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No longer take comments. Post's 'labels' are unreliable for linking or searching. Use the INDEX OF POSTS instead. A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview and understanding of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. IF YOU GET A MESSAGE THAT THE POST IS MISSING - LOOK FOR IT IN THE INDEX or search or the date is found in the address.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Sukkos Feast of Tabernacles Pagan Parallels

For this post all these refer to the similar festival more or less: Feast of Tabernacles/Tabernacles/Tents/Booths, Feast of Ingathering, Feast of the Lord, Sukkos/Sukkot other various spellings.

Unlike Ancient Egypt which relied on the Nile for agricultural water, ancient Israelite life and death depended on rain. They thought Yahweh could provide or withhold the rains. Even today in times of drought many religious Jews pray to Yahweh to end the drought.  The Talmud also discusses prayer for rain.  Supplication to (alleged) supernatural beings or magic for rain was practiced  by numerous cultures in ancient time. We now know there is most likely no supernatural involvement for rain and that magic will likely have no effects. 

The  Rambam style apologetic (extensively discussed in Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides  ) that the Torah merely adopted pagan customs as an accommodation is falsified by the Sukkos festival. The festival was held to ensure rain. Talmud Rosh Hashona 16A: on tabernacles judgment is passed in respect of rain. Why did the Torah enjoin on us to pour out water on Tabernacles?  The Holy One, blessed be He, said, Pour out water before Me in Tabernacles, so that your rains this year may be blessed.


Ancient Israel by Roland De Vaux Volume 2 1965

Beginning page 496 - Feast of Tents - no doubt it was a farmers feast, feast of ingathering of produce, an agricultural feast. 


The Ancient Gods by E.O. James 1960

Beginning Page 160 Feast of Booths - was held for much the same purposes as corresponding festival in the agricultural ritual among the Canaanites and elsewhere in Western Asia. Booths made of greenery parallel gigunu in the Babylonian Akitu festival (fertility ritual). In the Israelite Temple water libation offered to Yahweh so that the rains of the year will bless you. [ This latter ritual can be likened to magic.]


Seasonal Feasts and Festivals by E.O. James 1961

Beginning on Page 113 Sukkoth - celebrated October/November when vintage had been completed. The time and setting suggest a Canaanite origin connected to the grape harvest. Urgently needed rains in October.

Zechariah14:16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. 17 And it shall be, that whoso of the families of the earth goeth not up unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, upon them there shall be no rain.

Purpose was to promote fertility at the end of the harvest and to secure much needed rain. 


Jewish Publication Society The Jewish Study Bible 1999 Berlin and Brettler

Page 1266 “Sukkot, stands at the beginning of the rainy season and is the time for petitioning rain from the Lord (Rashi).” 

Page 402 Deut 16:13-15 Origin was a fall harvest festival. The name more likely relates to the erection of temporary shelters in the fields during crop tending and harvesting.

Page 573 In second Temple period water was poured during Sukkoth festival, probably as a request for rain.


Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible - Keton Sparks 2005

Ancient Near East parallels for Sukkot Festival

Beginning page 168 - the October/November Mesopotamian Kisler Palm Festival - Date harvest. Ceremonies included sacrifices, prayers, laments, myth recital. A palm frond was offered to Marduk. Palm fronds waved or offered to Deities.

Page 210 Israel’s use of booths during the great autumn festival parallels closely in the Ugarit autumn wine festival.   

[ Judges21: 19 And they said: 'Behold, there is the feast of the LORD from year to year in Shiloh, which is on the north of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.' 20 And they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying: 'Go and lie in wait in the vineyards; 21 and see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in the dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin. 

Dancing and other ‘ACTIVITIES’ in the vineyard were practiced by some ancient societies and were related to fertility rituals. ]

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