1st October 2020
Shabbat Shalom, Chag Succot Sameach and Blessed Tabernacles
Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement came and went. On Sunday evening – all Jewish Festivals begin at dusk the night before – Zvi stood on our veranda and sang Kol Nidrei (the opening of the Yom Kippur service) for me and for our neighbours. He put on his prayer shawl (Tallit) and stood before the pink-gold view of Jerusalem in the background, his voice loud and pure, to bring a beautiful prayer to all around us. It was amazing and took away the natural yearning for a communal service.
In Israel, not a vehicle moves on the Eve of Yom Kippur so we strolled down the quiet street to discover that at the end of the road, at the big roundabout, families with small children had gathered and dozens of children were merrily riding their bikes! The rattle of stabilisers and the whoops of delight of those who could ride freely and parents who could just relax and chat among themselves because nothing was going to come on the road to endanger their beautiful little ones!! Older children sped up and down the hill next to the apartment and the general mood was much lighter than one would expect on Yom Kippur!!!
The next day we simply read the service to ourselves until we discovered that the Seminar opposite had an open-air synagogue in the little road parallel to ours. Of course, it is easier in Israel because there is no traffic, not a car moves throughout the Jewish towns and villages in the country; it was wonderful and we all sat with masks and distancing and heard a great service! When the Shofar (Ram’s horn) was blown people in the adjacent apartments came out onto their balconies! It is said that when the Ram’s Horn is sounded the heavens open to our prayers.
This week, in years gone by, Jerusalem was filled with the joyous sounds of the International Christian Embassy’s Tabernacles Parade. Christians would arrive from all over the world, a hundred national flags fluttering in the breeze as they proudly walk from Sacker Gardens to the Kotel. Ben Gurion Airport is closed to non-Israelis and gatherings are frowned upon, so it won’t happen this year. However, a big however, the ICEJ is holding an online Feast of Tabernacles Festival! Join here https://feast.icej.org/
The Oxford English Dictionary has several descriptions for the word tabernacle-
A fixed or movable dwelling, typically of light construction (Biblical description)
A tent used as a sanctuary for the Ark of the Covenant by the Israelites during the Exodus and until the building of the Temple.
A meeting place for worship used by Nonconformists or Mormons.
Here in Israel, indeed for Jews around the world in its singular form it is a Succah, in its plural form, Tabernacles it refers to the festival of Succot. As I have always said, we all have so much more in common than that which separates us. I love this website with everything you ever wanted to know about the festival! https://jr.co.il/hotsites/sukkot.htm?fbclid=IwAR0Di0ZhpAH9tPb9Q9TqfwSfjfUqftZAHKFYkGfamkZjcXJIFzJRmo6sZhs
The roadside sales of planks, piles of partitions, palm leaves – both for roofing and for the tapering lulav, citrons and willow were business as usual over the last couple of weeks, but the usual taptaptapping of Succah building immediately after Yom Kippur was limited this year, partly because people who were home on enforced leave from work had already built their Succah and also because many just didn’t build one because nobody was going to visit! One of the most important tradition of the Succah is the inviting of guests. The Ishpuzin – visitors should comprise of one learned Talmud scholar and at least one a poor or lonely person. Maimonides said that without those two, especially the poor person, it becomes a festival of the stomach rather than of the soul. It is harvest Festival with deep meaning, a celebration of nature!
The old joke is that Mr. Adler a resident of Brooklyn was sued by his neighbour for building a Succah. As he stood before Judge Levy, Adler pleaded that it was a temporary religious construction and thus not illegal. The Judge looked at him and said “Mr. Adler, this is a violation of the law of building extensions to your home – My verdict is that you remove it within 8 days”
Try as I may, I cannot avoid certain aspects of the world outside our homes, especially since they deeply affect what happens to us and all our loved ones in a crucial manner.
I didn’t watch the Presidential debate and I am very happy I didn’t. From what I understand it was not a debate but rather a baiting, mud-slinging event. The word debate means to discuss reasonably and respond to one’s opponent in an orderly and polite manner. How on earth can one expect good behaviour from citizens when our supposed leaders and potential leaders behave in such a manner? How can we expect our children to behave correctly when our leaders are indicted on serious crimes? How can we expect our children to behave responsibly when our leader makes yet another woman pregnant with his 9th child? If you want to know why Joe Citizen cannot be bothered to isolate, wear a mask, keep distance, in general to behave responsibly, just look at our leaders. Shame on them.
I am very sorry that both President Trump and Melania have been diagnosed positive for the Coronavirus. It is not yet reported if they are actually sick or if, like many, they are simply positive. I wish them “Refuah Shlema” – a complete recovery. Interestingly, British PM Boris Johnson also has a tough lesson after belittling the effect of the Coronavirus and it is said that five months later he has still not returned to full good health.
This fascinating article talks of the fact that more and more Americans are considering moving to Israel. https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/ahead-of-the-election-growing-numbers-of-us-jews-consider-leaving-644183
Here, the Prime Minister has yet again made decisions against his medical advisors. He is surrounded by “Yes Men” who care only about their seats in the Knesset and not about the desperation of the people. Bad management of a diabolical situation has left the entire country in desperation, although Finance Minister Yisrael Katz is trying to turn things around many people, independent shop-keepers etc, have fallen between the cracks. The entire process should have been handed over to the IDF which is well-versed in dealing with crises, but that requires surrendering power and admitting that former strategies were ineffective.
Perhaps the political acceptance of the fact that two sectors of the Israeli population are “guilty” of ignoring the legislation concerning Covid-19 is the greatest failing of this government and has led us to the head of the international roll-call of Corona per capita. Sadly, 40% of the positive tests are within the Haredi community (although most Rabbis have demanded total adherence to the rules) two sects have ignored them completely; the second is the Arab sector, particularly the Southern Bedouin who held big weddings which then infected entire families in the PA.
On the other hand – and there is always another hand – severely ill patients treated with a new COVID-19 “passive vaccine,” which was developed by Hadassah Medical Center and the Israeli biopharmaceutical firm Kamada, demonstrated rapid, clinical benefit and they have already been released from the hospital to their homes. The plasma was collected with the help of the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) organization Yad Avraham and the Haredi community. Patients who tested negative for the novel coronavirus twice and showed high levels of antibodies in their blood were asked to donate.
Our sanity is saved by Zoom, WhatsApp, Facetime and daily chats with the children. Rachel’s son Yosef calls me every day, sometimes a few times a day, just to touch base, tell me he loves me and hear me tell him how incredible he is and how much I love him! In fact every call, whether from my/our children or grandchildren is a fillip to our mood………… as indeed are calls to and from friends. Yesterday my girl-friend Efrat walked from home after we decided to do a jig-saw puzzle swap!! She sat opposite the apartment and called me to come down and we sat either end of the public bench and chatted for about half an hour before she walked back home. One interesting, and very Israeli (or is it Jerusalem) aspect is that the coffee shop opposite, which has closed completely for the near future, leaves all their tables and pretty, brightly coloured chairs outside, night and day and nobody would dream of stealing them! People meet up outside every evening, despite the fact that the restaurant is closed, they sit around the tables and chat then carefully put them back exactly as they found them.
Just for fun……. A Jewish Trivia Quiz Just choose Succot as your subject and you are in business!! https://jewish-trivia.com/
Music, music music! Corona or not we must feed our souls as well as our ever growing tummies!!!
This is gorgeous, in Yiddish, unfortunately without subtitles but the sheer joy of the Harvest Festival with Dudi Knopfler https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed78v6pgZzk
This song is really fun, and you will be thrilled to know that it is in English all about “Living in a Booth” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXx5Wp3GcSE
The Shalva Band is the result of the love, perseverance and brilliant teaching of the staff of the Shalva Center, right here in Jerusalem.”A Million Dreams” was the culmination of the dreams of Kalman and Malki Samuels when suddenly the music world accepted those with special needs as talented and brilliant musicians. Just one of the reasons I chose Shalva and a Music and Drama Therapy Room as our “Remembering Daniel” project https://give.shalva.org/daniel in memory of my beautiful son Daniel. I am overwhelmed by your response and generosity and as soon as the closure opens up Rachel and family will be painting murals on the walls! Here they are, the fabulous Shalva Band……watch to the end. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HWaldJt5Bc
So, Chag Sameach, Shabbat Shalom, Blessed Tabernacles and please, please take care of yourselves.
With much love from both Zvi and me