Ha’azinu (Deut. 32:1-52), Sukkot (Lev. 22:26 – 23:44; Numbers 29:12-16)

This is not good.  Only half way through the holidays, I am both totally zonked and wired.  I am more and more enamored of the suggestion I made last year: “There was in ancient times a ‘Pesach Sheni,’ (second Passover) a month after the first, for those who couldn’t share in the Pesach sacrifice because of ritual impurity.  Maybe we could have a Sukkot Sheni a month later, for those who suffer from ritual exhaustion at the ordained time?” 

But before Sukkot starts Sunday night, we read the portion of the Shabbat weekly cycle, Ha’azinu.  This is a short Torah portion (52 verses), 43 of which make up a long poem that is a distillation of the relationship between Israel and the Lord.  There’s more violence than one would expect in a valedictory (venom, disaster, swords devouring flesh, arrows drunk with blood), directed both at Israel when the people stray and at Israel’s enemies as vengeance.  The key point (32:39): “See, then, that I, I am He; There is no god beside Me. I deal death and give life; I wounded and I will heal: None can deliver from My hand.”  When Moses finishes, he told that it is now time for him to look at the Promised Land from afar, since he cannot enter it, and then “be gathered to his people.”

We haven’t read the haftarah assigned to Ha’azinu in four years, because Ha’azinu was read between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so the haftarah for Shabbat Shuvah was read instead.  This year, Ha’azinu is read after Yom Kippur, so we get to read II Samuel 22:1-51.  This also contains a long poem, found (more-or less) in Psalm 18 and also read on the 7th day of Pesach.  This is a psalm of thanksgiving and praise by David, addressed to the Lord “after the Lord had saved him from the hands of all his enemies and from the hands of Saul” (22:1), but I don’t recall the specific incident offhand, so you should look it up.  Actually, this might go over better read in English by a good actor, with its dramatic and vivid imagery. I found chanting it in Hebrew to be a chore because (1) it’s long, (2) the language is difficult, and (3) it’s musically boring.

Ah yes, Sukkot, when we are commanded to be altogether happy (actually, that phrase will be read in the Shemini Atzeret Torah reading, but it’s about Sukkot. Deut. 16:13-15).  I’ll try.  Seriously, it’s a fun holiday, especially when kids get involved decorating the sukkah. One of mine pointed out the similarity to decorating a Christmas tree, which I enjoyed as a child. For neighbors’ trees. It’s also fun to parade around the synagogue with a bunch of people, each with a lulav and etrog.  And there’s a lot of socializing.  I have a slight phobia related to having people over (OK, I need to make the house presentable), but I hope to get over that by next Sukkot (yes, it will take that long to get things in order). For those long-time readers who are awaiting this year’s chapter in our Sukkah saga, last year’s pre-fab, metal tubular Tinkertoy version

  http://thesukkahproject.com/thetubularsukkah.aspx   worked out OK, so we plan to put that up again on Sunday, but this time using a level.  For high-concept New York sukkot, see http://www.jewishhumorcentral.com/2010/09/new-york-mayor-bloomberg-announces.html . And yes, there are Torah readings, the same for the first and second days, also read on the second day of Pesach (so my son got a decent amount of mileage out of his Bar Mitzvah reading, first day Sukkot, 13(!!) years ago):  Lev. 22:26 – 23:44 (holidays) and Numbers 29:12-16 (sacrifices).  There are different haftarot, though, Zechariah 14:1-21 on day 1 and I Kings 8:2-21 second day, which each refer to Sukkot. 

Wishing you Shabbat Shalom and (a bit early) Hag Sameach (happy holiday),




A Moveable Feast — Sukkah Pedicab in NYC

(Photo by Simmy Kay)
An innovative teenage yeshiva student in Brooklyn, whose father directs a Chabad social services organization, has been pedaling a rickshaw carrying a portable sukkah around the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn this week. Levi Duchman, 16, makes the rounds, inviting Jewish men, women, and children to make the blessing over the citron (etrog), palm branch, myrtle branches, and willow twigs that are held together (the lulav) and shaken as part of the observance of the Sukkot holiday, and eat a snack inside the structure.

Chabad has been driving around town with larger portable sukkot on pickup trucks for some years now, but this mini-sukkah on a pedicab is unique. Levi says that the hardest part is the pedaling.  (I have fond memories of the Sukkahmobile on my college campus. They’d ask anyone who looked Jewish – like my then-boyfriend-now-husband – if they wanted to say the blessing on taking the lulav and etrog.)



All Shook Up

(Parody of Elvis Presley song – I’m in Love )

To hear a clip visit:


Well I’m blessin’ this thing it looks like a tree.

I’ve got my esrog the Torah calls it a Pree

Seven Days a year people bless with me

It’s my lulav, It’s all shook up.

Right before Succos people go and meet.

Buy a lulav and esrog right off a the street.

Kids seem to think it’s a real big treat.

When their lulav, gets all shook up.


Well the aravos (willow) look nice and hadasim (myrtle) fine.

The esrog smells like a lemon or a lime.

I go to Shul put my lulav in hand .

My friends say they’ve got the finest in the land.

 Chorus:  Well keep the leaves cool or they will rot.

Pitom* off the esrog and kosher it’s not.

Follow these rules and you will use it a lot,

It’s your lulav it’s all shook up.

Well some shake to the right and then to the left.

In the middle of Hallel is when it’s done best.

No matter how you shake it when Hoshana Rabbas here.

Don’t need it anymore buy another next year


*The little point on the bottom of the etrog.  If you break it off, the etrog is no longer fit fo rthe ritual.



On Happiness

The world would be happier if men had the same capacity to be silent that they have to speak.  Baruch Spinoza

Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder …  Henry David Thoreau

It is not easy to find happiness in ourselves, and it is not possible to find it elsewhere.  Agnes Repplier

The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy; I mean that if you are happy you will be good.  Bertrand Russell

The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.  Victor Hugo



Sent out in 2009

Poetry Jokes (selected)

Question: What is the highest honor among Cowboy poets?    Answer: Poet lariat.

Question: Why didn’t the angry farmer divorce his wife when she traded their prize milking cow for a book of poetry?   Answer: Because he vowed to love her for butter or verse.

Question: What is a metaphor?      Answer: For grazin’ yer cattle.

Question: How does a poet sneeze?     Answer: Haiku!!!

Question: Why are poets always so poor?     Answer: Because rhyme doesn’t pay.

Question: Why did the traffic cop give the poet a ticket?    Answer: For driving without a poetic license.

Question: What do you get when you combine Robert Frost and James Bond?   Answer: The Road Not Shaken but Stirred.

Question: What’s big and gray and writes poetry?    Answer: T.S. Elephant.

Question: What’s a Grecian Urn?   Answer: About twenty thousand drachmas a year after taxes.

Question: Why was John Keats always hounded by creditors?   Answer: Because he Ode so much.


A nurse is giving a young medical intern a tour of the hospital.

The intern approaches one bedridden patient and asks, “Why are you here?” The patient replies, “Wee sleket cowerin’ timrous beastie/O, what a panic is in thy breastie.”

The intern moves on to the next bed and asks the same question, “Why are you here?” The patient answers, “O, my luv is like a red, red, rose that’s newly sprung in June.”

The intern moves on to a third bed and asks again, “Why are you here” to whichthe third patient replies, “The best laid plans of mice and men, may often gang awry.”

At this the intern turns to the nurse and asks, “What ward is this anyway.” And the nurse answers, “It’s the Burns Unit.”



I don’t know if judges are inspired when they add poetry to their opinions, or they’re just bored.  In any case, here’s an example of “Poetic Justice” :

United States v. Batson, 782 F.2d 1307 (5th Cir. 1986)
In the opening sentence of this case about the cotton set-aside program, Judge Goldberg recites:

Some farmers from Gaines had a plan.
It amounted to quite a big scam.
But the payments for cotton
began to smell rotten.
T’was a mugging of poor Uncle Sam.
The ASCS and its crew
uncovered this fraudulent stew.
After quite a few hearings,
the end is now nearing–
It awaits our judicial review.

Not bad as doggerel, but I think Judge Goldberg should stick to his day job.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s