These are the people who were willing to divorce wives of foreign extraction to comply with the law. They are not the rebels who went into the captivity. Like the second generation after the exodus, they are willing to serve God. They ask for more understanding without being compelled.
And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. And Ezra the scribe stood upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, and Shema, and Anaiah, and Urijah, and Hilkiah, and Maaseiah, on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, and Mishael, and Malchiah, and Hashum, and Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people; (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: Nehemiah 8:1-5
The captivity has given the Jews time to write the law and new prophesies as well. Yet the people had no central point of learning without the temple. They gathered here to make that right. These people want to hear the law.
And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading. And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our LORD: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:6-10
When the people hear the law, they are condemned by it, and their hopes are dimmed. Israel had a similar minute when Joseph revealed himself to his brothers. At that time they had hope in deliverance from the famine, but fear in discovering their host to be the brother they betrayed. Now the priests and leaders encourage them not to mourn or weep. The fear of the Lord is good, and they showed signs of promise in their repentance. The Lord will not condemn them now, as Joseph did not then. The gospel of John portrays the written word as Messiah, who was made flesh to live with us.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:1-4 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, John 1:14
If the words of this bible live with us, then Israel again discovers a rejected brother which could condemn them. So Israel did fear and reject Yeshua when he came to them once before. Still some were repentant and received the joy of the Lord. Our understanding of the bible is our relationship with Yeshua, the Son of God. For those who are ready to learn there is no reason to fear. The joy of the Lord is their strength.
So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. And on the second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests, and the Levites, unto Ezra the scribe, even to understand the words of the law. And they found written in the law which the LORD had commanded by Moses, that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month: And that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth unto the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written. Nehemiah 8:11-15
In their reading and learning, Israel rediscovered the feast of tabernacles. In the fall they may remember the trials of the exodus and the deliverance God gave to Israel. They are to live in booths outdoors for a week, and receive his joy there.
So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths: for since the days of Jeshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they kept the feast seven days; and on the eighth day was a solemn assembly, according unto the manner. Nehemiah 8:16-18
The people of Judah find joy in obedience. The feast of tabernacles is an act of obedience and it manifests as a time of rejoicing. God meets them in their reunion, and he is forgiving and welcoming them. We may experience a relationship with the word in reading and in acting out these opportunities for discovery. The feasts are not for bondage or condemnation, but rather a remembrance of God’s promises.
Messianic fellowships and many gentile churches observe the Feast of Tabernacles in some way. We may have a tabernacle on the church grounds, or even enjoy a camping trip in the fall. I enjoyed outings like this in Arizona and in Wyoming. I have even slept in a shelter of branches. God has a way of presenting his joy in the beauty of his creation. You may discover a meeting with the joy of the Lord in your own exploration of his feasts and remembrances.