Sukkot: First two days and Shabbat Chol Hamoed

Yet another installment in the Plotzker Sukkah Saga!  As you may recall, last year, about halfway through the holiday our tinker-toy-type sukkah was slammed into our house during a bad storm.   Some of the steel tubing poles were bent, one at about a 30-degree angle, a couple others visibly bowed.  This year, I bought new steel tubing, standard ¾” galvanized steel EMT conduit (doesn’t that sound as if I knew what I was doing?).  It comes in 10 ft lengths, and what I needed was 93”.  So, I bought a tubing scorer and learned how to score and snap tubing, making a nice, clean edge.  Rich and I put the sukkah up on Sunday.  I thought I’d be done with the incidentals way before Wednesday evening.  Unfortunately, the canvas wrap was filthy, so I tried various time-consuming and only slightly effective ways to scrub it.  I finally gave up today and decided to cover up the worst wall.  So, I’ll finish the decorations tomorrow. Wednesday.  If it turns out OK, I’ll include a picture in next week’s TPH.

The most familiar embodiments of the holiday are the sukkah (booth), the lulav, and the etrog (citron).  The laws of the sukkah have been nicely summarized in Dr. Seuss fashion, with footnotes.  The whole home sukkah phenomenon has really blossomed in the last couple of decades.  When I was a child, the only sukkah I knew of was this wonderfully decorated one at our synagogue.  When we settled in Wilmington (1980), I particularly liked going to services at night during the holiday, so I could look up through the synagogue sukkah’s s’chach (the greenery on top) to see the stars.  We built our first home sukkah in the 1990’s.

None of the congregants I knew years ago had their own lulav and etrog (citron).  We just used the ones belonging to the rabbi and cantor.  We’ve only been buying a set for about 10 years I think.   The identity of the prescribed p’ri ets hadar (“the fruit of a splendid tree” or “the splendid fruit of a tree”) is not stated in Leviticus 23:40. It was identified later, in the Mishnah, as a citron, purportedly chosen because of its lovely fragrance.  Similarly, while the palm branch is agreed upon as a lulav component, there was ambiguity concerning the other two species; we’ve settled on willow and myrtle branches.

The Torah readings for the first two days of Sukkot are identical: Leviticus 22:26-23:44, mainly about how to observe the Sabbath, Rosh Chodesh, and holidays, including Sukkot of course; and Numbers 29:12 – 16, about the sacrifices for the first day. [ I don’t know why the readings are identical.  If you know, please tell me.] The haftarah on Day 1 is Zechariah 14:1 – 21, a vision of the coming “day of the Lord”. The second day haftarah is I Kings 8:2 – 21, about the dedication of the First Temple.  The next day is Shabbat Chol Hamoed, with Torah readings Exodus 33:12 –  34:26 (Moses sees God’s back and carves the second set of tablets) and Numbers 29:17 – 22 (2nd and 3rd day sacrifices – the specific verses vary with what day of Chol Hamoed Shabbat is).  The haftarah is Ezekiel 38:18 – 39:16, an apocalyptic vision of the coming war of Gog and Magog. It is also traditional to read the book of Ecclesiastes (“Kohelet”). This was supposedly written by Solomon in his old age, but it’s really too long to be chanted at services. I was at one where we tried, eventually giving up to “read” some chapters silently. 

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,



Kid-built mini sukkahs (LEGO, Lincoln Logs, MagNext and K’Nex)

Posted on 10/07/2014

Psssst: a kid-crafted mini sukkah made with construction toys is way, way easier on you, the adult, than say, with edibles or up-cycled boxes.  LEGO and Lincoln Logs and suchlike do not require you to run for the scissors and glue, to monitor frosting consumption, to vacuum pulverized Trix cereal from the rug.

Any model sukkah is educational.  A kid-built sukkah helps prepare for and celebrate the holiday.  It can teach the rules of sukkah-building (walls, roof, schach, etc.).  It can teach about hospitality and the Ushpizin.  It can inspire a kid-created mini lulav and etrog for maximum mitzvot.  Win, win, win.  But a sukkah made from construction toys is real mechaya for an exhausted parent: the materials are already underfoot and afterward, every component goes back in the box.

My kid made these.  I admit, the K’Nex version does not have walls that the Talmud would call walls, but our Pokemon celebrants do not seem to care.
Happy building, and Chag Sameach!

tph lincoln-log-sukkah-1tph lego-sukkah-1

mini Lincoln Log sukkah                      LEGO sukkah, LEGO schach
with steps for Bubbe

tph knex-sukkahtph magnext-sukkah1
K’Nex.  We are new at K’Nex but             MagNext sukkah.  Very tricky.
we are intrigued.                                        And keep the magnets away from the iPhone.



Sukkot 1957 – Elvis Presley had been on a visit to Israel.  He was fascinated by all the booths he saw and by the religious men waving their lulavim and etrogim.  When he got back to the U.S.A. he told Tom Parker, his manager, how wonderful his trip had been. Inspired by it all he sat down and wrote the top hit – “I’m all shook up”.


The Cohen family were very conscientious and were all about re-cycling.  They had special bins for paper, glass and organic waste.  One day after Sukkot the Cohen children got all excited as their parents gave them a gift.  They fought to tear off the wrapping and couldn’t wait to open the box.  Soon their new toy was revealed – Mr. Etrog Head.



Ushpizin (2004)  

This film is classified as a drama, but there are comedy and sweetness, too.  Don’t be put off by the phrase “dark night of the soul” in the description below. In Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles.  IGP

In Jerusalem’s orthodox neighborhoods, it’s Succoth, seven days celebrating life’s essentials in a sukkah, a temporary shack of both deprivation and hospitality. A devout couple, Moshe and Mali, married nearly five years and childless, are broke and praying for a miracle. Suddenly, miracles abound: a friend finds Moshe a sukkah he says is abandoned, Moshe is the beneficiary of local charitable fundraising, and two escaped convicts arrive on Moshe and Mali’s doorstep in time to be their ushpizin – their guests (see also  IGP). The miracles then become trials. Rabbinical advice, absolution, an effort to avoid anger, and a 1000-shekel (about $280) citron figure in Moshe’s dark night of the soul. 

By Cara Stern  September 21, 2012 (abridged)

tph sukkah-in-the-sky-640x342

TORONTO — A Toronto rabbi will be marking 25 years celebrating Sukkot 12 storeys above the ground.

Rabbi Catriel Blum will once again enjoy the holiday in his sukkah, located on the balcony of his top-floor apartment “I tell people it’s like eating on the CN Tower, except the food is kosher,” he jokes.

He says he can see for almost 50 kilometres – as far as Pickering and Richmond Hill – and with binoculars, he can glimpse the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls.

He has built the sukkah, which he says can comfortably fit four, every year for the past 25 years.  It takes Rabbi Blum roughly 30 hours to put together the plywood and bolts that hold the structure together, so he begins the process about a month before Rosh Hashanah.  He says he has used the same wood for all 25 years.

Although the construction has remained the same, some things have changed. His sukkah now boasts venetian blinds, a stereo system and a Wi-Fi connection.

He has mastered the art of building a tough sukkah, and says he has never had one fall.  The only problem is the wind, which he describes as almost hurricane-like.  “The wind downstairs is not the wind upstairs,” he says. “The sukkah has to be built stronger than any house on the ground.”

It needs to be strong, Rabbi Blum says, “because if anything falls off, it falls onto Bathurst Street.”

An excerpt from A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor (GK), 4/18/98
Last sent out in 2013. Oldie but goodie.

The Oldest Living Comedy Team

GK: Today is our annual joke show and it’s an honor to introduce my next guests —- we have the oldest living comedy team in the world with us, today.

WB: That’s right.

TR: Twelve thousand years old.

WB: We’re so old we’re in Noah’s yearbook.

TR: That’s old……

TR: [Solomon] was the first one to write down his routines.

GK: He wrote down his jokes?

TR: Ecclesiastes. You ever read that?

GK: Ecclesiastes from the Bible? You mean that Solomon?

WB: Ecclesiastes. That was his whole act. He was very popular up in Beirut. That was like Miami Beach then. “Nothin’ ever changes,” that was his whole schtick. “The rivers run into the sea and yet the sea is not full.” That’s a joke. “Everything is vanity.”

TR: “Look at this garbage,” he’d say, “Nothin’ ever changes. You do good, you do bad, you live a little then you die.” He was a funny guy.

WB: He said, “Whoever increases knowledge increases sorrow.” That was a scream back then. People used to roll under the tables. Funny guy.   People’d laugh—- you’d see pomegranates come out their noses, that’s how funny he was.

TR: “The race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong nor riches to men of understanding, but time and chance happeneth to them all.” People used to sit and howl when he told that.

WB: That’s the whole meaning of comedy right there. You’re fast, you fall down, you’re strong and you poke yourself with your sword, you’re smart and you go broke.

TR: He was a great comedian, Solomon. “Cast your bread upon the waters and you shall find it after many days.” I loved that one.

GK: I didn’t know that was comedy.

WB: A lot of people back then didn’t know it was comedy. You get audiences like that now and then. The Samaritans. Terrible audience. Nice people, but no sense of humor. …

GK: Right. Why do we need to tell jokes?

TR: Because. Life is terrible, its miserable, you wouldn’t wish it on a dog.

GK: So jokes come from misery?

WB: Jokes are misery. You tell a joke, it’s like saying, “Hey, we got a lousy deal,” and everyone who’s listening laughs, because they’re thinking, “That’s what I thought too, but I thought I was the only one.”

GK: So you don’t think there are new jokes?

WB: It’s like Solly said: “The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: there is nothing new under the sun.”

GK: And we’re out of time. What’s your favorite joke?

WB: My favorite joke is: If you could have a conversation with someone, living or dead, who would it be? —- I’d choose the one who’s living. That joke was very very big among the Abyssinians. It’s very funny in Urdu.


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