Allen S. Maller
Allen S. Maller

Hajj and Hag Sukkot: religious pluralism past and future

Both the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible stress the religious importance of an annual pilgrimage to a sacred location (Hajj in Arabic, Hag in Hebrew). In Biblical times the Hebrew word Hag was pronounced Haj.

The Qur’an states: “So keep the three Haj (Pilgrimage) days and seven fasts when you return.” (2:196) and the Torah states: Three times a year all your men are to appear before the God of Israel. (Exodus 34:23)

Haj Sukkot was chosen by Prophet Solomon as the best time to dedicate the First Temple in Jerusalem. (1Kings 8:2). And Sukkot was the first sacred occasion observed after the resumption of sacrifices in Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 3:2-4).

Haj Sukkot was so important during the centuries when Solomon’s Temple stood that the holy week of Sukkot was often called simply “the Haj” (1 Kings 8:3; 8:65; 12:62; 2 Chronicles 5:3; 7:8) because of the large numbers of Jews who came up to the Temple in Jerusalem.

According to the prophet Zechariah,14:16-19 in the future messianic era Sukkot will become a universal festival and all nations will make pilgrimages annually to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast there.

Sukkot was the first sacred occasion observed after the resumption of sacrifices in Jerusalem following the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 3:2-4).

On each day of Hag HaSukkot, worshippers walk around the synagogue carrying their four tree species while reciting Psalm 118:25 and special prayers known as Hoshanot. This usually takes place after the morning’s Torah reading. This ceremony commemorates the willow ceremony at the Temple in Jerusalem, when willow branches were piled beside the altar with worshipers circling around the altar reciting prayers.

During the Intermediate days of Sukkot, gatherings of music and dance, known as Simchat Beit HaShoeivah, take place. This commemorates the Water Libation Ceremony in which water was carried up the Jerusalem pilgrim road from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple in Jerusalem.

In the Zabur of Prophet David he says: “I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go up to the house of the LORD…There the (12) tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, As it was decreed for Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1,4)

For Muslims, the Furthest Sanctuary is located in Jerusalem. “Glory to He Who carried His servant by night, from the Holy Sanctuary to the Furthest Sanctuary, the precincts of which We have blessed. so that We might show him some of Our signs. Surely He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. (Qur’an 17:1) It is significant that the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple was the site of Prophet Muhammad’s ascension—miraj– up to the heavens.

One might say the destruction of the Furthest Sanctuary center of monotheistic pilgrimage in Jerusalem by the pagan Romans, was five and a half centuries afterward overcome by Prophet Muhammad’s ascension (miraj) up to the heavens, and the soon to be realized removal by Prophet Muhammad of all the 300 idols from the paganized Ka’ba in Makka. The Ka’ba of Abraham.

Just as the Ka’ba has always welcomed all Muslims from all the nations of the world, who answer the call: “Call upon the people for Hajj. They will come to you on their bare feet, or riding any weak camel, and they will come to you from every far desert. (Qur’an 22:27). Devotion to Allah and his righteous ways is what is really important as the Qur’an (2:177) tells us:

“Righteous is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but righteous is [inside] one who believes in Allah, the Last Day, the angels, the Book, the Prophets; and gives wealth in spite of love for it; to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and those who] establish prayer and give Zakah (charity); fulfilling their promise when they promise; and are patient in poverty, hardship and during battle. These are the ones who have been true, and it is these who are the righteous.”

The Prophet Zechariah envisions a future time when God helps all humanity to establish worldwide peace. All the nations in the world may then travel to Makka and Jerusalem to worship God. Then during Haj Sukkot, Jerusalem will welcome both Jews and non-Jews, even including those who were previously Israel’s enemies: “Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem, will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate Haj Sukkot.” (Zechariah 14:16)

If we all can live up to the ideal that within a framework of religious pluralism as the will of God, we will
discover that sharing is better than competing; and we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah:

“In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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