And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. [Matthew 17:1-4]
Happy Sukkot! This year was a first: we ate the etrog. Surprisingly, it tasted like neither lemon nor soap. It tasted kind of like a hazelnut. So now the feast offers me something to taste to go along with the citrus smell of the etrog, the rattle and snap of the shaking lulav, the blast of the ram’s horn, the pouring water, and the fresh, cold stars shining through the flimsy sukka. These are vivid pieces of . . . something.
Introduced in the Five Books of Moses, Sukkot reminds the children of Israel of their forty years in the desert. The festival is also associated with harvest. Then the festival shows up at the end of the Book of Zechariah: all surviving gentile nations must celebrate Sukkot in Jerusalem at the end of it all, according to the prophet. The Feast of Tabernacles is as strong and as stray as a dream.
How would Peter explain his offer later? How do we make an account to the waking world of our actions in a dream? Sukkot models life – the high seriousness of mortality and the laughter of eternity, all balled up. How do we account for our desire to live in the flimsiest of bodies (“the earthly house of this tabernacle,” as Paul has it) alongside the unknown? To whom could we give account, anyway, outside of this dream?