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November 24, 2014 / 2 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘sukkot’

One of the Most Amazing Stories in Israel’s History!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Jeremy Gimpel sent us this amazing Sukkot related video linking the ancient with the modern…

‘Rickshaw’ Sukkah Makes the Rounds in New York

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

The holiday of Sukkot commands Jews to live in “booths” — commemorating the temporary dwellings their ancestors inhabited while wandering the desert for 40 years. Though many Manhattan apartments measure only slightly larger than those original booths, unless the apartment roof is retrofitted with twigs from Central Park, it doesn’t quite qualify as a sukkah.

Thankfully, one Chabad Lubavitch yeshiva student in Brooklyn has taken it upon himself to ensure that all New Yorkers can experience the holiday.

Levi Duchman, 21, is the inventor of the pedi-sukkah, a rickshaw bicycle with a mobile sukkah attached to the back.

While small, each sukkah meets all the halachic requirements. During the days before Sukkot and during Chol HaMoed, Duchman says he spends 12 hours a day on the pedi-sukkah, pedaling around Brooklyn and Manhattan to let New Yorkers step inside to say a blessing.

“It’s the best thing to see people’s reactions, and to give people in New York the opportunity to get involved with the holiday,” Duchman said. “We get a lot of smiles and pictures, and lot of positivity, even from the police.”

Sometimes people ask to take a ride in the sukkah, and he obliges for short trips.

Duchman built his first pedi-sukkah five years ago. He rented a pedicab and worked overnight with his younger brother to create something that hopefully wouldn’t fall off and block Manhattan traffic. The sukkah stayed put, and today there are over 50 of his bikes spread across 15 states and over five countries.

The bikes have come a long way. Duchman now works with a manufacturer to create an easy-to-assemble pedi-sukkah. He even created a “menorah cycle” for Chanukah, and a “mitzvah cycle” affixed with a banner that encourages others to lay tefillin and light Shabbat candles (because it’s never a bad time to ride a bike and do good deeds).

Between the cost of the materials and the pedicab itself, one bike goes for nearly $2,000. But Duchman charges exactly what it costs him.

“It’s not a business,” he said. “It’s a way to spread awareness. Baruch HaShem.”

US Complains It Was Not Notified of Israel Sukkah-Building Frenzy

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Originally published at PreOccupied Territory

[Editor's Update: We thought it was obvious, but apparently not... this blog post is SATIRE.]

Washington, October 8 – Aides to US President Barack Obama expressed displeasure today over not being informed of plans to assemble tens of thousands of makeshift residential structures over the last week in Jewish communities in areas both Israel and the Palestinians claim.

The huts mostly consist of wood panels, or of metal frames holding up canvas walls, with reeds or palm leaves as roofing. Satellite images and eyewitness reports alerted the Obama administration of the flurry of new construction activity, all of which appears to be taking place within the boundaries of existing Jewish communities in those contentious areas. The structures are apparently functioning as additional living space, as the inhabitants of those communities have been observed transferring tables, chairs, beds, and even rugs into the booth-like structures.

The administration stopped short of actively rebuking the Netanyahu government over the construction, as the effort has the hallmarks of a grass-roots initiative and not an officially sanctioned building spree of the kind that has infuriated White House officials in the past. In fact, hundreds of thousands of such structures have been hastily built over the last week even within the pre-1967 lines, indicating broad popular support for the initiative. However, Obama aides did communicate the president’s concern over any kind of development on land claimed by Palestinians for a state.

Another factor contributing to the administration’s muted response is the unlikelihood that the structures have been approved by Israeli government authorities. The addition of the booths  - or, in many cases, simply the covering of an existing walled patio or terrace with the reed or leaf roofs – almost certainly constitutes a zoning violation wherever it occurs, and in the White House’s assessment the Israeli authorities are almost certain to inform the residents of their obligation to dismantle the structures.

“We’ve had a few cases of a similar nature even in the US,” said a White House staffer speaking on condition of anonymity. “We’ve had groups of Jews, sometimes entire communities, building these temporary structures that are in clear violation of building codes, zoning designation, and other municipal approvals necessary for the erection of such entities. People complain about it, the town or city gives the owners a couple of weeks’ notice to take down the structure, and they comply. At this point we’re going to assume the same process will play out over in the West Bank, though I imagine they’ll have some difficulty notifying every single homeowner right away.”

“It always seems to happen this time of year, too,” mused the official. “I wonder if there’s some way to predict the phenomenon?”

[Editor's Note: This blog post is SATIRE.]

The Sukkot State of Mind

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Hashem commands the Jewish people to dwell in Sukkot “that your generations may know that I made the Children of Israel to dwell in Sukkot, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your G-d.”

Strangely, before this time, the Torah never mentions that we dwelt in Sukkot. If this merits a special holiday, why isn’t this dwelling in Sukkot ever explicitly mentioned? Sure, clouds can be compared to Sukkot, but the comparison is never made in the text. Compare this to the eating of Matzoh. It is mentioned, repeatedly, in the text. For some reason, the concept of Sukkot is far less concrete than the concept of Matzoh. Why?

In the Jewish calendar of redemption from Egypt, Sukkot is the last of the ‘shalosh regalim’ – or three festivals. Pesach is the first. If we trace the trajectory of these holidays, we can see a pattern emerging.

With Pesach, the Matzoh connection is so physically obvious because we were physical people – slaves emerging from captivity. We understood the physical, and only the physical. Matzoh is food, it represents the most basic of human physical interactions. And it contains within itself our own limitations as a slave people. We knew the Exodus was coming, but we didn’t even have the initiative to think ahead and make a few sandwiches in advance.

Matzoh represents our own limitation in another way. In most circumstances, when we bring offerings, we bring only flour or unleavened bread. Flour represents human effort – the hand-grinding of flour was incredibly labor intensive. Leavening, on the other hand, adds the contribution of Hashem to our productivity – leavening occurs without our labor. At the time of the Exodus, we were not yet ready to see the hand of Hashem in our livelihoods. Shavuot comes in contrast to this. It celebrates the gifts Hashem has given us. We bring the ‘fruit’ of the ground. Fruit represents the gifts of Hashem – just as the trees were gifts to Adam. With leavened bread, we see the hand of Hashem in own productivity. The focus is on the physical and its connection to the divine. If each week contains six days of productivity and one of divine rest then Shavuot celebrates this cycle. But this holiday remains connected to the physical – and the connection is explicit in the text.

Now, we come to Sukkot. The word ‘Sukkah’ is used in very few places prior to the command to dwell in Sukkot. The first involves Yaacov – but it is a very unusual verse.

“And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made Sukkot for his cattle. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.”

Looked at as a standalone verse, the phrasing is unusual. He travels towards Sukkot. He builds Sukkot there. And so the place is called Sukkot. How could he have travelled towards Sukkot if it was not yet called Sukkot? There are other unusual things: In no other place do the forefathers build houses, and in no other place prior to the Exodus does anybody build anything for their cattle. Sukkot seems to be a description – and not of a place, but of a manner of being. And rather than being temporary, it seems quite permanent. In the very next verse, Yaacov comes to Shechem. He buys land on which to pitch his tent (also a first). And he becomes quite angry when his son’s actions in regard to Shechem force him to travel once again. Yaacov seems to want to experience the unchanging.

When the Jewish people leave Egypt, the first stop they make is in Sukkot. But it can’t be the same Sukkot – they aren’t in the land of Israel, and Yaacov was. It is only here, during this brief stay, that they literally dwell in Sukkot during the Exodus.

New York, High-End Dealers Cater To Jews Seeking The Perfect Etrog

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Naftali Berger’s quest for perfection ends in victory when the 24-year-old kollel student enters Tsvi Dahan’s trailer on Wallabout Street in the Haredi Orthodox Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

“Find something wrong with it — find it!” a glowing Berger exclaims Monday as he holds his treasure: a bumpy, lemon-like fruit.

In open-air markets and on tables unfolded on sidewalks in Jewish communities throughout the world, many Jews preparing for Sukkot look for lovely etrogim, the fruit that constitutes the centerpiece of the biblically mandated four species to be blessed during the weeklong holiday.

Many celebrants will take the basic etrogim commonly sold by synagogues, Jewish schools and shops for about $50 for a set that also includes a lulav, myrtle and willow.

Then there are men like Berger, who think nothing of dropping hundreds of dollars on an especially beautiful etrog, which they believe enhances their fulfillment of the mitzvah.

No sooner does Yom Kippur end than such customers seek out Dahan, 38, a resident of Jaffa who owns three hotels in Tel Aviv but has trekked to New York City the past 15 autumns to hawk his high-end etrogim. They are rippled and slightly smooth, hefty and slim, shiny in hue and subdued — in etrog selection, as in life, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Above all, though, Dahan’s etrogim are symmetrical and close to blemish-free — and are pure, ungrafted.

All come from the 200 trees on a half-acre plot of land Dahan leases in Dumdir, a village in southern Morocco, his parents’ homeland. Dahan visits four times a year to monitor their growth and consult with his one full-time employee.

His last visit there preceded Rosh Hashanah, when Dahan selected the crop’s 2,000 best. In a Moroccan hotel room, he categorized the 200 most pristine specimens promising top dollar, examining each for texture, shape and, above all, the slightest of flaws.

He’s not alone catering to the market in Williamsburg, where the primarily Hasidic community is dominated by the Satmar sect, with smaller pockets of Bobov and Vizhnitz. In the weeks before Sukkot, several other storefronts and trailers pop up in the neighborhood, with dealers and growers offering premium etrogim from Israel and Italy, along with Morocco.

Some of the merchants, like Dahan, also market to the haredi Orthodox community in Monsey, a town northwest of New York City.

In the trailer, Berger slides his eyeglasses down near the tip of his nose, the better to inspect the etrog he’s grasping. He takes a cotton swab from a box and dabs at the surface surrounding the pitom, as the stem is known, trying to discern if the pinhead-sized speck he spots is merely a wayward dirt particle or a blemish.

Ten minutes into the inspection, Berger phones his rabbi, detailing his observations in Yiddish. He hangs up, calls again, then returns the etrog to a foam-lined box that he sets aside on a table.

“I’m going to have a cup of coffee and think about it,” Berger says.

Ten minutes later, he returns, seizing another etrog and examining it.

This one is smaller than many others displayed, and the pitom is angled slightly, but Berger is smitten.

“It’s clean — perfectly clean. For me, that’s the most important,” Berger pronounces of the $200 etrog that he calls “a bargain.”

He’ll also take the one he’d reserved earlier — and two more besides for his brothers. He leaves a $200 deposit for the four etrogim, which he takes away for his brothers to examine.

Six blocks down Lee Street, Dahan sits in a vacant storefront, his other temporary outpost in Williamsburg. Two tables host four reading lamps to help customers scrutinize the merchandise. A man who inspects for 45 minutes leaves without purchasing.

The Uniqueness Of Sukkot

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Parshat Emor outlines the festivals that give rhythm and structure to the Jewish year. Examining them carefully, however, we see that Sukkot is unusual and unique.

One detail that had a significant influence on Jewish liturgy appears later on in the Book of Deuteronomy: “Be joyful at your Feast…. For seven days celebrate the Feast to the Lord your G-d at the place the Lord will choose. For the Lord your G-d will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete” (Deut. 16: 14-15).

Speaking of the three pilgrimage festivals – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot – Deuteronomy speaks of “joy.” But it does not do so equally. In the context of Pesach, it makes no reference to joy; in that of Shavuot, it speaks of it once; in Sukkot, as we see from the above quotation, it speaks of it twice. Is this significant? If so, how? (It was this double reference that gave Sukkot its alternative name in Jewish tradition, zeman simchateinu – the season of our joy.)

The second strange feature appears in Emor. Uniquely, Sukkot is associated with two mitzvot, not one. The first: “Beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the Lord for seven days … On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and willows of the brook, and rejoice before the Lord your G-d for seven days” (Lev. 23: 39-40). This is a reference to the arba minim, the “four kinds’ ”– palm branch, citron, myrtle and willow leaves – taken and waved on Sukkot.

The second command is quite different: “Live in booths for seven days. All native-born Israelites are to live in booths, so your descendants will know that I made the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the Lord your G-d” (Lev. 23: 42-43). This is the command to leave our house and live in the temporary dwelling that gives Sukkot its name: the festival of Tabernacles, booths, huts – an annual reminder of portable homes in which the Israelites lived during their journey through the wilderness.

No other festival has this dual symbolism. Not only are the “four kinds” and the tabernacle different in character, they are even seemingly opposed to one another. The “four kinds” and the rituals associated with them are about rain. They were, says Maimonides (Guide for the Perplexed, III: 43), the most readily available products of the Land of Israel, reminders of the fertility of the land. By contrast, the command to live for seven days in booths, with only leaves for a roof, presupposes the absence of rain. If it rains on Sukkot we are exempt from the command (for as long as the rain lasts, and providing it is sufficiently strong to spoil food on the table).

The difference goes deeper. On the one hand, Sukkot is the most universalistic of all festivals. The prophet Zechariah foresees the day when it will be celebrated by all humanity: “The Lord will be King over the whole earth. On that day the Lord will be one, and His name the only name . . . 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 the Feast of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain” (Zechariah 14: 9, 16-17).

Sukkot-’Hodu’ L’Hashem

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

As the chanting filled the synagogue, I found myself transported to another place and time.

Physically, I was in a Gan (Kindergarden) on the night of Yom Kippur. But as I closed my eyes, I felt the chanting of the room and I was someplace else entirely. I couldn’t figure out where exactly, but my physical circumstances drifted away from me.

I was surrounded by song that seemed to reach across the generations.

It was the night of Yom Kippur, a time in which we all step into the timeless. But something was different here. I was nostalgic, deeply nostalgic, for something I had never seen or experienced. I was nostalgic for something I know very little about. The synagogue I was in follows Nusach Hodu. It is an Indian synagogue. But the closest I come to Indian is an Apache great-grandmother.

On the night of Yom Kippur, the community has swollen just as so many other communities do. But most weeks, there aren’t very many people there. The gabbai of the synagogue (if that is his title) is clearly training his son to carry on their traditions. There is a fierceness in that education – a powerful hope that the Indian traditions can survive and flourish in the land of Israel.

I imagine it must be a tremendous struggle.

At first, their chant seems to create nostalgia for the world they left behind in India.

But then, I imagine myself in Mumbai or Ahmedabad and realize that in those cities, those same chants were also a nostalgic memory. According to tradition, the first seven families of India’s Bene Israel community arrived in India over 2,000 years ago. They were shipwrecked travelers from Judea. Since that time, that tiny community has preserved their connection to the Land and nation of Israel. The fierce defense of tradition I’ve witnessed can’t be a new thing.

But what then is the nostalgia for? Is it for 2,000 years in India – or is it about something before that, in the Land of Israel?

The question doesn’t apply to them alone. So many of our prayers and our songs harken back to days of old. But what days are we reaching for? In ancient times, our life in the Land of Israel was tumultuous and scarred with idol worship. Before that, our life in the desert was filled with rebellion and death.

What are we reaching for? Surely, it is not Egypt? Could it be Avraham’s pre-national relationship? That isn’t the memory of a people.

What is the nostalgia for?

The answer comes with Succot.

Hashem commands the Jewish people to dwell in Sukkot “that your generations may know that I made the Children of Israel to dwell in Sukkot, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your G-d.”

Strangely, before this time, the Torah never mentions that we dwelt in Sukkot. It doesn’t say the Jewish people found schach and established temporary huts. And even if it did, why would this be important? Why would this be so critical as to be a fundamental reminder that Hashem in the Lord our G-d?

A powerful hint comes when Hashem commands the construction of the Mishkan. The Torah says: “On the first day of the first month, you shall rear up the Mishkan of the Tent of Meeting, and you shall put therein the Ark of the Testimony and you shall Sukkot the Ark with the veil.”

The curtains which cover the Ark, the timeless article at the heart of the Mishkan, act as a Sukkah.

When Hashem made the Jewish people swell in Sukkot, he did more than have them dwell in huts or under clouds. He had them dwell behind the veil.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/holidays/sukkot-hodu-lhashem/2014/10/07/

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