Photo Credit: Jewish Press

This year, the first night of Sukkot had an additional enhancement. A total lunar eclipse added a dramatic twist to the holiday. My family joined many in the Jewish community who were outside and in their sukkahs at the time of the celestial event. We watched as the “super blood moon” was slowly swallowed whole by the earth’s shadow. The effect was stunning.

One can only surmise how early man reacted to this unexpected blackout. Did he think the “gods” were angry? Did he think the world was coming to an end? Did he fear the heavenly lights were turned off forever? How grateful he must have been when the moon’s luminescence returned and the heavenly show was finally over.


The technology of the 21st century has minimized many of nature’s surprises. We can now forecast when an eclipse will occur. We can track hurricanes and various forms of inclement weather with great accuracy. The use of MRI and scanning machines have made diagnostic medicine precise. Sonograms tell a pregnant mother-to-be the gender of her child.

We have apps and websites and a plethora of information. Modern man likes to think he is immune to the uncertainties of life. Science has eliminated speculation in many areas. We have the illusion of being in control.

We all want to feel we are holding the reins. The premise is flawed. The human condition is a democratic experience. All are vulnerable.

There are matters that do not lend themselves to prediction. Many life-changing occurrences still strike with little or no warning. Some have dire consequences. On the other hand, there are those who are happily surprised to find they have won the lottery. The pendulum seems to swing in both directions.

“Dwelling” in the sukkah is in many ways an analogy for our short and transitory passage through life. The fanciest and the simplest sukkahs share a commonality. The hut is exposed. The roof is open. We feel the heat, the cold and the rain…and soon it is all over.

This holiday was particularly compelling and the lessons we could take from it were especially powerful. The spectacular eclipse was an incredible phenomenon. Scientists and simpletons alike looked to the heavens and watched with awe. They were observers of an occurrence woven into the fabric of creation.

Contemporary society is used to the special effects of Hollywood. We are accustomed to Disney-style dazzle. This time we got a taste of the real deal. Witnessing the wonders of the universe can be an exhilarating yet humbling experience.


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Shelley Benveniste is South Florida editor of The Jewish Press.