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September 23, 1988 - Image 66

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Building Of Family Sukkah Brings Special Joy To Holiday

By RABBI DAVID A. NELSON

No one consulted me when the
Jewish calendar was set up. Had
the Almighty spoken to me, I would
have suggested waiting a little
longer between Yom Kippur and the
onset of Sukkot. Two weeks, at the
very least, would have helped
considerably in preparing for "the
most joyous of all festivals," as the
Bible describes it. However, it is
clear from reading the Torah that
Sukkot comes on the heels of Yom
Kippur, and the custom arose of
knocking in at least one nail of the
sukkah upon the completion of Yom
Kippur.
For several years, following the
Ma'ariv service, surrounded by
young children, I have picked up a
hammer and proceeded to begin
the building of the Beth Shalom
sukkah. I am always reminded,
when I do that, that one is always
actively involved and engaged in
preparing for the next holy moment
in Jewish life. We never remain
static.

"It wasn't until I built my
own sukkah . . . that I
discovered that Sukkot
was really fun."

There was a time, when I was
growing up, as the son of a
Conservative rabbi in Bridgeport,
Conn., that hardly anyone
constructed a family sukkah.
Naturally, our synagogue put one
up, but it was very rare to see a
sukkah in someone's backyard. It
wasn't until I built my own sukkah,
and if you know how talented I am
as a carpenter, you know that it was

Sukkot Humor

A man went to his rabbi and
asked, "How does one build a
sukkah?" The rabbi responded,
"Look in the Talmud, Sukkah 65b,
and check out the Rashi at the top
of the page. There he gives exact
directions for building a sukkah."
The man returned home,
studied the Rashi, and followed
Rashi's instructions to the letter.
But, alas, when he had finished, the
sukkah, which looked perfect,
collapsed. He returned to the rabbi
and queried, "Rabbi, I followed
Rashi 100 percent and the sukkah
fell down. Why?"
The rabbi looked at the man
and responded, "You know, the
Tosafot (commentator) asked the
same question!"

L-4

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1988

my wife, Alicia, who built it, that I
discovered that Sukkot was really
fun. All those years I thought I was
having fun, rejoicing with the lulav
and etrog. Truthfully, there's only so
much fun you can have with a lulav
and etrog. We tried so hard. We
even made jelly from the etrog,
which was beyond awful. When we
lived in Brazil, we used to import
"religious lemons," which was the
way we described them for the
customs authorities.
Of course, there are beautiful
interpretations that fill many books
on the significance of the lulav and
etrog.
Traditionally, it has been seen as
the symbol of Jewish unity — the
combination of three differing
species of fruits into one — the
branches of palm (lulav), the
boughts of myrtle (hadassim) and
the willows of the brook (aravoth).
The Midrash explains the symbolical
significance of the four plants which
are held together:
• The etrog has both taste and
fragrance.
• The palm has taste but no
fragrance.
• The myrtle has fragrance but
no taste.
• The willow has neither taste
nor fragrance.
Similarly, the comparison is
thus made that:
• Some Jews have both
learning and good deeds (etrog).
• Some have learning — taste
— but no good deeds (palm),
fragrance (longer lasting).
• Others have good deeds
(myrtle) but no learning.
• Still others (willow) have
neither learning nor good deeds.

Therefore, God said: "Let them
all be combined together and they
will atone one for the other
(Leviticus Rabbah 30:12). Hence our
view that the four species symbolize
the four types of people, who,
'though different in character, must
live in unity and mutual
understanding, if not complete
agreement. Today, more than ever,
we need all four species to be held
together.
It is a source of great pride in
each congregation to see a long
and beautiful procession in the
synagogue with lulav and etrog. For
family involvement there is no
greater opportunity than Sukkot.
Imagine building your own sukkah.
You can consult the Jewish
Catalogue or you can design your
own individual creation. This is one
of the best Jewish do-it-yourself

projects with which I am familiar.
Even in Michigan, our children,
when they were younger, slept in
the sukkah and thereby special
memories were created that, I'm
certain, will always be linked in their
minds with the joy of Sukkot.
I love going to synagogue, but
when I lived "BMOS" (before my
own sukkah), Sukkot meant that
special programs in the synagogue
and .the special kiddush, but the
excitement is in the sukkah, even in
Michigan where you can safely
assume that it will be chilly and
raining as you sit down in your
sukkah. That adds to the challenge.
Once we survive getting ready
for Sukkot, it is time to celebrate the
concluding days of Shemini Atzeret
or Simchat Torah. Shemini Atzeret
includes the Yizkor prayers and
helps us reflect on the transitory
and fleeting nature of life itself. We
link ourselves with past generations
and hope that we are living up to
the sacred duties and
responsibilities left to us by the
generation before us, with whom we
are reunited by means of the Yizkor
prayers. Judaism balances the sad
moments with the joyous ones, and
we build up to the exquisite joy of
Simchat Torah when we conclude
and begin anew the Torah.
We never cease to hear the
words of the Torah, and the moment
we conclude the fifth Book of
Moses, we immediately begin
reading the opening chapters of
Genesis. The message of the

continuity of Torah could never be
more poignantly taught. We are
Jews, as Saadia Gaon taught, by
virtue of the Torah alone. We
proudly march with the scrolls
around the sanctuary, we dance,
and we link ourselves with our
heroic Soviet brothers and sisters
who have made Simchat Torah a
living symbol of their Jewish identity.
It is on this night that they gather by
the tens of thousands, and dance,
sing and celebrate their pride in
their Jewishness. They, at great
peril, have shown us that you have
to be willing to make a sacrifice,
and take risks in order to
demonstrate publicly that they are
finding great joy in the Torah. They
are on our minds as we celebrate in
the safe and blessed land of
America.
Young children crowd our
synagogues and they learn that it is
great fun to celebrate this wonderful
holiday. They march, they wave
flags, they sing and they will never
forget the memories that are
created by being in a synagogue or
temple on Simchat Torah. We are
constantly reminded how fortunate
is our lot and how magnificent is
our heritage. I hope that your
Sukkot celebrations will bring you
and your family members the joy
that Sukkot has brought to my
family.

Rabbi David A. Nelson is the
spiritual leader of Congregation
Beth Shalom.

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