Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Holidays of Succot Going Out and Simchah Torah Coming In; Time to Rejoice

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                  


We see the end of our holiday of Succot.  This was the time when our ancestors of the Exodus lived in little booths during their 40 year wandering of following Moses to the Promised Land.  It's traditional for the men to procure the Lulav, the palm-branch to be taken on the feast of Tabernacles together with the Etrog, myrtle and willow, called together the 4 Species, and other vegetation which they hold in their right hand and the etrog in their left hand.  They carry them during the time of saying in unison the Hallel ( palms 113-118, used at the time of rededication of the Temple after the Maccabean wars and said at all 3 pilgrim festivals.  It's like a commandment and used in opening and closing blessings.  The people shake these items  in all directions.
In the picture above, this is what all the men are holding in their hands.  They are wearing Israel-styled prayer shawls which are so much bigger than the American conservative style which are more like scarves.  When men pray under their prayer shawls in Israel, it's like they are under a tent and can shut out any visual distractions from what they are doing.  They can really meditate.  On top of their heads they are wearing a kippa (Hebrew) or yalmulke (Yiddish) , which is a skull cap worn for prayer.  Religious Jews wear it all the time.  A religious Jew is one who decides to follow all the rules and you show this by wearing your kippa all the time.  Whether it is knitted or made of satin or some other material also tells what group you belong to; something like the red or blue scarves the Crips and the Bloods wear to tell themselves apart.  Some are white and some are black and some are patterned.

It happened to my conservative husband when we moved to Israel.  The land, the people and the air itself overtakes one and you really start to get into the groove.  It's hard to explain.  After studying for 10 months in Haifa we moved to Safed where it happened.  You see all the cemeteries and visit all the sites and it's quite emotional.   What's thrilling is that this was expected of the people to do 3,000 years ago and we are still doing it.  It connects us to our history and to the land.
Whoever heard of an Etrog other than people living and practicing Judaism in Israel?  It's a citron you don't find in supermarketss outside this tiny state but seems to be found only in Israel.  It was a popular Jewish symbol used on coins, graves, synagogues and other places of Jewish origin.  People had silver boxes to keep the etrog and the boxes themselves became items of artwork.  To me it looks like a large lemon.  Another fruit used in this way is the pomegranate which is used in much art work in designs.  

Thursday and Friday, October 16th and 17th, are holidays for Jews again.  On Thursday we have  a holidy to remember and be happy about having the law of Moses called Shemini Atzores and the next day being called Simchas Torah.                                              

It marks the yearly completion of the synagogue reading of the Torah (Pentateuch) which are the 5 books of Moses.  What they do in the synagogue is take out all the Scrolls of the Law and carry them 7 times or more around the synagogue for everyone to see.  Sometimes some of the synagogues will do with with a dance movement as they go around.  It can go on for hours as they are happy.

All male worshipers are called up for aliyah at the time of reading from the Torah.  It's an honor given to them to be called up to read aloud.  The Torah is written all in Hebrew.  A boy age 13 shows the congregation that he is capable of doing this at his bar mitzvah.  It's like a graduation from a boy to a man.  

The last section of the 5th book, Deuteronomy is read by the Bridegroom of the Law, the Hatan Torah.  He is followed by the Bridegroom of Genesis, the first book of the Law.  Candies are usually given to the children and the "bridegrooms" act as hosts to the people in the synagogue.  

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia                                            

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