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Away in a Sukkah
It was Christmas morning and Carol & I were driving to brunch with our
kids and grandkids. The radio was, as usual, set to Sirius XM's
Watercolors where the music was all smooth jazz Christmas music.
One that I heard several times throughout the day was Away in a Manger.
We've all heard it enough to know it bemoans the poor state of Joseph and
Mariam who were forced to give birth to the Messiah in an animal stall
because there was no room at the inn.
But, what we never hear from the pulpit of our traditional Christian
churches is that although the Greek word from which we derive the word manger should correctly be derived from the Hebrew word for a hut for
animals, which is a Sukkah, or, in plural form, Sukkot. After all, the couple
were journeying across Israel, not Greece. And rather that a squalid hut
smelling of manure, the sukkah was certainly built in anticipation of the
revelation of the Shekinah, the radiant Glory of G-d.
In all likelihood, The Light of the World was concieved on Chanukah,
on the 25th day of Kislev, at the beginning of the Festival of Lights.
And this would result in His coming to tabernacle with us on the Feast
of Tabernacles, or Sukkot, in the fall. During this great festival, all Israel
dwells in Sukkot for eight days. These temporary structures are built
with three walls and a thatched roof. This is to allow the people inside
to see the Shekinah when it appears.
The festival is a remembrance of Israel wandering in the wilderness,
dwelling in temporary shelters, led by the Shekinah. And so, the
innkeeper sacrificed the place where his kids would have camped out;
where his wife would have served their meals and where they would
have entertained guests each night. This was the blessing of a true friend.
And, in exchange, this hut built to see the radiant Glory of G-d revealed
was the very place where that Glory was revealed for us all.
Away in a manger? A smelly stable? No, in a place prepared
especially for the Radiant Glory of G-d to appear.
And on a fall night, some 2,000 years ago,
The Light of the world came to tabernacle with us.
Rejoice, the world celebrates the birth
of the King and the Messiah of Israel.