Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot, Hoshana Rabbah, Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah, V’zot HaBracha (Deut. 33:1-34:12)

We’re heading down the home stretch, both of the holiday season and of the annual Torah reading.  We have four, count ‘em, four, (except three for Reform) consecutive special days.  On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot, the first Torah reading is Exodus 33:12 – 34:26, after the golden calf episode.  Moses gets to see the back of the Lord (contrast the growing intimacy between the Lord and Moses with the too often strained relationship between the Lord and the Israelites), after which he goes back up Sinai and carves two new tablets.  The Lord reaffirms the covenant and there’s a quick review of the observance the Shabbat and the festival holidays (34:18-26).  Because there are distinct readings for the various days of Chol HaMoed, the second scroll reading depends on what day Shabbat Chol HaMoed is.  This year, it’s the 4th day, so we read Numbers 29:26 – 31 which includes the sacrifices for the 5th and 6th days of Sukkot.   There is also a custom to chant the book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), but it’s really too long to do comfortably during the service.

From the start of the holiday, we’ve been chanting prayers called Hoshanot while processing with lulav and etrog (just prayers on Shabbat) around the synagogue.  The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah, the great Hoshana, with 7 circuits around the synagogue, more prayers, and beating bundles of willow branches against the ground.  Hoshana Rabbah is your last chance for atoning before your fate is really, really sealed for the year – the end of a grace period after Yom Kippur.  The Torah reading is Numbers 29:26-34, the sacrifices for 5th, 6th, and 7th days of Sukkot.

The next day is Shemini Atzeret, the Eighth Day of Assembly.  Torah readings, both including holiday observances, are Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 and Numbers 29:35-30:1.  We also pray for rain in Israel.  A memorial (yizkor) service is also included.

Next comes the final holiday, Simchat Torah.  In Israel and Reform practice, it’s combined with Shemini Atzeret.  It is a post-Biblical holiday on which we celebrate the ending and beginning again of the annual Torah reading.  Lots of Torah reading, aliyot for everybody who wants one, hakafot (parading around the synagogue with the Torah scrolls), dancing, paper flags to wave, candy apples, drinking… It’s fun and kid-friendly.  Monday night, after the festivities, a short Torah portion will be read, usually three short aliyot from Deuteronomy 33.   Tuesday morning, we will read from three scrolls.  First, the end of Deuteronomy, V’zot HaBracha (“And this is the blessing”), Deut. 33:1-34:12, in which Moses blesses the Israelites by tribe, sees  the Promised Land from Mount Nebo, and dies there.  . The last aliyah is given to an honoree referred to as the Hatan (or Kallat, depending on your shul) Torah groom (or bride) of the Torah).  Next, the second scroll unrolled, and a second honoree, Hatan (or Kallat) Bereishit, is called up for the reading Gen. 1:1-2:3 (bereishit, in the beginning), the story of creation.    Then, since there are no Simchat Torah sacrifices, we read about the Shemini Atzeret sacrifices again, Num. 29:35-30:1, from the third scroll.  FINALLY, the haftarah is Joshua 1:1-18, which picks up the story immediately after the end of the Torah.

So we end one Torah reading cycle, start over, and also continue the story.  Likewise, as we finish the fall holiday season, we are starting the year afresh and getting back to continue whatever we were doing before.

Shabbat shalom and Hag Sameah,


Yes, our sukkah is still standing.  The weather hasn’t been cooperating, though.  After a couple of hot, uncomfortable days (mosquitos love my legs when I wear stockings), it’s now chilly and rainy, forecast to become chillier and rainier for the next few days.  But, unlike the lightweight, colorful fabric walled sukkah that was blown over (almost flew away, like a box kite) by a storm in 2003, our steel Tinker-toy should be able to withstand what’s coming.  I would like to get the two slightly curved steel poles straightened out before next year, and I learned that bamboo splits around drilled holes and the store-bought bamboo s’chach needs a wipe-down with dilute bleach.  I’ll try to remember in time for next year.

This year, I learned of something I found truly bizarre:  a drive-through sukkah.  It apparently was first done in Miami in 2009 (abridged a bit):


tph drive-thru sukkah

Getty Images  A Pinecrest Temple builds a drive-through Sukkah for the Jewish harvest festival of Sukkot.

If popular corners in Miami have drive-through Starbucks, then why can’t popular synagogues have drive-through sukkahs?

So, if you can only spare a minute for your prayers, why not make a quick stop atTemple Bet Shira’s drive-through sukkah.

According to the Miami Herald, the sukkah opened at Sundown on Friday, the onset of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The “McSukkah” will be up for a week, synagogue officials said.

This sukkah is made of wooden beams, decorated with palm fronds and has an open view of the sky.

This modern-day sukkah even has its own version of a “dollar” menu that they call a “challah” menu.

Passers-by drive into the sukkah, one car at a time.  They say a blessing and a volunteer hands them two symbolic items of the holiday — the lulav and the etrog.  Lucky visitors also get a festive snack of a cookie and a juice box.

“The drive-through sukkah was more than an automotive novelty. It brings Judaism and modern life,” said Martin Applebaum, president of Bet Shira Congregation.

I checked on the web and found this has spread at least to Newport News, VA and (OMG!) to Har Zion Temple in suburban Philadelphia!

tph drive-thru sukkah-har-zion-_miller

By Hadas Kuznits


Funny Weather Jokes

It only rains twice a year in Seattle: August through April and May through July.

Why do mother kangaroos hate rainy days?
Because then the children have to play inside.

Why do hurricanes travel so fast?
Because if they travelled slowly, we’d have to call them slow-i-canes.

What is hail?
Hard boiled rain!

There’s a technical term for a sunny, warm day which follows two rainy days.
It’s called Monday.


Items from 2000:
Found at

“The longest Torah readings always come with the longest sermons.”
— Murphy’s Law of Shul


Found various places: Bible Theme Songs

Noah:  “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”
Salome:  “I Could Have Danced All Night”



Speaking of sounds, a critic recounted this true story of a piece she saw at a dance festival, featuring what she called the most dramatic opening she had ever seen:

“The light came up on three dancers — a man and two women — standing in a triangle, looking out above the audience. The music began, growing louder. The three dancers didn’t move, but their bodies grew ever more anxious, straining upward as the music built. The tension was magnificent!

“Just then the male dancer raised his hand to his mouth, and called out to the back of the theater: ‘YOU’RE…PLAYING…THE…WRONG…TAPE!’

The music stopped and the curtain went back down – but the actual piece was an anticlimax.”


From , one of life’s Great Lessons:
Dance like nobody’s watching.


And from 2004:
The beginnings and endings of all human undertakings are untidy.
John Galsworthy

The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.
Dave Weinbaum


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