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

At this time of year, I find it difficult to remember what’s what and what I have to do.  This year is even more complicated because we are going on vacation right after the holidays.  To help people keep track of the holidays, Moment Magazine has kindly provided the following link: isitajewishholidaytoday.com   

So, expect more reruns than usual. Comments below are from 2012, except for those in italics and parentheses.

(2012) 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?” (Actually, it seems Chanukah’s 8 days were actually a belated Sukkot.  But I guess it might be a bit too chilly in December.)

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 (i.e., in 2008), because Ha’azinu was read between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, so the haftarah for Shabbat Shuvah was read instead (i.e., in 2009, 2010, 2011).  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 (2011’s) pre-fab, metal tubular Tinkertoy version

tph tinkertoy sukkah

 http://thesukkahproject.com/thetubularsukkah.aspx   worked out OK, so we plan to put that up again on Sunday, but this time using a level. (This year, it goes up today, I hope.) 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(!!) (now 19) 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),



For your information and amusement:

The LEGO Sukkot Movie

What is Sukkot?

13 Facts about Sukkot Every Jew Should Know



A Moveable Feast — Sukkah Pedicab in NYC  (sent out in 2012)

tph sukkah pedicab

(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.]



From Poetic Justice – Legal Humor in Verse

Cease and Desist: A Haiku

50 paragraphs,
300 commas, therefores,
Just to say: Stop it.



Jerusalem’s Etrog Medicine Man Finds Unexpected Uses for the Sukkot Citron 

Sunday, September 27, 2015 (There’s also a video at the site.)

Tonight is the start of the joyous Jewish holiday of Sukkot. In synagogues and homes all over the world, Jews will raise their voices in prayer while holding and waving the four species — the lulav (date palm branch), hadasim (myrtle branches), aravot (willow branches) and the etrog — the citron that looks like a large lemon.

If you think the only use of the etrog is to hold it and wave it on Sukkot, think again. 

Tucked away in a corner of Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, Uzi-Eli Hezi, a Yemenite etrog farmer, entertains and informs visitors to his booth about the healing power of his juices and lotions made from the etrogim that he grows on his farm. 

Born in Yemen in 1942, Hezi came to Israel in the Operation Magic Carpet airlift in 1950.

As Melanie Hidman wrote in a Jerusalem Post article a few years ago,

Etrog juice hasn’t been clinically tested, but is used as a home remedy for centuries. Etrogim – citrons in English – can also cure morning sickness, work as an antidote to snake or scorpion bites, lower blood pressure, cure infertility, help heal burns, and reduce blood pressure, among other medical miracles – all according to Hezi.

“The etrogim keep me healthy and happy,” said Hezi. “I haven’t seen a doctor in 15 years. I pay for health insurance for nothing!” Indeed, he’s got a loyal following of people who feel the same way. Hezi sees more than 250 customers a day at his stall, though he sometimes refers to them as patients. He has hundreds of stories of helping infertile women give birth, lifting chronic depression, and healing ailments large and small through his line of etrog products.

“I can see what’s inside a man and give him a medicine that’s just what he needs,” Hezi explained.

Hezi juggles running the stall and blending the juices, while simultaneously listening attentively to the requests and questions of his customers.

He’s part therapist, part healer, part spiritual adviser, and part etrog connoisseur.



Poetry Quotes

Pure mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. Albert Einstein

Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words. Robert Frost

Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks. Plutarch

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance. Carl Sandburg

All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry. Edgar Allan Poe







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