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

Even a retiree can be over-scheduled.  Thus, this week, I will give you an update on the Sukkah saga, comments from 2012 and 2014, and newly dug up humor, etc. items.

Sukkah Saga update:  We are still using the metal prefab sukkah we first put up in 2011


The Tubular Sukkah:
Taking the Concept of 
Klutz-Proof to a New Level

along with the bamboo mat (rabbinically approved s’chach, i.e., the greens on top of the sukkah) we added in 2014.  This year’s observations:

  1. The two metal tubes that were warped still are but haven’t worsened. The sukkah is stable.
  2. The canvas became dirty from lying on the deck too long. I scrubbed the offending areas with varying concentrations of Pine Sol® cleaner and tried to arrange the wall decorations appropriately.
  3. The bamboo rods that form the roof are starting to split down the middle, but I’ve arrested that with tape. On the plus side, leaving some of the decorations still hanging from the rods last year helped a lot this year.
  4. Once the bamboo mat is up on the roof, it’s kind of fun to unroll it.


From 2012: Lots going on in the next few days:

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot:  There are readings from two scrolls: first, Exodus 33:12 – 34:26, in which Moses sees the Lord’s back, and carves two new tablets; and the covenant is reaffirmed along with some key requirements and a quick rundown of special times.  Second: Numbers 29:26 – 31, about sacrifices for the 5th and 6th days of Sukkot. That’s for this year. It varies depending what day of Sukkot it is. [Note from 2014: “It is also traditional to read the book of Ecclesiastes (“Kohelet”), supposedly written by Solomon in his old age and something of a downer.”]

Hoshana Rabbah (great hoshana) is Sunday.  See, e.g., This is the day on which your fate is really, really sealed (as opposed to Yom Kippur, on which it’s just really sealed).    This is a post-biblical elevation of the status of the 7th day of Sukkot.  Instead of one circuit of marching and recitations with lulav and etrog in the synagogue, there are seven.  Then willow branches are beaten five times against the floor.  Torah reading:  Numbers 29:26-34 (sacrifices for 5th, 6th, 7th days of Sukkot). 

Shemini Atzeretthe Eighth Day of Assembly, is Monday.  We pray that rain (geshem) will fall in season in Israel. The Yizkor (memorial) service is said. Torah readings:  Deut. 14:22-16:17 (holidays) and Num. 29:35-30:1 (Shemini Atzeret sacrifices).

Simchat Torah, Rejoicing in the Law, is also Monday if you live in Israel.  Otherwise, it’s Tuesday (starts Monday night, of course).  Simchat Torah is a post-biblical holiday on which we celebrate the completion and beginning of the Torah reading cycle.  At the Monday night service, we parade around seven times carrying all the Torah scrolls there are and sing and dance, sometimes going out into the street (or parking lot).  Then a short portion of Torah is read; just what can vary, but it’s typically three quick aliyot from Deuteronomy 33.  Both Monday night and Tuesday morning, the kids get flags to wave and candy apples and the adults get to drink something adult.  

In the morning, we read from three (count ’em, three) scrolls: First, the portion V’zot HaBracha (“And this is the blessing”), Deut. 33:1-34:12, which includes Moses’ blessing of the Israelites by tribe and his death after seeing the Promised Land from afar.  Everyone who wants to be honored with an aliyah gets one, which can lead to a lot of repetition and/or group aliyot.  The last section of this is a special aliyah given to an honoree referred to as the Hatan Torah (groom of the Torah).  Then we go on to the second scroll and another honoree, Hatan Bereishit, is called up for the reading Gen. 1:1-2:3 (bereishit, in the beginning), the story of creation.  (If your shul is egalitarian and either honoree is female, “Kallat” (bride) is used instead of “Hatan”.)  But wait, there’s more! It wouldn’t be a holiday without a special reading from yet another scroll about obligatory sacrifices. Since there are no Simchat Torah sacrifices in the Torah, there being no Simchat Torah there, we repeat the reading concerning Shemini Atzeret sacrifices, Num. 29:35-30:1.  Then for the haftarah, we read Joshua 1:1-18, which picks up the story right after Deuteronomy 34:12. 

Thus, we celebrate a series of beginnings and completions: the beginning of the year and the end of the holiday season.  The completion of the Israelites’ story in the Torah and the beginning of a nation in the Promised Land, in the book of Joshua.  And, with the completion of the Deuteronomy, the beginning of the Torah reading cycle, once more, with Genesis 1:1.

Shabbat shalom and Hag Sameah to you all,



Holiday Psychology

Jewish holidays are for people with illnesses:

Purim is for alcoholics. 
Pesach is for OCDs. 
Lag B’omer is for pyromaniacs who weren’t satisfied with Chanukah.
Shavuot is for insomniacs.
Tisha B’Av is for manic depressives.
Rosh Hashana is for people who obsess over dying. 
Yom Kippur is for anorexics.
Sukkot is for the homeless. 
Simchat Torah is for those in their happier stages of bipolar.

Mi K’Amcha Yisroel – “[O’ G-d,] who is like your people Israel?”

And people still wonder why the Jews invented psychology!


Etrog Recycling Projects (after Sukkot)

The etrog (citron) smells so nice, it’s a shame to just toss it after the holiday.  This is a site with lots of “repurposing” ideas, some of which are pictured below.


Besamim: spices, especially those used for Havdalah. Pitom: the tip of the etrog.


(There are a lot of edible sukkah designs out there, of varying nutritional value.)

Edible Sukkah



Praying for Rain

The minister’s little six-year-old girl had been so naughty during the week that her mother decided to give her the worst kind of punishment. She told her she couldn’t go to the Sunday School Picnic on Saturday.

When the day came, her mother felt she had been too harsh and changed her mind. When she told the little girl she could go to the picnic, the child’s reaction was one of gloom and unhappiness.

“What’s the matter? I thought you’d be glad to go to the picnic.” her mother said.

“It’s too late!” the little girl said. “I’ve already prayed for rain!”


24 Literary Quotes on Beginnings, Middles, and Endings (selections)

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity. ~Gilda Radner

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. ~Seneca

There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story. ~Frank Herbert

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop. ~Lewis Carrol

The beginning is the word and the end is silence. And in between are all the stories. ~Kate Atkinson






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