By Tal Haroni
The holiday of Sukkot comes a few days after Yom Kippur, and it is a joyous holiday! The sukkah is a temporary structure that symbolizes the booths the Israelites lived in while wandering through the desert (Leviticus 23:42-44). In Israel in the days leading up to the holiday you will find many people building sukkahs outside their homes, in their courtyards, and on their balconies. During the holiday families will eat in their sukkahs and some will even sleep there. In the Jewish rabbinic tradition, it is customary to host seven “tzadikim” (“righteous guests”) in the sukkah during the seven days of the holiday, each day with a different “tzaddik”. This custom in Aramaic is called Ushpizin, meaning “guests”. While we may not follow rabbinic tradition, it’s a beautiful practice that teaches us the importance of hospitality and welcoming guests.
The holiday of Sukkot is meant to be celebrated with joy in the family, but not only that –
“You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are within your towns” (Deuteronomy 16:14).
Sukkot invites us to grapple with the concept of hospitality, the “Ushpizin.”
You can say that this is a lesson for our lives in general. It is pleasant and enjoyable to celebrate and live alongside people “on our level,” people who understand us, people with whom we enjoy being. But what does the New Testament say about hospitality? And what does hospitality look like in our modern days?
The subject of hospitality appears in several places throughout the New Testament. We see it mentioned among the qualifications and qualities that a potential leader in the church has, Titus 1:8; 1 Timothy 3:2. However, it’s not just for leaders, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” (Romans 12:13). This is a call for each and every one of us who believe.
One of the core values in the Revive Israel community is that we do not turn away those whom God sends to us. Whether it’s someone who is broken and in need of a lot of care and attention or a strong and mature leader in faith.
Jesus calls us to have a soft heart. A soft heart is one that is ready to receive the weak and care for them. A soft heart is a heart that does not consider itself greater than others before the Lord.
When I was a new believer, I remember there were many people who opened up their homes to me and helped me along the way. I would not be who I am today without these people. I was not easy or mature and still, they accepted me into their hearts and helped me mature as I learned to see myself in the eyes of the Lord.
It is not easy to share our space, food, and belongings with others. I remember a student who stayed with me at home, and at first, it wasn’t easy for me. But over time, she grew more in the Lord and from being a little sister who needed constant care, she became a big sister to others. There’s nothing more beautiful than that!
True, there is a risk in bringing someone into our lives. What if we get hurt? What if it’s too much for me? The Lord knows our abilities and our capacity. He sends us those who need our skills, gifts, or abilities. In fact, when we welcome guests, we take a step of faith. Our faith is not in the guests, but in God who sent them. A God who knows me and you and knows what each and every one of us is capable of.
In Hebrews it is written, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
There is something wonderful when we welcome guests – we also change. When someone new comes into our home, there is a tendency to see the places where they need to grow, the areas in their life that don’t suit us. But what if we allow the person we brought into our home to change us? If we are genuinely devoted to hospitality, we will give all we have without keeping anything for ourselves. Then the perfect love of God will be fulfilled within us. What a privilege it is when Yeshua expands the boundaries of our hearts and allows guests into our lives to transform us more and more into His image.
Jesus says, “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14).
This year, as we each sit in our own sukkahs, let’s open our eyes, but most of all our hearts, to those whom the Lord is leading us to invite within. Let’s not allow any part of the Lord’s body to wander alone in this world. May we seek out the “guests” who need a kind word, a hot meal, and a listening ear.
I invite you to pray in faith with me: Lord, I trust you and thank you for giving me by your grace, a home, talents, gifts, money, and various abilities. I thank you that I can share the abundance you have given me with others. I pray that you open my eyes to identify the people I can host in my heart or in my home, those whom I can help with what You have blessed me with. Lord, I thank you that you know me and know what my capacity is and I entrust my concerns and worries to you. Help me to trust you and serve you with devotion.