Guess Who’s Back?

Hey, fam, I’m MaNishtana! It’s been awhile, I know.

I promise to try to blog slightly more frequently than I have in the past half a year or so since my last blog.

Here’s hoping.

[Star-of-Davids fingers]

In the meantime, it’s not like I haven’t been writing at all. Check me out over at either JN Magazine or Tablet Magazine.

Anyhoo.

This might ramble on a bit, and/or seem a little bit outdated, but just hear me out. There’s a point:

We just finished celebrating Sukkot, the tail end of the Chagapalooza that began over a month ago with Rosh Hashana.

But have you ever wondered why is Sukkot called “chag simchatenu (the season of our joy)”?

Seems a little weird. After all, “chag cherutenu (the season of our freedom)” makes sense for Pesach.

“Chag matan toratenu (the season of the giving of the Torah)” makes sense for Shavuot.

But what about Sukkot should make it “chag simchatenu”? Furthermore, if the holiday is commemorating the Ananei Hakavod/Clouds of Glory (as per Sukka 11b), then shouldn’t Sukkot be celebrated right after Pesach?

The Vilna Gaon comments on this by answering that after the sin of the Golden Calf, the Clouds of Glory left. They didn’t return until the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle–five days after Moshe scored atonement for the Jews on Yom Kipur–on the 15th of Tishrei. This is not only why Sukkot is celebrated after Yom Kippur on the 15 of Tishrei, but also why it’s “chag simchatenu”. It’s a celebration of the joy of not only the Clouds returning, but also of the Jews realizing they were back in Gd’s favor.

Teshuva/repentance is funny that way. Rabbenu Yona writes that a person might pray for teshuva, and receive forgiveness, but all that forgiveness might potentially mean is that the person will receive no punishment. It DOESNT mean that person has found favor or that Gd wants to hear any prayers from him. When Gd provides someone with the opportunity to do a mitzva, THAT’S when the person knows that they are back in favor.

Likewise, Sukka 28b compares rain during Sukkot to a curse, akin to the scenario of a servant pouring a drink for his master, but the master throws it back in his face. Similarly, if we aren’t being allowed to do the mitzvah of Sukkot, it means Hashem isn’t happy with us and doesn’t desire our prayers.

Not only is that relevant this year, as for more than half of the holiday–at least here in America–rain kept many of us out of the sukka, with other people even being forced to take their sukka down because of concerns of hurricane winds. Many who didn’t disassemble their sukkah on their one found that the weather did it for them.

Perhaps, not coincidentally, the latest rash of stabbings in Israel also sprang up during this time.

And let’s not overlook a very concerning piece of the picture. Erev sukkot featured not only a supermoon, but a blood moon, AND a lunar eclipse.

The Talmud, interestingly enough in Sukka once again (29a), relates that a lunar eclipse is a terrible omen for the Jewish people, once again a symbol of divine displeasure, additionally adding that “if its face is red as blood, it is a sign that the sword is coming to the world” (which, as a sidenote, seems pretty likely if several hundred stressed out, terrified Israelis are being urged to walk around Jerusalem wearing guns, not to mention deranged individuals with penchants for driving cars into crowds of people and axing whoever they missed).

The tractate in Sukka ends on a positive[ish] note though, saying “However, when the Jews do the will of the Omnipresent they need not worry about all these omens.”

Now, I’m not claiming to have a guy on the inside upstairs, but it seems fairly reasonable to assume that we just might not be in such good graces right about now. We need to rally together for some good old fashioned achdut/unity. And unfortunately Israel is not the focal point for that, let’s be honest. More often than not, it only serves to expose the schism amongst Jews across every strata of observance, even amongst people on the same side of the issue.

But one thing I’ve noticed that does not do this (or at least to an exponentially less extent) are group Jew activities, particularly ones involving Shabbat, which I find particularly significant as Shabbat has been the centerpiece of Jewish life since the infancy of our nation, even to the point of being considered equal to all the other commandments (Chulin 5a).

And “coincidentally” enough, October 23/24, Shabbat Lech Lecha, when all Jews everywhere can ACTUALLY agree that Avraham was promised the land of Israel, is Project Inspire’s very awesome Shabbos Project.

IMO, I feel like we should all pull out all the stops to host, our friends, our family, people who identify, people who don’t anymore, of whatever observance level, just host.

If we want some tide turning–and we do need some tide turning–this is a pretty sweet shot.

Let’s do it.

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4 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Back?

  1. BH, Shabbat Shalom, i just finished reading your comment in Tablet and wish to apologize for the comments of the uneducated idiots that think it is a smart way to react to Jews that do not fit their idea of what color a Jew should be. You are to be blessed embracing Jewish ideas, you are to be blessed belonging to the Jewish people, you are to be blessed to be whom you are.

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  2. Hi MaNishtana, I have written to you before and thought we had a productive exchange of ideas. It’s 1/9/16 and I just read your piece in Tablet about the vile hate mail that you’ve gotten from bigoted Jews. This truly saddens me, but unfortunately every ethnic & religious group on the planet has it’s share of ignorant people. I believe and hope that they represent but a tiny fragment in each group. I am white, but happened to grow up in what quickly became a black neighborhood. This was from 1959 to 1969 (I was 4 to 14). My parents were pretty involved in the Civil Rights Movement at the time, and on principal, did not want to flee what they hoped would be an “integrated neighborhood”. But, except for about 3 families, most of the whites did flee. For most of the time living there, I was very happy and had plenty of friends. But by the late 60’s, when the Civil Rights Movement became more militant, some kids in the neighborhood who did not know me personally, did abuse me for being white. They yelled “White Cracker” at me, and I was punched in the face and jumped a few times for “walking down the street while White”. These were only a few episodes by a tiny minority of bullies in the neighborhood, but my parents finally listened to some of their good friends, who were black and took their advice to move away. So, I’ve come to think that every group has it’s “bad apples”. None of us should let any of that prevent us from embracing our fellow human beings as brothers. So, please don’t let the few ignorant loud mouths get to you (if possible). They aren’t even worth acknowledging most of the time. Happy New Year and be well. – Arthur Spero

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