temple workers furiously installed bleachers in the Temple courtyard. Torch-laden boys scrambled up ladders scaling as high as 150ft to light the thick wicks of the tall candelabras’ four enormous lanterns so that all of Jerusalem was filled with light like day. kohanim began sounding their trumpets, the levi’im played their flutes, lyres, cymbals, and every sort of instrument in thunderous, heavenly music, while all the people joined in song. A most wondrous spectacle was the sight of the distinguished elders, with their long white beards, singing at the top of their lungs, dancing wildly, performing acrobatic feats, and even juggling acts. The most illustrious sage at that time, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who presided over the supreme court of seventy elders, would juggle eight flaming torches—and never would one torch touch another.
At dawn, fresh water was drawn from a wellspring called “Mayan HaShiloah”, just outside Jerusalem. Trumpets sounded and fanfare ensued as the flasks of water were ushered in through the Water Gate of the Temple.
On a regular morning, the offering in the Temple was the meat of one sheep accompanied by a flour-and-oil mix, both thrown into the fire of the altar, along with one flask of wine poured by a kohen at the altar’s corner. But on the days of Sukkot, there was another flask, filled with this water freshly drawn from the Mayan Shiloah, poured by the same kohen together with that flask of wine. That’s why some called the celebration, “Simchat Beit Hashoeva-The Celebration of the House of Drawing Water.”
After the morning offerings, the communal prayers, the priestly blessings, the additional offerings, and more prayers and priestly blessings, the people parted to the study halls to review their Torah knowledge and hear the talks of great scholars, then to homes throughout Jerusalem to feast, sing and celebrate some more until returning to the Temple Mount for the afternoon offerings, followed by, once again, a night of music, spectacles, and celebration. Every night, beginning as soon as the afternoon offering was complete, for around 15 ½ hours until the morning offerings. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya records, “Our eyes never saw sleep.” and Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, in the Jerusalem Talmud, commented, “One who never saw the Water-Drawing Celebration, has never seen a joyous celebration in their life.”
Today many still gather together on Sukkot to sing and tell stories. Sukkot is the most joyous of the festivals, for three times the Torah repeats that a we must rejoice and bring others to rejoice on Sukkot.https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1971019/jewish/The-Joyous-Water-Drawing-Ceremony.htm
Some interesting things I noticed:
Torch-laden boys scrambled up ladders scaling as high as 150ft to light the thick wicks of the tall candelabras’ four enormous lanterns so that all of Jerusalem was filled with light like day…Every night…until the morning…Our eyes never saw sleep.
So, the Talmud says that the people would lite giant candlesticks, so tall and so many, that the entire week the night shown as brightly as if it were day, and everyone danced, did acrobatics, and juggled with such joy that no one slept during the night, for them night was as noonday. That should sound familiar to anyone who has read the book of Isaiah:
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness. You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you as they rejoice at harvest time”Isaiah 9:2-3
“and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.”Isaiah 58:10
We see scripture coming to life, we see what Isaiah was alluding to in the hearts of the people, what imagery his words was recalling to their minds.
I also noticed strong Christian imagery. Along with the obvious one of Christ being the Light of The World, and the living waters of sacrifice. I saw the image of the Divine Mercy:
The offering in the Temple was the meat of one sheep (lamb) accompanied by a flour-and-oil mix (Matzo-unleavened wafer), along with one flask of wine…But on the days of Sukkot, there was another flask, filled with water…poured by the kohen (priest) together with that flask of wine.
The Lamb of God accompanied with unleavened bread and wine, sacrificed with wine (blood) and water poured out together by the priest. This is the image of the Divine Mercy, of Yeshua on the cross on Pesach during the week long Spring Feast, now mirrored again in the week long Autumn Feast. Another sign that all of the Moadim point to Yeshua.
Wherever we are, we have a holy mission to illuminate the world with the light, a light as brilliant as the light of the Sukkot celebration.
P.S. On a humorous side note, I am also a professional juggler, and I have to add that the Talmud passage saying,
The most illustrious sage at that time, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, who presided over the supreme court of seventy elders, would juggle eight flaming torches—and never would one torch touch another.
Struck me vividly, now they are talking about something I can actually accurately envision. That Rabbi must have juggled daily, because juggling 8 torches is a challenge, you have to throw them lightning fast and as high as a stadium roof, also you have to juggle 4 in one hand, and 4 in the other, without them ever crossing hands. I also looked up the current world record for Most Flaming Torches Juggled, and the record is 7 torches, so this Rabbi beat the current world record.