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September 09, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-09-09

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Community Views

Editor's Notebook

Heed The Call
To Begin Anew

Something More
Tangible About Sukkot



One of my favorite
stories is that of a
child who sat qui-
etly at a desk with
a piece of paper
and some crayons,
working diligently.
There followed a
flurry of intense
activity, then an
anguished cry of pain.
Tearfully, the child approached
the teacher and sobbed, "I have
ruined my picture." Gently wip-
ing the tears from the youngster's
eyes, the teacher said, "Here is a
fresh, new piece of paper. Do bet-
ter this time." This story is a per-
fect metaphor for this time of year.
Pardon me if this column
sounds like a sermon — it's that
time of year. With the yamim
nora'im, the Days of Awe, now
upon us, and with Sukkot, Shem-
ini Atzeret and Simchat Torah
Rabbi Amy Brodsky, of Temple
Emanu-El, is a board member
of the Ecumenical Institute for
Jewish-Christian Studies.

not far behind, I am in a sermon
mode: Just about everything I
say or write has at least a tinge
of the sermon in it. It simply goes
with the rabbinic territory.
The idea of starting over with
a new piece of paper is precisely
what the High Holy Days are all
about. They are our opportuni-
ty to sit back, to review the past
year, to repent our mistakes, and
then to start again with a fresh
slate, a fresh piece of paper.
Rosh Hashanah is a time
when, like the child with paper
and crayons, we approach our
teacher and say, "0, God, we
have messed up our picture. We
haven't made a perfect picture
this past year. We have tried
hard; we have worked to make
our picture a beautiful one, but
it just hasn't turned out quite
On Yom Kippur we say: Al
cheit she-chatanu — for the sin
we have sinned, for the mistake
we have made — s'lach lanu,
m'chal lanu, kapeir lanu — for-

give us, pardon us, grant us
Tradition teaches that God
replies, "Here's a fresh, new piece
of paper, a new year. Start fresh,
Start over. Try it again. Learn
from your experience and do bet-
ter this time."
As individuals, as members of
congregations, as participants in
Jewish organizations, and as a
community, we have learned
much this past year. We have
learned from both our successes
and our failures. On Shabbat
Shuvah, the Sabbath of Repen-
tance, the Sabbath of Return, we
return and rededicate ourselves
to our community, our people,
and our God.
May each of us use the fresh
piece of paper we have received
this week, the first week of the
year 5755, to draw a beautiful
picture for ourselves and our com-
munity. May this year's picture
be the best one yet.
Shana tova! ❑

Talked to a
friend Sunday
about the Jewish
Holidays, partic-
ularly Sukkot.
"Yeah, we're go-
ing to give it a
try this year," he
told us. "Maybe
• we'll get some-

thing up."
Sukkot is more difficult for
some Jews to handle or to cele-
brate. It's easier to write a check
for hundreds of dollars for the
High Holiday seats than it is to
run out to a lumber supply
store and pick up some pieces
of wood, bang them together
and let the children hang

I never took part in the build-
ing of a sukkah until age 32. We
were sitting on our friend's deck
one September, lamenting the
end of summer and the up-
coming Jewish holidays. There
were four couples there around
the barbecue when we started
talking about Sukkot. Some-
how, someway, it was decided
that the four couples would
build a sukkah together. None
of us had ever built one before,
but we decided to give it a try.
My patio was used. We
picked an evening to buy sup-
plies and a Sunday to get to-
gether and build. Besides
watching it go up, the best part
for me was seeing our children

posters, make paper
chains, decorate with
corn and gourds, and
basically take with them
more memories of Yid-
dishkeit that can be
passed on to their chil-
dren than any High Hol-
iday choice seat could
This is different be-
cause it's hands-on. The
family is working, build-
ing and putting it up to-
gether. Please, building
a sukkah doesn't have to turn
into an example of fine design
and sophisticated architecture.
But during these Jewish hol-
idays, better known as Rush
HaSeptember, building a
sukkah is a statement that we
make that we are willing to eat,
drink and learn some Torah in
a small structure we've put on
our decks or patios. It separates
us from the neighbors, almost
publicly. But, again, it takes
some work.
My friends have heard me
tell the story of a close relative
who was given a sukkah by her
next-door neighbor.
"He didn't need it anymore,"
my relative said. "His kids had
That's not the point of this
holiday. A sukkah is a structure
that is there to unite the fami-
ly. My relative's neighbor
should have constructed his
sukkah for himself and his
grown kids. Again, we're not
talking about much here, some
pieces of wood, nails, screws, a
hammer, a saw.
Before self-righteousness
sneaks in, I need to report that

out there with cans of
paint and brushes turn-
ing the wood into a
sukkah. The paint, by
the way, was a mixture
of what the four families
had in old leftover paint
cans in their basements.
The sukkah became
known as the neighbor-
hood sukkah. Every night
during the holiday, the
four families planned cov-
er-dish meals or if an in-
dividual family needed to
use it, they absolutely could. I
remember the steamy heat
coming off lasagna and soups
in the cool, fall evening. The
smell of the evergreens, and the
way our sukkah would shift a
bit in the wind as it kept us pro-
tected also is part of my fall
All of our children are a bit
older now, and they remember
that sukkah experience.
But the bottom line is the
best part.
All four families have moved
to other locations. Three of the
four families are building their
own sukkahs this year. None of
them had done so prior to the
neighborhood sukkah.
What of that sukkah we built
together eight years ago? It was
donated to a Jewish outreach
organization where, hopefully,
it is still getting used.
After the mad dash for choice
seats is behind us, don't let the
idea of a sukkah pass you by.
You'll wonder how you could
have lived so long without one.
And the children. They'll just
keep coining back for more.
Even when they've grown. ❑

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