Shemini Atzeret, V’zot HaBracha (Deut. 33:1-34:12), Simchat Torah, Bereishit (Gen. 1:1-6: 8)

Jon Stewart noted once on The Daily Show, “It’s Sukkot, which is the Hebrew word meaning, ‘how many holidays can Jews fit into one month?’” (—another-jewish-holiday ), a sentiment with which I am in total sympathy.  My stress level is much lower than in the past for obvious reasons (I’M RETIRED!!!), but I am holidayed-out, and they’re not over yet.

Tomorrow I will experience my first Hoshanah Rabbah (“great salvation”) service.  This is really, REALLY your last chance for atonement, beyond Yom Kippur   The Torah reading (sacrifices) is Numbers 29:26-34. From :

“Today, during the course of the Hoshanah Rabbah morning services, all the Torah scrolls are taken out of the Ark… The congregation then makes seven circuits around the bimah (instead of the one circuit done the other days of Sukkot) while reciting the Hoshanot prayers, with the Four Kinds [lulav + etrog] in hand. At the conclusion of the Hoshanot we take a bundle of five willows… and with it we strike the ground five times, symbolizing the “tempering of the five measures of harshness.”

The next day is Shemini Atzeret (“8th day of Assembly”).  The service includes the Prayer for Rain in Israel).  The Torah reading is Deut. 14:22 – 16:17, mainly about holidays, which we read recently; and Numbers 29:35 – 30:1, about sacrifices.   In Israel and in Reform congregations, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law) are celebrated the same day.  More traditional types celebrate Simchat Torah the next day.  Modern customs for this non-Biblical holiday include 7 processions (hakafot) with all the Torah scrolls, interspersed with songs, dancing, and often some potent potable (e.g., schnapps).  Kids wave paper flags and get candy apples.  Everyone who wants an aliyah gets one.  There is a brief Torah reading at night, typically Deut. 33:1 -17, and selections from three scrolls (3 – count ‘em – 3) are read the next morning., namely:, V’zot HaBracha (Deut. 33:1-34:12, in which the tribes are each blessed and Moses dies), the start of Bereishit (Gen. 1:1- 2:3, the six days of Creation and the first Sabbath), and a repeat of Numbers 29:35-30::1 (sacrifices).  Parallel to the our starting the Torah reading all over again, we read Joshua 1:1-18, the continuation of the story of the Israelites.

This Shabbat, only a day after Simchat Torah, the Torah portion is Bereishit (Gen. 1:1-6:8), which starts with two Creation stories and ends right before Noah’s flood, so it also includes the exile from Eden, Cain and Abel, and the listing of all those men with really long lives.  My friend Stanley had an interesting take on the first Creation story: regarding each day, the verdict is that it was “good”, on the sixth day, “very good.”  Not perfect, not the best.  B or B+.  This is not an ideal universe but one that still needs some work.  The Eden story is not about a fall from grace or an “original sin.”   From a review of James Barr’s The Garden of Eden and the Hope of Immortality (1992) by Joseph Kelly, “it is a story of how human immortality was almost gained, but in fact was lost.”   Gary Rendsburg, in his course “The Book of Genesis,” which I cited here before, suggests that the main point of the story of Eden is how man gained knowledge, or the ability to obtain knowledge, thereby distinguishing man from the animals. “Far from being the fall of man, one could argue that we are dealing here with the rise of man (Course Guidebook, p. 12).”  An interesting perspective.

Chag Sameach and a very early Shabbat Shalom,


Rain Jokes

My girlfriend pointed at the TV and said, “How come we don’t do romantic things like running through the rain holding hands?”
“Because I’ve got an umbrella.”

Q: Why did the haunted house not like rain?
A: Because it dampened his spirits.

What do snake charmers do in the rain? Turn on their windshield vipers.

Turtle to turtle: “Don’t ya just love the sound of rain on your roof?”

Top Ten Ways You Know You are at a Lame Simchat Torah Party [selections]
by The Weekly Bang Staff Posted: 10-20-2008(Viewed 2378 times)
10.  There are more Torahs than people

9.    The only available guy talking to you is a 9 year old holding a torah flag from 1973

7.    Due to low turnout, dancing in circles, reduced to dancing in semi-circles

5.    Mixed Dancing actually refers to Ashkenaz and Sephardic minyans unifying

2.   You find yourself passing the time trying to envision what some of the chabad guys would look like without beards

1. Party could aptly be called “Who Didn’t I Date or babysit in this Room?”


The Yo-Yo Diet Guide to the Jewish Holidays (Sam Handelman)

Rosh Hashanah — Feast
Tzom Gedalia — Fast
Yom Kippur — More fasting
Sukkot — Feast
Hoshanah Rabbah — More feasting
Simchat Torah — Keep feasting
Month of Heshvan — No feasts or fasts for a whole month. Get a grip on ourselves.
Hanukkah — Eat potato pancakes
Tenth of Tevet — Do not eat potato pancakes (minor fast day)
Tu B’Shevat — Feast
Fast of Esther — Fast
Purim — Eat pastry Passover — Do not eat pastry
Shavuot — Dairy feast (cheesecake, blintzes etc.)
17th of Tammuz — Fast (definitely no cheesecake or blintzes)
Tisha B’Av — Very strict fast (don’t even think about cheesecake or blintzes.)
Month of Elul — End of cycle. Enroll in Center for Eating Disorders before the High Holidays arrive again.
————————— (sent out in 2006)

Adam, Eve and G-d

It was Adam, Eve and G-d in heaven, so G-D decided to reproduce the human race.

He told Adam: Go and kiss Eve.

Adam: sorry, but what is a kiss?

G-D: I will explain, my son

So, G-D explained 10 minutes how to kiss.

Adam: went and returned after 20 minutes so excited.

Adam: Done, what is next?

G-D: go and hug Eve.

Adam: sorry, but, what is a hug?

G-D: I will explain my son.

So, G-D explained 20 minutes different ways of hugs.

Adam went and returned after 30 minutes, more excited.

Adam: Done, what is next?

G-D: go and make love to Eve.

Adam: sorry, but what is making love?

G-D: I will explain my son.

So, G-D explained 40 minutes about making love.

Adam went and returned very disappointed after 2 minutes.

G-D: what happened, my son?

Adam: sorry, but what is a HEADACHE?


The story of creation as told by a dog (passed along some time ago by the Rosens) (from 2000)

On the first day of creation, God created the dog.

On the second day, God created man to serve the dog.

On the third day, God created all the animals of the earth (especially the horse) to serve as potential food for the dog.

On the fourth day, God created honest toil so that man could labour for the good of the dog.

On the fifth day, God created the tennis ball so that the dog might or might not retrieve it.

On the sixth day, God created veterinary science to keep the dog healthy and the man broke.

On the seventh day, God tried to rest, but He had to walk the dog.


Also sent out in 2000.  Available now at, e.g.,

God and Eve in the Garden

One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve calls out to God. “Lord, I have a problem!”

“What’s the problem, Eve?”

“Lord, I know you created me and provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedic snake, but I’m just not happy.”

“Why is that, Eve?” came the reply from above.

“Lord, I am lonely, and I’m sick to death of apples.”

“Well Eve, in that case, I have a solution.    I shall create a man for you.”

“What’s a man, Lord?”

“This man will be a flawed creature, with many bad traits.   He’ll lie, cheat and be vainglorious; all in all, he’ll give you a hard time.  But… he’ll be bigger, faster, and will like to hunt and kill things. He will look silly when he’s aroused, but since you’ve been complaining, I’ll create him in such a way that he will satisfy your physical needs.  He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and kicking a ball about.   He won’t be too smart, so he’ll also need your advice to think properly.”

“Sounds great.” says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow. What’s the catch, Lord?”

“Well… you can have him on one condition.”

“What’s that, Lord?”

“As I said, he’ll be proud, arrogant, and self-admiring… So you’ll have to let him believe that I made him first. Just remember, it’s our little secret…

You know, woman to woman.”


Q.  Where is the first baseball game in the Bible?

A.  In the big inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second, Cain struck out Abel and the prodigal son came in last.

Q.  What excuse did Adam give to his children to explain why he no longer lived in Eden?
A. “Your mother ate us out of house and home.”

—————————  (sent out in 2005)

Creationism or Evolution?

One day the zoo-keeper noticed that the orangutan was reading two books– the Bible and Darwin’s Origin of Species.

In surprise, he asked the ape, “Why are you reading both those books”?

“Well,” said the orangutan, “I just wanted to know if I was my brother’s keeper, or my keeper’s brother.”


Slightly adapted from

(sent out in 2000)


A prominent young lawyer died on his way to court, and found himself before the gates of Heaven. When he arrived, a chorus of angels appeared, singing in his honor.

The archangel Gabriel himself came out to shake his hand. “Mr. Jones,” said Gabriel, “It is a great honor to have you here at last. You are the first being to break Methuselah’s record for longevity. You have lived 1028 years.”

“What are you talking about?” asked the lawyer. “I’m 46.”

“46? But aren’t you Steven Jones? The lawyer from Brooklyn.”

“Yes,” the lawyer answered.

“Let me check the records,” said Gabriel. He slapped his hand against his forehead.

“Oh, how silly of us. Now I see the mistake! We accidentally calculated your age by adding up the hours you billed to your clients!”


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