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October 09, 1992 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-10-09

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


Spread The Message
Of Hoshana Rabbah


to The Jewish News


magine that on a bright
fall Sunday, bands of Na-
tive Americans gather on
the banks of rivers and
creeks all across this conti-
nent, praying to the Creator
pirit that the earth be
healed from what uncon-
trolled human technology is
doing to destroy it.
Imagine that they are dan-
cing seven times in a sacred
circle, carrying a sacred ob-
ject, all the while beating
willow branches on the ear-
th, trying to awaken corn-
passion for the earth in the
hearts of us all.
Imagine the respectful
press coverage about their
sacred efforts to preserve the
earth. Imagine the admiring
young people from the cities
and the suburbs who would
be clamoring to learn more
about Native spirituality.
Imagine the cagey politi-
cians who would decide to do
more to prevent global war-
ming and protect the ozone
'-- layer.
Now imagine that the
bands are not Indians — but
Jews. Imagine that it is a
Torah scroll they are carry-
i- ing; the prayers for the Ear-
th are in Hebrew and Eng-
lish; the willow branches are
indeed willow branches,
beaten to indicate our
dependence on rain.
Impossible, you say? Jews
would be embarrassed.
Rabbis would think it was
undignified. Beat willow
branches on the earth? Irra-
tional. Pagan. Primitive.
But this ceremony is part
of our tradition and takes
place on Hoshana Rabbah
(Save Us), and its prayers
- plead for healing "the world,
our earth, suspended in
space" — as the fourth
Hoshana puts it.
Hoshana Rabbah comes on
the seventh day of Sukkot —
this year, Sunday, Oct. 18.
Few Reform or Reconstruc-
tionist synagogues observe
it, and in most Conservative
or Orthodox congregations it
is far from the best attended
service in the sanctuary.
But it belongs outside,
under the sky. It belongs to
every Jew who is worried

- i

Arthur Waskow is director of
the Shalom Center in
Philadelphia, a Jewish organ-
ization committed to preven-
ting environmental disaster.

about the growing rates of
environmentally caused
cancer and immune-system
diseases, about famines that
are caused by environmental
destruction, about rising in-
fertility caused by rising
pollution, about acid rain
and oil spills.
And it belongs to every
Jew who is concerned about
the next generation of Jews.
Every Jew who realizes that
many young people are at-
tracted by exactly the kind
of passionate spirituality

When we move
from the harvest
booth of Sukkot to
the election booth
of November, we
must take the
smells and tastes
of Sukkot with us.

that they see in Native
dances and Buddhist chan-
ting and Sufi whirling and
Hindu yoga. Attracted for
good reasons, not bad — at-
tracted because these offer
ways of connecting with the
sacred Breath of Life.
Young people who are
repelled by a Judaism that is
embarrassed by the spirit,
ashamed of willow branches.
What would happen if in

our generation we were to
draw on this ceremony as a
framework to affirm protec-
tion of the earth from envi-
ronmental destruction?
What would happen if we
were to embroider the tradi-
tional rituals of Hoshana
Rabbah in the language of
our generation?
Between the seven
Hoshana processions, could
people speak about seven
different aspects of the pro-
tection we humans need to
offer the earth — teaching
what we need to know if we
are to act wisely?
Could we add the planting
of a willow tree, so that we
ourselves would help
reforest the earth, join the
moment of action to the mo-
ment of celebration?
Could we add the pouring
of water to invoke the corn-
ing of the rain, as was done
on the first day of Sukkot,
when the Holy Temple
stood? Could we reaffirm our
commitment to make the
rain, the lakes, and the
oceans pure once more?
Could we light a solar-
powered lamp as the syn-
agogue's ner tamid eternal
light) — a fire that would not
burn fossil fuels, would not
pour more carbon dioxide
into the atmosphere to
worsen global warming?

Armont ha...ay by Guy vrwr. Cop,cont

OsanIxnal by lc.. Ape* nems S,Scstra.

Could there be a brief,
impassioned sermon — one
that says voting for the ear-
th is a mitzvah? That says —
when we move from the
harvest booth of Sukkot to
the election booth of
November, we must take the
smells and tastes of Sukkot
with us, the leaves and wind
and water that remind us:
we are part of the earth, the
earth is part of us? Can we
insist that politicians re-
member that truth?
If Judaism were like this

— not just an October 18 but
on every holiday and every
Shabbat and every evening
meeting at the synagogue —
then we could stop worrying
about the boredom of our
We would be renewing
Judaism and protecting the
earth — And miracle of
miracles, we would be enjoy-
ing ourselves. Making the
new year not only good, but
also sweet. Not a bad thing
for any community that
wants to survive. 0

My Zayde's Sukkah


Special to The Jewish News


t was incongruous even
in imagination. Though I
never witnessed the ac-
tual construction with my
own eyes, I did see it and
everyone testified that
Zayde (grandfather) had
built it.
But how? On the tar-
pitched roof of a two-story
building on South Ninth
Street in Brooklyn was a
sukkah with three sides
leaning against a brick wall.
Incredible to think of that
old man with gray-white
beard and black derby haul-
ing boards and palm bran-
ches up to the roof from the
Where did he find the ma-
terials, and who could imag-
ine Reb Avraham pounding
nails into the wood, he
whose commitment to study
led him to look down on

working with one's hands?
He could never understand
my playing with the interior
workings of an old clock. It
was bittul zeman, a waste of
time taken away from the
study of Torah. Who could
imagine the wasted time
Zayde had to have spent con-
structing the sukkah?
Zayde sitting in a hut, out-
side the home, eating at a
table surrounded by the
aroma of leaves and fruits, a
sight as strange as imagin
ing Zayde at a camping jam-
boree. There he was out-
doors, sitting hunched up
with his suit collar raised,
eating and drinking while it
rained through the thatched
In the sukkah, Bubbie
never ran short of soup. The
law, of course, exempted Zayde
from dwelling in the suk k ah
if it rained. "If one suffers
discomfort in a sukkah, he is
exempt from the obligation
of dwelling in it" (T. Sukkah

25b). If there is no joy, the
mitzvah is suspended. But
protected by his derby and
his sense of mitzvah, Zayde
felt no discomfort.
Jewish codes state that if
guests are invited to the
sukkah on the first night
and rain begins to fall, one

On Sukkot one
turns away from
transgression by
means of laughter
and rejoicing.

should wait until midnight
to eat in the sukkah.
Perhaps the rain will stop by
that time. But if the invited
guests are poor, one should
not wait for the rain to stop.
Being poor the guests have
most likely not eaten
anything all day. For them
to wait is discomfort enough.
Let them eat with you in the
dining room and forgo the

mitzvah of dwelling in the
sukkah. So my Zayde
The sukkah brought out
an unsuspected side of Zayde
even as the holiday revealed
an unexpected side of Jewish
piety. Sukkot is different,
especially when contrasted
with the days of Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur
which precede it.
Rosh Hashanah is
cerebral, a matter of the
head; Yom Kippur is affec-
tive, a matter of the heart.
But Sukkot is physical, a
mitzvah of the entire body
with which one enters the
sukkah, even in one's boots.
As if to compensate for the
fast and solemnity of the
Day of Atonement, Sukkot is
insistent upon rejoicing the
body and the spirit,
celebrating the taste and
aroma of nature and reading
the almost not canonized
biblical text of Ecclesiastes.
The wisdom of Ecclesiastes




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