Simchat Torah 5777 – Chag Same’ach!

IDF soldiers celebrate Simchat Torah

IDF soldiers celebrate Simchat Torah

The last and most joyous festival of the Jewish holiday season is almost upon us – Sukkot finishes tonight and Simchat Torah begins.

Today, the last day of Sukkot, known as Hoshana Raba, has a serious character despite the joy of the festival, as it is the last day for us to repent before the Book of Life is sealed. Special slichot (penitence) prayers are recited in the synagogue, and the hoshanot – the circuit of the shul with the lulav and etrog, which is performed every day of Sukkot – is carried out with 7 circuits of the shul. On this day we wish each other “pitka taba” or “a guten kvittel”, both of which mean “a good note”, i.e. wishing that we should be written down well in the Book of Life.

One last item about Sukkot before the festival ends. Referring to the pathetic UNESCO vote which denies the Jews’ connection to the Temple Mount, Rabbi Dov Lipman, former MK, writes (h/t Reality) that Sukkot is the perfect response to UNESCO’s vote:

Walking the streets of Jerusalem during these festive days, it suddenly struck me just how perfectly timed was the absurd UNESCO decision disconnecting Judaism from the Temple Mount – because no holiday exposes the idiocy of the UNESCO vote better than Succot.

We begin with the commandment in the Bible – written over 3,000 years ago, before Islam’s inception – that the people of Israel were to celebrate on the Temple Mount for the entire duration of the Succot holiday: “For seven days you shall celebrate for the Lord your God, in the place that the Lord will choose.” (Deuteronomy 16:15) This is the only holiday which has a specific command for the Jewish people to celebrate in the Temple for an extended period of time.

The special relationship between the Jewish people and the Temple Mount was cemented when King Solomon dedicated the First Temple on Succot (Kings I 8:2), and when the Second Temple was dedicated on Succot (Ezra 3:4). Both Jewish Temples – which sat right there on the Temple Mount – were dedicated during these days of a Succot! This, no doubt, is a major reason for our national rejoicing during these days.

(Kings I 8:41-43 and Chronicles II 6:32-33) The Jewish Temple was indeed a spiritual home for non-Jews as well. Seventy sacrifices were offered on the holiday of Succot, and many commentators explain that these were offered on behalf of each of the 70 nations of the world.

Quite remarkably, as I write these words, tens of thousands of non-Jews have flocked to Jerusalem for the Sukkot holiday as part of the Feast of the Tabernacles under the auspices of the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem. Indeed, for 35 years during this holiday, hundreds of thousands of Christians from all around the world have been flocking to the Temple Mount area, in keeping with the biblical description of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount on Succot as an address for Gentiles seeking spiritual connection.

Tens of thousands of Jews and Christians flooded the alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City every day this week as they make their way toward the Western Wall and the Temple Mount area.

Birkat Cohanim at the Kotel, attended by 70,000 people

Birkat Cohanim at the Kotel, attended by 70,000 people

So the 24 countries of UNESCO can decide whatever they want. Our response is Succot, in which we reaffirm our commitment to the Jewish Temple, to the Temple Mount, and to Jerusalem.

I can attest to the tens of thousands of visitors to Jerusalem on Sukkot, as we ourselves got caught up in a human traffic jam as we negotiated our way to the Kotel. It was an amazingly uplifting (if squashy) experience!

As for the celebrations on Simchat Torah itself, I refer you to a previous post on Simchat Torah.

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah

One of the things I mentioned in that post is that the festival is almost schizophrenic in character because its two parts are so completely different.  Shemini Atzeret, the name given to Simchat Torah in the Torah itself –  is festive yet serious, with the Yizkor (memorial for the dead) prayer and Tefilat Geshem (more on that here).

The serious part follows the pure joy of Simchat Torah, in which we celebrate the completion of the Torah reading cycle, reading the last portion of the Torah, Zot Habracha (This is the blessing), and then starting again with the first chapters of Bereishit (Genesis). In Israel, with the festival being celebrated all on one day, it always feels very strange to me to make the sudden switch from all the happiness and jollity of Simchat Torah to the serious prayers of Shemini Atzeret during the Musaf prayers.

But such is the reality of Jewish life, with seriousness and joy and celebration all rolled together.

Dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah

Dancing with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah

Joy mixed with sadness will definitely be the order of the day on Simchat Torah in the community of Peduel, which will be holding a Hachnasat Sefer Torah, a dedication of a new Torah scroll, written in memory of Naama and Eitam Henkin Hy’d, who were murdered by Palestinian terrorists in front of their children exactly a year ago, last Sukkot. (The children now live with their grandparents in the community). The joy at receiving a new Sefer Torah will undoubtedly be mixed with tears at the memory of their loss.

This year, with the chagim falling so late in the year, Tefilat geshem, the prayer for rain, has been perfectly timed, as the weather has turned markedly cooler (we were freezing in our son’s sukkah!) and we eagerly await the winter – or at least, the rainy season.

As we complete Sukkot with Hoshana Raba I wish you all “pitka taba”.

And for tomorrow, I wish those of you celebrating Chag Sameach!

!חג שמח

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Good News Friday – Shabbat chol hamo’ed edition

We’re still in the middle of Sukkot, although rapidly approaching the end, and despite the bad news from earlier in the week, when UNESCO did its best to deny the Jews’ connection to Jerusalem, or rather because of it, I’m going to focus on Jerusalem and Sukkot in this week’s Good News Friday post.

First up, via the Muqata, an ancient, 2,700-year old papyrus has been discovered with the word “Jerusalem” written on it:

A unique, 2,700-year-old Papyrus which mentions the Hebrew word “Yerushalma” (possibly meaning “to Jerusalem”) will be revealed next week at a conference on Innovations in the Archaeology of Jerusalem and Its Environs, at the Rabin Jewish Studies Building on the Mount Scopus Campus of the Hebrew University, Makor Rishon reported. Researchers say the papyrus may be the earliest evidence in Hebrew of the connection between the city of Jerusalem and the period of the Kings of Israel.

Ancient papyrus

Ancient papyrus

The Hebrew papyrus was discovered recently in the Judaean desert and purchased from an antique dealer. It was examined by the Israel Antiquities Authority’s labs, and carbon dated. The results showed with certainty that the papyrus dates back to the 8th century BCE, near the end of the Kingdom of Judea, a short while before the destruction of the First Temple.

Kol hakavod to the various authorities who discovered, restored and preserved this priceless artefact. As we all well know, we don’t need the UN or anyone else to tell us to whom Jerusalem belongs! I love the Muqata’s snarky comment:

We Jews are a sneaky bunch, going back in our time machines and leaving behind all those undeniable clues linking us Jews to Jerusalem and Israel.

It’s enough to give MK Ahmed Tibi a stroke as he tries to find new ways to deny reality and find his own time machine or at least a flying donkey.

Smiley Crying With Joy Smiley Face, Emoticon

My next item just doubles down on the previous item. 70,000 people crowded the Kotel (Western Wall) plaza to hear Birkat Cohanim, the Priestly Blessing, which takes place in public once each on Pesach and Sukkot. This year the number of attendees was extraordinary:

Over 70,000 people took part in the traditional priestly blessing ceremony during Sukkot at the Western Wall on Wednesday. The ceremony was led by Israel’s chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau, and Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch. The blessing concluded with the chief rabbis receiving the Sukkot pilgrims.

Rabinovitch said that “the pilgrimage is an impressive testament of the people of Israel’s connection to the remnants of our Temple, which the masses have come to embrace. Our answer to those who deny history is expressed in our prayer, ‘And give you peace.'”

Just watch this beautiful and moving experience:

How anyone could agree to a vote denying the Jews’ connection to the Temple Mount is mind-boggling. Even abstaining is not an option! What, you can’t make up your minds? Maybe the above video will help you decide.

Being Sukkot, there were many other joyful events taking place, as the Yisrael Hayom report continues:

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped dedicate the Eastern Wing of the Institute of Archaeology Exhibition Hall, also in Jerusalem. The new compound will house the Israel Antiquities Authority and display archaeological findings.

And President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, hosted around 6,000 people at the sukkah at the President’s Residence Wednesday under the theme “Product of Israel: The Blue-and-White Industry.”

In Haifa, the local branch of the Naamat women’s organization hosted MKs, mayors, public figures and activists from across the political spectrum, including Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, in their sukkah. The Larger Than Life Association, which works to improve the quality of life of children with cancer, marked the Sukkot holiday with a variety of activities at Dor Beach in central Israel.

There were also get-togethers, hikes, treks, shows, and all kinds of other events as the entire country, so it seemed, took to the roads and highways and forests and nature trails to enjoy the perfect Sukkot weather.

We ourselves made sure we got busy Judaising Jerusalem as went up to Jerusalem twice. We could not get over how many thousands of people were in the Old City and at the Kotel at gone 10 o’clock at night!

Looking down onto the thousands of people crowding the Kotel plaza, Sukkot 2016

Looking down onto the thousands of people crowding the Kotel plaza, Sukkot 2016

Entering the crowded Kotel plaza, Sukkot 2016

Entering the crowded Kotel plaza, Sukkot 2016

With these happy thoughts, I will love you and leave you and wish you all Shabbat Shalom. Next stop Simchat Torah!

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It was too good to be true

I celebrated too early in respect of the (now not) cancelled vote in UNESCO about the denial of any Jewish connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.

As of today, UNESCO has pretty much fulfilled Israeli Ambassador to the UN Abba Eban’s witty prescience when he caustically remarked:

If Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions.

At the last minute Mexico withdrew its withdrawal (or something to that effect), thus enabling the ratification of one of the absurdest votes in the annals of the UN to go ahead.

According to UNESCO, there is no reason why Jews should be reading their holy Torah at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem

According to UNESCO, there is no reason why Jews should be reading their holy Torah at the Kotel, the Western Wall, in Jerusalem

UNESCO’s Executive Board on Tuesday afternoon ratified a 24-6 vote taken last week on a resolution that ignored Jewish ties to the Temple Mount.

Under pressure from Western states, Mexico backed away from its initial intention to call for a new vote on the resolution so that it could withdraw its support from the resolution.

Instead Mexico noted for the record that its position on the matter was one of abstention, but its statement does not technically change the vote numerical count as the 58-member board wrapped up its 200th session in Paris.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry posted a statement on its web site that it had abstained in recognition of the undeniable Jewish cultural heritage that is located in east Jerusalem.

It added that it was also doing so out of a deep appreciation for the contribution the Jewish community has played in Mexico’s economic, social and cultural development.

Brazil also spoke at the final board session and indicated that it was unlikely to support such resolutions in the future.

Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO Carmel Shama-Hacohen said after the ratification, “We have moved forward a step-and-a-half toward dismantling the automatic majority that the Palestinians and the Arab states have against Israel.”

“Mexico has taken a full step toward abandoning support of the Palestinians, after years of voting without hesitation against Israel.

“The best surprise of the morning,” he said,  “is Brazil’s notification that while it did not change its vote this time, it will find it difficult not to do, if there is a resolution with another text that disregards the Jewish people’s connection to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall,” Shama-Hacohen said.

I find that all cold comfort. What is the point of a pro-Israel vote next time? What was so difficult in voting for Israel this time?

The following paragraphs give us an insight into the machinations behind the voting system:

Israel had initially expected that a number of countries would ask for a delay in voting on the resolution all together.

The board’s chairman Michael Worbs had appeared to be in favor of the delay, both because he opposed the resolution and also because he wanted to see a consensus text on Jerusalem brought before the board.

By Saturday night, however, UNESCO’s Arab group pressured Worbs to recuse himself from the proceedings and to hand the matter over to one of his deputies, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.

On Tuesday, it was Western countries who pressured Mexico not to call for a new vote on the resolution that spoke of the Temple Mount and it’s adjoining Western Wall almost solely by its Muslim names of Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Buraq Wall.

Western countries, however, are afraid that Mexico’s actions would empower similar calls for new votes on other resolutions that initially passed by consensus, Shama-Hacohen said.

In other words consensus is all. Never mind that the consensus agrees that black is white, and night is day. The main thing is consensus. How pathetic. How juvenile.

This would be a good moment to remind ourselves of something else that the quotable Abba Eban had to say – this time about consensus:

A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually.

And that pretty much sums up the essence of this disgraceful vote.

But here is some good news that salvages Jerusalem’s dignity: dozens of international parliamentarians have come to Jerusalem “to affirm their support for the city as the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish state.”

Lawmakers attending the conference come from such diverse countries as the Netherlands, Finland, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, Malawi, South Africa, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Chile. Speakers will include former minister Gideon Sa’ar, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Michael Oren, and outgoing Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, in his first public address since he quit last week.

Reacting to the UNESCO Jerusalem controversy, the parliamentarians will draft and sign a resolution declaring their support for Jerusalem as the eternal and undivided capital of Israel and formally submit it to Oren.

The MPs, who chair Israel Allies caucuses in their countries, will take a strategic, geopolitical tour of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas in Judea and Samaria, including Gush Etzion.

The tour will begin in Hebron, where the group will visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

“From Africa to Europe to South America, faith-based diplomacy has proven to be the only reliable and effective way to guarantee concrete political support for the State of Israel and its undivided capital, Jerusalem,” said Josh Reinstein, Israel Allies Foundation executive vice president.

A hearty thank you and kol hakavod to The World Jewish Congress, the Israel Allies Foundation and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem for restoring my faith in international diplomacy.

And as for the rest of the bunch, those who would deny the Jews’ – and by extension the Christians’ and yes, even the Muslims’ – connection to Jerusalem, I would refer you back to the warning handed down by our Prophets and which we read on the first day of Succot which I quoted at the end of my previous post.

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Venahafoch Hu – UNESCO’s biased vote on Jerusalem cancelled

Jewish prayers at The Kotel in Jerusalem

Jewish prayers at The Kotel in Jerusalem

In a strange twist of diplomatic politics, the disgusting UNESCO vote, in which all Jewish connection to the Temple Mount, Hebron, Jerusalem and other holy places was denied or erased, has been cancelled – by Mexico! – and is being sent for a revote:

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will hold a new vote on a draft resolution that failed to acknowledge a Jewish connection to the Temple Mount because of a request by Mexico that is set to reopen discussions on it.

According to the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, which voted in favor of the contentious resolution, his country has taken issue with a section of the resolution which refers to Jerusalem’s holy sites only by their Islamic names.

Mexico is therefore seeking to withdraw and change its previous vote just one day before the UNESCO executive board was set to close proceedings on the resolution.

Sadly it is not purely good news:

However, the draft resolution still has a majority and is expected to pass again as it is unlikely there will be a change in other countries’ votes.

And there was a disgusting antisemitic attitude from Mexico towards their own Jewish representative:

Mexico had changed their representative to UNESCO following a diplomatic debacle in which the Mexican ambassador Andres Roemer—who is also Jewish—refused to vote in favor of the resolution and was subsequently fired.

Former Mexican ambassador to Unesco, Andres Roemer, fired for refusing to vote on an antisemitic resolution

Former Mexican ambassador to Unesco, Andres Roemer, fired for refusing to vote on an antisemitic resolution

There are some rather puzzling, not to say self-contradictory, aspects to the Mexican reaction:

But when it came time to vote, he received instructions from his government to vote in favor of the resolution, leading him to leave the room in protest and allowing a more junior representative to vote in his stead.

His decision raised ire among the Jewish community in Mexico, with some calling him a “traitor.” He was fired as a way to calm the anger in the Jewish community.

Why would firing a Jewish diplomat “calm the anger in the Jewish community”? I would have thought it would have exacerbated it.

And most peculiarly of all, if the Mexican Foerign Ministry had instructed the ambassador to vote for the resolution, and then his replacement indeed voted for, why has Mexico now reconsidered their vote?

It is a mystery.

Another mystery is the reaction of Irina Bukova, the head of UNESCO herself, who sharply criticised the vote on Jerusalem and the holy sites. My question to her is “where were you when the vote was placed on the agenda?” As the chief of the organization, does Bukova not have a say in what gets voted on? And if not, what is the point of having a chief at all?

Maybe she was afraid to speak out in advance because she knew what might happen – and  what indeed happened after she expressed her reservations at the vote: she received death threats apparently from Arabs!

Jerusalem (AFP) – UNESCO chief Irina Bokova has received “death threats” after expressing reservations about Arab-backed resolutions on the holy sites in Jerusalem, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations organisation said on Monday.

“The director general has received death threats and her protection has had to be reinforced,” Carmel Shama Cohen said on Israeli public radio.

“These threats were made after her criticism” of two resolutions adopted last week at committee stage ahead of a final vote, Cohen said, accusing Arab countries of “appalling conduct” over the drafts.

Bokova distanced herself from the resolutions in a statement, saying “nowhere more than in Jerusalem do Jewish, Christian and Muslim heritage and traditions share space”.

Why has this outrageous news not reached a wider audience? Why have there been no reactions of outrage from international diplomats?

Of course I know the answer. The death threats did not come from Jews or Israelis, and therefore it is simply not news.

Maybe the nations should take note that this vote has been cancelled today and is being set for rediscussion tomorrow, both days being in the middle of the Festival of Succot, on which all the nations are commanded to go up to Jerusalem, to the (Jewish) Temple, to pay homage to G-d.

Secondly, (via DP-PT) as the news broke today, it is interesting that in today’s morning prayer service, during the Hoshanot service (where the worshippers circle the synagogue holding their lulavim and etrogim) the words which are recited during the circuits are:

אבן שתיה, בית הבחירה

The Foundation Stone, The Temple (lit: the chosen House).

I would recommend that the nations take a long hard look at yesterday’s Haftara (reading from the Prophets), starting Zecharia 14:1. Here are verses 11-13:

וְיָשְׁבוּ בָהּ, וְחֵרֶם לֹא יִהְיֶה-עוֹד; וְיָשְׁבָה יְרוּשָׁלִַם, לָבֶטַח.  {ס}  יב וְזֹאת תִּהְיֶה הַמַּגֵּפָה, אֲשֶׁר יִגֹּף יְהוָה אֶת-כָּל-הָעַמִּים, אֲשֶׁר צָבְאוּ, עַל-יְרוּשָׁלִָם; הָמֵק בְּשָׂרוֹ, וְהוּא עֹמֵד עַל-רַגְלָיו, וְעֵינָיו תִּמַּקְנָה בְחֹרֵיהֶן, וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ תִּמַּק בְּפִיהֶם.  יג וְהָיָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, תִּהְיֶה מְהוּמַת-יְהוָה רַבָּה בָּהֶם; וְהֶחֱזִיקוּ, אִישׁ יַד רֵעֵהוּ, וְעָלְתָה יָדוֹ, עַל-יַד רֵעֵהוּ

And men shall dwell in it, and there shall no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall dwell in safety.

And this shall be the plague wherewith G-d will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem: their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their sockets and their tongues shall consume away in their mouths. And it shall come to pass in that day that a great tumult from G-d shall be among them, and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall be raised against the hand of his neighbour.

Don’t say you weren’t warned!

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Sukkot 5777 – Chag Same’ach!

חג סוכות שמח Happy Sukkot!

The festival of Sukkot, the most joyous festival in the Jewish calendar, begins tonight, lasting for 7 days (8 outside of Israel), running straight into the Simchat Torah festival on the 8th day (9th day outside Israel).

Sukkot is the last of the Shalosh R’galim (three pilgrimage festivals). Like Passover and Shavu’ot, Sukkot has a dual significance: historical and agricultural. Historically, Sukkot commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters. Agriculturally, Sukkot is a harvest festival and is sometimes referred to as Chag Ha-Asif Chag Ha-Asif (in Hebrew), the Festival of Ingathering.

Inside our Sukkah

Inside our Sukkah

On this festival Jewish households build a sukkah (pl. sukkot), a booth-like structure, where all meals are eaten, and people (usually the menfolk but not solely) even sleep there. The flimsy roof consists of leaves or branches, widely enough spaced so that one can see the stars at night, but close enough to provide shade during the day. It is considered “hidur mitzvah” – glorifying the mitzvah – if the sukkah is beautifully decorated, so of course this provides much entertainment, not to mention arts-and-crafts time, for the children to beautify their sukkah.

The sukkah is a commemoration of the flimsy huts that the Children of Israel dwelt in during their 40 years of wandering in the desert, with only the ענן הכבוד, the Cloud of Glory, to protect them by day and the עמוד האש, the Pillar of Fire, by night.

By leaving our safe and warm (or cool) houses just when autumn and the rainy season starts and going to live in a fragile hut for a whole week, it is also meant to remind us how fragile is our existence on this earth, and it is only by the grace and protection of G-d that we survive.

Arba Minim – the Four Species

On Sukkot we also bundle together the Arba Minim – “The Four Species” consisting of a Lulav (branch of palm), branches of Hadass (myrtle), Aravot (weeping willow) and an Etrog (a citron, related to the citrus family) and during Shacharit (morning prayers) wave them together in all 6 directions to show G-d’s presence everywhere. Between Yom Kippur and Sukkot the streets of Israel are packed with markets and stalls selling the Arba Minim and sukka decorations. Many people take extra care when buying their lulav and etrog, examining them minutely as if they were buying a precious diamond.

The weekdays of Sukkot, as on Pesach, are called Chol Hamo’ed (lit. the weekdays of the festival) which are a semi-holiday in Israel. Schools are closed, and many places of work are either closed or work half day, giving families the chance to go on trips, hiking or visiting. On the intermediate Shabbat (Shabbat chol hamo’ed) of Sukkot, Megillat Kohelet (the book of Ecclesiastes) is read in shul. We will have the pleasure of hearing our son reading the megillah in his shul this year, as in previous years.

Since I mentioned the frailty of the sukkah, I read an interesting explanation about the meaning of Sukkot and the Sukkah in Arutz Sheva: The Sukkah – symbol of life’s shadows:

In fact, Halacha makes it clear that the Sukka must be built in such a way that it’s not able to stand up against a strong wind, that its roof must leak when it rains, and that it must contain more shadow than sunlight. These conditions should make us feel distressed, since the Sukka represents the vulnerability of life.

So why does the Torah command us to be joyful, precisely at a time when we are confronted with all that can go wrong in life?

Since the Sukka teaches us about life’s problems, we would expect that the interior of the Sukka should reflect a similar message. The Sukka should be empty of all comfort. It should contain some flimsy chairs, a shaky table and some meager stale food.

However, Halacha stipulates that the Sukka’s interior should reflect a most optimistic lifestyle. Its frail walls should be decorated with beautiful objects.

A very-well decorated Sukkah at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem

A very-well decorated Sukkah at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Jerusalem

The leaking roof should be made attractive by hanging colorful fruits and decorations from it. We are required to bring our best food and have feasts in the Sukka. We should eat from the most beautiful plates and use fancy silverware.

All this seems to reflect a feeling that this world is a most pleasant place made for our enjoyment. So why do we sit in a weather-beaten frail hut?

The message of the Sukka is clear. The outside walls and the leaking roof reveal our vulnerability and uncertainty of life. But inside the Sukka walls, we need to make our life as attractive and comfortable as possible, and to enjoy its great benefits and blessings. Instead of becoming depressed, we should make the best out of life and as Tehillim states, “serve G-D with joy”.

To help us celebrate in a truly joyful fashion there are loads of attractions and activities for all ages and families all over Israel. Israel21C has a list of 15 things to do in Israel during Sukkot while the City of David has a special Sukkot schedule. Tourist Israel also has a good overview of the activities over the festival.  Many municipalities hold a “beautiful sukkah” competition

While my festival posts are always joyful, this year I can’t help but mention that the first yahrzeit of the murder of Naama and Eitam Henkin Hy’d will occur on Sukkot. Who can forget that dreadful day? This year, to mark the first yahrzeit, a project, “Aguda Achat” was launched in the memory of the Henkins. Naama Henkin z”l was a graphic artist and had prepared decorative posters for the Sukkah. This project includes all kinds of sukkah posters, including by Naama herself.  The pictures can be printed out and hung in your sukkah. This is a wonderful way to commemorate her and to accentuate the positive and celebrate her life.

This Dry Bones cartoon really sums up the contradictions and fragility of Jewish history and our life in Israel and yet stresses our optimism:

Chag Same'ach!

Chag Same’ach!

May this Sukkot be a festival of pure joy, and may we merit to celebrate it in the rebuilt Temple speedily in our days.

I wish all those celebrating a chag Sukkot sameach!

!חג סוכות שמח

Posted in Israel news, Judaism, Slice of Israeli life, Terrorism | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Good News Friday

Despite the frustration and anger over UNESCO’s insane resolution yesterday, or maybe because of it, I feel I must post a Good News Friday installment today to soothe our frazzled nerves.

Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel at their wedding

Techiya Litman and Ariel Biegel at their wedding

The first item is the wonderful news that Techiya Sarah Beigel, the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Litman who was murdered just a year ago together with his son Netanel, Techiya’s brother, when the family were on their way to celebrate the Shabbat Chatan before Techiya’s wedding, gave birth to a baby girl – on Yom Kippur!

Mazal Tov!

A daughter was born this evening to Sarah Tehiya Beigel and her husband Ariel. Tehiya’s father, Rabbi Yaakov Litman, as well as her brother, Netanel, were murdered 11 months ago by terrorists as they drove south of Hevron towards Meitar, where they were to attend a traditional pre-wedding Shabbat celebration which the groom is called to the Torah during the morning service.

This wonderful news brought tears to my eyes. After the horrific terror attack and the loss of her father and brother, and then the postponed wedding, what better way to start the year, and to bring healing to the family and to Am Yisrael who participated in their mourning and in their joy.

I wish heartiest mazal tov to Techiya and Ariel. May your baby daughter grow up to be a strong, healthy, and continue in the steadfast Torah way of her grandfather Hy’d and her family. יהי רצון שתזכו לגדלה לתורה, לחופה ולמעשים טובים.

Still Yom Kippur related, here is a beautiful story about the generous spirit of one Israeli congregation, posted by Marshall Deltoff in the Only in Israel Facebook group:

Our shul decided to hold yizkor services at 5:30 yesterday afternoon, instead of the typical morning timeslot right before Mussaf, in order to allow more non-observant people to attend and remain for Neilah. As the chazan was just starting into the introductory prayer for Mussaf, an elderly gentleman with a walker, accompanied by a caregiver, entered the sanctuary from the back door and started to make his way up the central aisle toward the bimah. He asked a few of us at the back when Yizkor was starting, and when we told him it would be at 5:30, he was visibly distraught. We called the gabbai over, and the elderly gentleman explained that he was handicapped, and it was quite an effort for him to get over to shul, in order for him to say Yizkor for his father. The gabbai walked over to the chazan, whispered something in his ear, and the chazan then announced to the over 200 congregants that we were going to hold the “first” yizkor service now. The gabbai directed the old man to a seat next to the bimah, and the entire congregation watched silently as the man recited Yizkor for his father in russian and hebrew. No one complained, commented or said a thing. It was beautiful and powerful. The old man and his aide then went to the back of the auditorium and took a seat. Without batting an eyelash, the chazan picked up right where he left off. It was a privilege to see this, and made our Yom Kippur special. ONLY IN ISRAEL.

According to Marshall’s comment the shul service was run by the Amit congregation B’reishit at the Yad L’Banim in Karmiel, led by Rabbi Jaron Englemeyer.

Truly this is the spirit of Yom Kippur and this is the true spirit of Am Yisrael at its best. Kol hakavod to the entire Kehilla on their generosity and patience. Tizku Lemitzvot!

And one more item still (sort of) in the spirit of Yom Kippur (via Israellycool) –  Israeli girls apologize to the world. Really!😀

After that giggle, or even a healthy guffaw, I’m sure you’re all feeling much more in the mood to welcome another Shabbat squashed in between two festivals, as we rush headlong into Sukkot on Sunday night.

Shabbat Shalom everyone!

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