By Dale Hibler
BYU foreign housing students celebrated the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles outside their apartment Tuesday, and received greater insight from one of the university”s most prestigious professors into the relationship between King Benjamin”s speech and this seasonal holiday.
“This is the feast of tabernacles that all Jews celebrate in the autumn time period,” said Steven Rona, 33, a senior from Jerusalem majoring in business management. “We just wanted to do something that used not only the Hebrew language, but a little bit of the culture of Israel.”
The Hebrew house constructed an actual tabernacle, with colored walls, and had a Jewish dinner Tuesday evening to commemorate this time of year.
Rona said the Feast of Tabernacles commemorates the children of Israel coming out of Egypt after 40 years of bondage.
“As long as a tabernacle has four sides and a roof, it”s a kosher tabernacle,” Rona said. “When you are in the desert, you use whatever works.”
In addition to eating dinner in a roomy tabernacle, the foreign housing students had the opportunity to hear form Jack Welch, founder of the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, about the unique relationship between the timing of the Book of Mormon”s King Benjamin”s speech and the feast of tabernacles.
“We know it was on the feast of tabernacles,” he said. “We know he planned this day, wrote out his speech, made enough copies so that everyone could have their souvenir program and that couldn”t have been an easy process,”
He said when people talk about King Benjamin”s speech there can be no doubt that it was convened at a very ceremonious time.
“The feast of the tabernacles is a week long celebration,” Welch said. “It”s more important to realize that the feast of tabernacles is a season of the year and it”s like what we call the Christmas season, along with the New Year.”
Welch said the Book of Mormon does not state King Benjamin called his people together on the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to this many people have said we can”t be sure his speech actually took place during this part of the year.
“However, if somebody started talking about pumpkins, costumes and trick or treating, you don”t have to say anymore to know that we are at least thinking about Halloween,” he said. “The same is true about the feast of tabernacles and King Benjamin”s speech to his people.”
Welch said we see many themes being run together in King Benjamin”s speech about the Feast of Tabernacles and yet it doesn”t say the actual name. People who know a little about the Jewish holy days know that people would only gather around the temple on festival days.
“We don”t have the name “Feast of Tabernacles” in the Book of Mormon,” he said. “I am not exactly sure when this festival really acquired the name Feast of Tabernacles. The earliest record is in the book of Exodus, and they called it the feast of In-Gathering.”
He said it”s like the Jewish thanksgiving festival at the end of the harvest season.
“We think historically that the Feast of Tabernacles was originally an agricultural festival associated with the end of the harvest cycle,” he said. “Its interesting to note how King Benjamin makes a real point as to the importance of giving thanks and praise unto god.”
King Benjamin said if you give thanks and praise to God all the days of your life, you wouldn”t be able to thank him enough and everyone would still be an unprofitable servant, he said
“This is all in the context of everyone praising and thanking King Benjamin as they would have been during the feast of tabernacles,” Welch said. “It”s only in the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 31, that it says they would come with their women and children gather with your families on the feast of tabernacles.”
He said this part of the Bible leads us to believe King Benjamin and his people are dealing with a particular day and not some random time of the year.