According to Jewish tradition, during the seven-day Feast of Tabernacles, seven ancient worthies from the Bible take turns visiting the palm-topped tabernacles attached to the homes of religious Jews.
A custom developed of the Seven Guests who were all shepherds: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.
These Seven Shepherds of Judaism correspond to the Seven days of the Jewish Holiday of Succot (Festival of Tabernacles) and it is believed that they appear as spiritual guests. On each day of Succot the character traits of each of these shepherds are discussed.
According to aish.com, these transcendent guests are known as the Ushpizin, an Aramaic word meaning “guests.”
The sages teach that one of the primary reasons that these luminaries were chosen by the Almighty to lead the flock of Israel is that they were indeed shepherds.
Dining in the presence of these exalted Jewish patriarchs is a doctrine not unlike the communion of the saints which is part of the Apostle’s Creed.
The inspiration for hospitality goes back to the first honored guest, Abraham. A midrash based upon the apocryphal Book of Jubilees claims that the first Succot booth was built by Abraham when he greeted the three Angels who came to tell him Sarah would at last bear a child [Genesis 18:1-10].
As I meditated upon these Ushpizin in a succa today, I naturally thought of the eighth shepherd who is currently hidden from much of Israel. In fact, he is the Shepherd of Shepherds, the first and the last, Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua (Jesus) styled himself among other titles as the “Good Shepherd:”
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) )
As His disciples, we can commune with Him every day and at every meal by the Holy Spirit.
However, it is a lovely Jewish tradition that the Old Testament men of faith whom we love and admire from the Bible– Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David—can also be welcomed as part of the great cloud of witnesses.
“I will give you shepherds after my own heart, and they’ll shepherd you with knowledge and good sense.” (Jeremiah 3: 15)
“Behold, I stand at the door and I shall knock. If a man listens to my voice and will open the door, I also shall come in and I shall have supper with him, and he with me.” (~Jesus, Revelation 3:20)