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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘sukkot’

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).

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

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.

Joseph Cox

Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) Guide for the Perplexed, 2014‏

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

1. Sukkot starts on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt, the construction of the Holy Tabernacle and the 40 year wandering in the Sinai Desert. Sukkot (סכות), and the Sukkah (סכה), which is a Jewish ritual hut, are named after the first stop of The Exodus – Sukkota (סכותה). The Hebrew root of Sukkah (סכה) is “wholesomeness” and “totality” (סך), the “shelter” of the tabernacle (סכך), “to anoint” (סוך), “divine curtain/shelter” (מסך) and “attentiveness” (סכת).

2. The first recorded 7 day Sukkot celebration was – following the 5th century BCE Cyrus Edict – in Nehemiah 8:17: “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 Joshua the son of Nun (13th-14th century BCE) unto that day had not the children of Israel done so. And there was very great gladness.”

3. Sukkot is the 3rd Jewish holiday – following Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur – in the month of Tishrei, the most significant Jewish month (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Simchat Torah). According to Judaism, the number 3 represents divine wisdom, stability, permanence, integration and peace. Three is the total sum of the basic odd (1) and even (2) numbers. The 3rd day of the Creation was blessed twice; God appeared on Mt. Sinai 3 days following Moses’ ascension to the mountain; there are 3 parts to the Bible, 3 Jewish Patriarchs, 3 pilgrimages to Jerusalem, etc.

4. Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) is the 3rd Jewish pilgrimage, commemorating the post-Exodus forty year wandering in the desert, a holiday of happiness, hope, optimism and harvest. It follows the pilgrimage of Passover – the holiday of liberty, the birth of the Jewish nation and spring, and the pilgrimage of Shavou’ot (Pentecost) – the holiday of the Torah and national maturity/responsibility.

5. Columbus Day is celebrated around Sukkot. According to “Columbus Then and Now <http://send.hadavars.com/lt.php?c=31138&m=29462&nl=2096&s=212f71f4a85b8a896e1efb82435a7f0a&lid=278221&l=-http–books.google.co.il/books–Q-id–E-BR6Ek48GgzEC–A-pg–E-PA268–A-lpg–E-PA268–A-dq–E-columbus–PL-then–PL-and–PL-now–PL-hoshana–PL-raba–A-source–E-bl–A-ots–E-oLa0ll4Ito–A-sig–E-uANIz5-1KMwcLwoSO-_FHwb27Gw–A-hl–E-iw–A-sa–E-X–A-ei–E-n6pmUP_GIaqj0QWbh4CQAw–A-ved–E-0CCAQ6AEwAA–PND-v=onepage&q=columbus%20then%20and%20now%20hoshana%20raba&f=false> ” (Miles Davidson, 1997, p. 268), Columbus arrived in America on Friday afternoon, October 12, 1492, the 21st day of the Jewish month of Tishrei, the Jewish year 5235, the 7th day of Sukkot, Hosha’na’ Rabbah, which is a day of universal deliverance and miracles. Hosha’ (הושע) is the Hebrew word for “deliverance” and Na’ (נא) is the Hebrew word for “please.” The numerical value of Na’ is 51, which corresponds to the celebration of Hosha’na’ Rabbah on the 51st day following Moses’ ascension to Mt. Sinai.

6. Sukkot is a universal holiday, inviting all peoples to come on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as expressed in the reading (Haftarah) of Zechariah 14: 16-19 on Sukkot’s first day. It is a holiday of peace – the Sukkah of Shalom (שלום). Shalom is one of the names of God. Shalem (שלם) – wholesome and complete in Hebrew – is one of the names of Jerusalem (Salem). According to Sukkah tractate of the Mishnah (the oral Torah), the 70 sacrificial bulls of Sukkot represent the pilgrimage of 70 nations to Jerusalem; a demonstration of universal solidarity and comity.

7. The Sukkah symbolizes the Chuppah – the Jewish wedding canopy – and the renewed vows between God and the Jewish People. While Yom Kippur represents God’s forgiveness of the Golden Calf Sin, Sukkot represents the reinstatement of Divine Providence over the Jewish People. Sukkot is called Zman Simchatenou – time of our joy – and mandates Jews to rejoice (והיית אך שמח). The numerical value of the Hebrew word for “mandates” – “ach” אך – is 21, which is the number of days between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Sukkot.

Yoram Ettinger

Moving on to Sukkos

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Not everyone wants to wait until after Yom Kippur to start building their Sukkah.

This Sukkah is being built in Kfar Etzion.

Chag Sameach.

Photo of the Day

We’ll Be Back Saturday Night

Friday, September 27th, 2013

For those of us in Israel, it’s Isru Chag (the day after the holidays, when we pack up our Succahs, and finally get to relax after such a busy holiday).

For those still stuck in Galus (the Diapora), it’s still Yom Tov (holiday) so you shouldn’t be reading this anyway.

So – unless, there’s major breaking news today, we’ll see you on Motzei Shabbos.

On Sunday, we’ll be discussing, in depth,  the offensive offensives that occurred at the UN.


Jewish Press News Briefs

Police Bar Jews from Holiday Visit to Temple Mount

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Jerusalem police once again have prohibited Jews from visiting the Temple Mount because of security officials’ unintended admission that they cannot or do not want to deal with violent Arabs.

Officially, police say that they blocked the planned visit of hundreds of Jews to the holy site on Tuesday, the sixth day of the Sukkot holiday, because of intelligence information that Arab protesters would be violently upset, which is par for the course when Jews try to ascend the Temple Mount.

Among those barred on Tuesday was Jewish Home Knesset Member Shuli Moalem-Refaeli as well as busloads of school children.

The Temple Mount remained open for Muslims, of course.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/police-bar-jews-from-holiday-visit-to-temple-mount/2013/09/24/

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