A special Shabbat is coming up! Shabbat Chol HaMoed Sukkot. We have some readings for you from our books – and if you feel like everything is such a mess at this point in the holidays, we have something for you too.
On this Shabbat, the Torah reading is something we also read at other times during the year – and the last Torah portion of the cycle will actually be read on Simchat Torah, a weekday. (Along with the new beginning of the cycle!) So now, all of a sudden we find ourselves back in Exodus, with Moses, and G-d giving rules about kashrut and all that.
To match the feeling of ‘can all those rules be enough for now?’ I picked a poem by Zackary Sholem Berger from his collection ALL THE HOLES LINE UP: Poems and Translations.
Ten Commandments are Not Enough by Zackary Sholem Berger
Six hundred thir
teen don’t even
the terrifying space
We can always do
Help me, compromiser
not whimpering on chains
not weeping in twilight
for a morsel
(You can also follow him on Twitter at @DrZackaryBerger where he also talks about medicine and healthcare!)
Next up, I chose something from THE JEWISH BOOK OF DAYS by Jill Hammer! Rabbi Hammer talks about every day in the Jewish calendar, and this unusual Shabbat is no exception. While Sukkot is supposedly a partying holiday, on this Shabbat we read Ecclesiastes!
On the Sabbath that falls during Sukkot, it is customary to read the book of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is a mournful work about the futility of possessions, wisdom, and ambition in the face of death. Yet Ecclesiastes is also about the acceptance of time and the poignant beauty of the ephemeral. Enjoy life, the author of the book says, and do good deeds and know that your stay on earth will not last forever. This seems the right message for Sukkot. The harvest is itself the beginning of a journey into winter and an uncertain future.
The writer of Ecclesiastes is called Kohelet, “the gatherer.” A king in Jerusalem, he has reaped a harvest of wisdom, wealth, and love; and yet he cannot hold onto these gifts forever. He struggles with this reality and finally accepts it. On Sukkot, we too know that the harvest will soon be eaten. Our hearts are full only for a moment. Then we must be willing to move on. This is the wisdom of the heart: We are like the sea, always filling, yet never entirely full. On this day of Sukkot, we invite into our sukkah Moses and Miriam, redeemers who crossed the sea toward an unknown future.
(Look, here is Moses again!)
Rabbi Hammer also quotes an especially poignant bit from Ecclesiastes to match:
One generation goes,Ecclesiastes 1:4-7
But the earth remains
the same forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets –
And glides back to where it rises.
Ever turning blows the wind,
On its rounds the wind returns.
All streams flow into the sea,
Yet the sea is never full.
To the place [from] which they flow,
The streams flow back again.
And she also quotes this midrashic bit about how Ecclesiastes Rabbah explains it:
All the streams flow into the sea – the wisdom of a person comes from the heart. But the sea is never full – but the heart can never be filled.Ecclesiastes Rabbah 1:4
Thus we have on this Shabbat a clash between thoughtfulness and PARTYING.
(We had something about the partying bit earlier!)
Before we move on, you can also get The Jewish Book of Days from us (we also have more of Jill Hammer’s work!) Super great time to buy now, at the beginning of the year! It’ll be a companion year-round.
Now. I’d say we also have a clash between all the holiday observances (including both the partying and the mournfulness), and being quite exhausted…! As I was looking through various books of ours, I opened THE SABBATH BEE at a page that described exactly how I felt.
This is a book of prose poems and tiny stories about Shabbat, by Wilhelmina Gottschalk – we wrote about it earlier, it’s really cute and heartwarming. This book has chapters for all the special Shabbat times too, including this Shabbat that falls on Sukkot. The chapter I chose, however, is not that chapter. (For that, you need to get the book..)
Did I say something about messiness? This’ll say something about messiness!
Macaroni necklace by Wilhelmina Gottschalk
It was a macaroni necklace day. A seat of your pants, I saw this thirty seconds ago in a shop window and it sorta reminded me of you, I can’t find my glasses – you mean the ones you’re wearing right now? – sort of a day.
I should probably be embarrassed. I made tea sandwiches for the queen of the week and left the crusts on. I nodded off in the corner and slept through the entire grand fanfare, trumpets and all.
But Shabbat didn’t say anything. In fact, I may have just dreamed it, but I’d swear she pulled her foot out of her diamond-studded heel at one point to show me the run in her stocking, one toe poking out, before she tucked her foot back in her shoe and let a boisterous gang of children lead her onto the dance floor.
You can also get this book from us:
Thank you for reading, and have a great Sukkot + Shabbat shalom!