Tag Archives: Shelosh Regalim

Sukkot: The Jewish Holiday that Makes Us Reflect on the Nations

Would it be different if Non-Jews adopted the mitzvot too?

As we continue to progress through this sweet holiday season we find ourselves in the midst of the bounty of the fall harvest season of Sukkot (Booths), just directly opposite in the yearly cycle from the spring harvest festival of Pesach (Passover). These two holidays are very alike, they are both Shelosh Regalim – one the Three Pilgrimage Festivals that people were required to make the journey to Jerusalem for. (see Exodus 34:18-23; and Deut. 16:1-17) They are both week encompassing, and both prescribe special sacrificial worship. So when you look up to that big harvest moon, just think we are only six months away from having a Passover Seder!

The holy days and the sacredness of the New Moon was always normally accompanied by special sacrifices that elevated the sanctity of the day; sacrifices of bulls, rams and lambs. Though Sukkot and Pesach are considered one wide holiday from beginning to end, and there is a commemoration that is related to moon-sign, they are not at all the same. First for Pesach and Sukkot these lunar occurrence coincides with a full-moon, not the waxing new moon, making them similar but not the same to ordinary moon related festivities. Also they both prescribe a very different approach to sacrifice.  If we were to account for all the holiday and special seasonal occurrences of sacrifice, Sukkot prescribes an almost overwhelming amount of sacrifice in comparison.

The seeming excessiveness of it becomes evident in the reading of these commands in the holiday Maftir readings (the final reading from the Torah Scrolls).

Pesach tells us how many animals to offer everyday, “After this manner you shall offer daily, for seven days;” (Numbers 28:24) it tells us how many animals, and that number is the same each day, thus the reading is relatively short.

In contrast the sacrifices of Sukkot are heavy, and their reading is correspondingly long. It gives us a huge number of animals, and a different amount each and every day. We are not talking about just a few small animals. When we read the text found in Parshat Pinchas we see it demand a staggering amount of 13 bulls being required on the first day alone (see Numbers 29:12-14). No other holy day requires more than two bulls, ever; even then a bull offering is rare, most sacrifices are goats, lambs and rams. This seeming excessiveness is tempered over time, but even this is a mystery to us; why does it decrease in the number of bulls offered everyday, until the final and 7th day there are only 7 bulls being offered? The Talmud, our Oral Torah, suggests to us why this is:

“Rabbi [Eliazar] stated:

‘To what do those seventy bulls


To the seventy nations.’”

אר [אלעזר] |

הני שבעים פרים |

כנגד מי? |

כנגד שבעים אומות. |

Talmud Bavli Sukkah 55b

If we add up the total number of bulls being offered up each day; 13 the first day of Sukkot, 12 the second day, 11 the third, etc. we come to the total of 70 bulls being offered. Our Jewish tradition regards that entire classical world being comprised of seventy nations; derived from the genealogies of Genesis chapters 10-11 we count seventy descendants of Noah, from whom came the foundations of seventy peoples and nation-states. The rabbis suggest to us the bulls are offered to draw close the nations to Hashem, to atone for them as well in a grand way. It’s not enough that we be concerned with Hashem drawing close to us, atones for us and provide for us through this fall bounty that will sustain us through the harsh winter to come; we also need to have a heavy level of concern for the nations as well.

For us Jews, it’s not enough that we be happy in this time of celebration, but we also need to be concerned with the welfare of the nations. And most certainly this is a time of celebration for us. In fact it tells us twice, not just in our current holiday reading, but also separately when discussing these holidays, “v’hayita af sameach / and you shall only be happy!” (Deut. 16:15; and also see Lev. 23:40) We are happy because G-d has provided us with all this abundance, this is our time of thanksgiving. We also begin to become thankful for the start of the raining season, that will essentially be the lifeblood of our spring harvest so many months away.

When our tradition looks to a better world, even in the face of post-apocalyptic challenges, we see a place where this spirit of joy will be enjoyed by all the peoples of the world:

“And it shall come to pass,

that every one that is left of all the nations

that came against Jerusalem

shall go up from year to year

to worship the King, the L-RD of Hosts,

and to keep the Festival of Sukkot.”

וְהָיָה, |

כָּלהַנּוֹתָר מִכָּלהַגּוֹיִם, |

הַבָּאִים, עַליְרוּשָׁלִָם; |

וְעָלוּ מִדֵּי שָׁנָה בְשָׁנָה, |

לְהִשְׁתַּחֲו‍ֹת לְמֶלֶךְ יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, |

וְלָחֹג, אֶתחַג הַסֻּכּוֹת. |

Zachariah 14:16

In the age to come it does not just extend this celebration to the nations of the world, in fact its becomes a mandate for them. In face of the age of world peace and universal knowledge of G-d the prophet ends his book with the reality that the nations will have to come to acknowledge G-d on their own if they expect blessings of rain and physical security. All of humanity will all celebrate together, and receive blessings for our needs equally.

Looking forward towards this Messianic age in recent years many people of various backgrounds have begun to enthusiastically embrace the celebration of Sukkot – the Feast of the Tabernacles, or simply Booths; named after the huts in which we dwell for seven days. This year we are actually seeing thousands of Noachides, Christians and people of all religious backgrounds coming to Israel to join in the celebration; Christian-Zionists alone account for over 6,000 attendees by their counts. Aside from the overt “Messianic” Hebrew-Christian missionaries, whose goal is obvious, if you were to ask these people why they are doing this almost without exception they will frankly tell you that they are getting in touch with the Hebrew roots of their faith in order to embrace the whole Torah like Jews do.

For many years I have worked very hard to open the Torah and make it accessible to Jews, and our many non-Jewish friends that cherish Torah. Though I must admit, by and large the people who benefit from my work are Jews or people who are embracing the Jewish faith. Almost everyday I get an excited email from someone who is overjoyed with the richness of Torah-true wisdom and experiences. With all this excitement and hunger for deeper truth out there, some have pointedly asked why us Jews do not just throw the doors wide open to our faith, in fact many cannot understand why we do not just go the next step and proselytize. The reason is because seeking out something out of mere enthusiasm does not always lead to the most glowing end results.

In our tradition there are two examples I would like us to explore today, one well know and the other not so widely discussed. These facing Talmudic examples give us some very good reasons for curbing our enthusiasm when it comes to any type of notions of Judiazing or zealously imposing our way of life on others. But before I get started I must point out that these two examples are not initiated by Jews at all, these are examples of non-Jews embracing Jewish tradition on ones own out of their own impulse and desire.

Prophetically the Rabbis present us with two scenarios related to the nations embracing Judaism before the future Messianic age; neither of them end so nicely. One of these curious examples directly concerns Sukkot. For this story I would like us to look at the text of Talmud Avodah Zara, we will start with page 3a:

“The nations will then plead.

‘Offer us the Torah anew

and we shall obey it.’

But the Holy One, blessed be He,

will say to them,

‘You foolish of the world,

he who took trouble [to prepare]

on the eve of Shabbat

can eat on Shabbat,

but he who has not troubled

on the eve of Shabbat,

what shall he eat on Shabbat?

Nevertheless, I do have an easy command

which is called Sukkah;

go and carry it out….’


“And why does He term it

an easy command?

Because it does not affect one’s purse.

Straightaway will every one of them

betake himself and go

and make a booth on the top of his roof;

but the Holy One, blessed be He,

will cause the sun to blaze forth over them

as at the Summer Solstice.

And every one of them

will kick down his booth

and go away,

as it is said:

‘Let us break their bands asunder,

and cast away their cords from us.’

(Psalms 2:3).”

אמרו לפניו רבשע |

תנה לנו מראש |

ונעשנה |

אמר להן |

הקבה |

שוטים שבעולם |

מי שטרח |

בערב שבת |

יאכל בשבת |

מי שלא טרח |

בערב שבת |

מהיכן יאכל בשבת |

אלא אף על פי כן מצוה קלה יש לי |

וסוכה שמה |

לכו ועשו אותה… |


קרי ליה |

מצוה קלה |

משום דלית ביה חסרון כיס |

מיד כל אחד [ואחד] |

נוטל והולך ועושה סוכה |

בראש גגו |

והקדוש ברוך הוא |

מקדיר עליהם חמה בתקופת |

תמוז |

וכל אחד ואחד |

מבעט בסוכתו |

ויוצא |

שנאמר: |

ננתקה את מוסרותימו |

ונשליכה ממנו עבותימו. |

(תהילים ב:ג) |

Talmud Bavli, Avodah Zara 3a

As we will learn in the current reading of Parshat Vzot haBracha, before G-d offered the Torah to the small nation of Israel He also offered it to the other nations as well; but they rejected it; including the Edomites and Ishmaelites that the Israelites had long contended with as usurpers (see Rashi for Deut. 33:2). But here we see that gentile people in eagerness turn to Hashem and ask him to once again offer the Torah to them, and they will obey it.

Using the example par excellence of Jewish acceptance of the yoke of Torah, which is sabbath (see Exodus 32:16-17), G-d turns to them and in a chiding tone and warns them that they have not thought out what this means. The sabbaths rest is only possible if one put forth the effort ahead of time to make that island of time and space possible. It is something that is intentional, not just incidental. Shabbat is the reward of those who labor in Torah to observe and safeguard that sabbath. They are given a perfect example, if they don’t make the effort to prepare meals for the sabbath then how are they going to eat? How can they manage to keep the sabbath, let alone celebrate it with the joy that is required of that day without planning and forethought?

Instead G-d does not make them jump to the highest level of observance, He instead gives them a simple command; the mitzvah of Sukkah, clearly meaning to celebrate Sukkot.

It may seem strange to some that G-d would start with this command. And it seems even stranger to others that He would call it a simple command. The first reason we are mystified is this really is an obscure holiday to most of the non-Jewish peoples. When people think of religious festivals they tend to automatically think of Pesach. This is for several reasons; aside from the misconception that Pesach is the day of atonement (which is obviously present in Christian mentality, for example), this holiday is mentioned with great passion and detail in the Torah. It is the first of our major holidays in the religious calendar, and infamous festival associated with the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt to make us a nation. Pesach is the first festival ever for the nation of Israel. Most of us think it would make sense to start there, but instead G-d starts here with the simpler command.

The reason given to us, by the rabbis, is that it does not heavily impact the wallet; Sukkot is not an expensive holiday. All one needs to do is make a hut out of natural materials easily found, set up a booth and dwell in it temporarily. If your going to eat a meal, eat it joyfully in it. If its possible to sleep in it, then one can celebrate by doing so. Unlike Pesach, special foods are not required and their aren’t the overwhelming requirements of cleaning necessary. For us Jews who celebrate Pesach we can clearly see the truth of this, as almost all of our belongings need to be examined and cleaned. Nearly all of ones food possessions and manufactured products need to be considered and the inappropriate done away with for Pesach. Doing this and replacing chametz with appropriate items is not only labor intensive but also very expensive. Passover heavily impacts both home and business for the Jew in a costly and demanding way. Instead G-d gives them a simple command to people who live off the land and are already out harvesting for fall in the open fields, observe the mitzvah of Sukkah.

As the Talmud continues on we see that the people do enthusiastically run out to make their sukkah huts and dwell in them. They are so excited that they not only make huts, but they run back and make the huts on the roofs of their own houses.

Now one must ask themselves, why would people want to make a sukkah on the roof of their house? It seems odd. To be misakech means to be shaded. Look at Psalm 18:12, “Yashet chosech sitro, s’vivotayv sukato / He makes darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him”. The sukkah is supposed to provide shade for the people, once shaded they can celebrate and rest. It is completely counterintuitive for people to make a sukkah on their hot roof. Why would they do so then? The only reason there could be is obvious if we consider it. Why else does someone do something wild on their roof; to be seen! They go back to their homes and do this in obvious sight so that their act can be witnessed. They want to be seen as being faithful by all. This is so obvious that even non-Jewish commentators agree in their scathing rants against rabbinics that this is the reason and meaning.

Sadly enthusiasm is not enough to get one through the pains of reality. Not giving proper consideration they didn’t plan for the possibility that this act might come with some level of difficulty and discomfort. Not that they are required to inflict their souls with this mitzvah, quite to the contrary; we are only to observe the holiday to the point that we enjoy it, never in harshness or discomfort. That would take away from the sacredness of the day. Especially during this holiday we are not allowed to be discomforted, for this reason this holiday is specifically called “z’man simchateinu / the season of your joy.”

The problem of their discomfort arises when something very typical happens for this time of the year, in a hemispheric zone that only has three real seasons (Spring, Summer and Winter; see Sefer Yitzerah) the time of Sukkot usually has transient heat and rain spells. For those who live in Los Angeles, which is almost the same in weather as Israel, we know this very well. It’s still hotter than blazes, like the height of summer; then it decides to rain on us. Fall doesn’t really exist necessarily.

I often had problems with this section of the Talmud because it can seem to the simple that G-d was giving these people a bad wrap. But this is not the case at all, this is a reality of the season. The issue of the gentiles discomfort is not that G-d was not fair with them, but that they put themselves in that situation needlessly. Had they performed the mitzvah properly then they would have carried it out correctly and for the right reason; to dwell in the happiness of G-d’s shade. Furthermore G-d did not require them to fulfill this mitzvah in pain, if they felt uncomfortable they were to leave it at any time like Jews do. But instead they were more interested in looking faithful and dedicated to other men, so they stayed in a shadeless sukkah during the heat until they couldn’t take it anymore.

Eventually in this example we see that when they had enough they did leave their sukkot behind. But they also do the most tragic thing, as they leave them they kick (מבעט) them over. Why do we suppose that these people would show such animosity towards the mitzvah to abandon and even desecrate it so? Because they could not follow through, and especially not for the reasons they had in mind of gaining glory; instead they now find themselves publicly shamed by their inconsideration and over-zealousness. They therefore decry mitzvot as a form of bondage and even oppression. They leave not just discouraged, but bitter over it. In the end they abandon this path of Torah living right away not with love for mitzvot, instead they learn to despise the commands of G-d.

As much as I would like to discount this Talmudic example as an outrageous story, that no one could be this shallow or thoughtless, my life experience tells me different. When I was a teenager I had several friends in the shelter I was staying at, a program for homeless youth. Most of us came from extreme backgrounds. But the most mind-boggling situation I heard of while I was growing in my understanding of Torah-true living was that of these three friends of mine that had escaped from a fundamentalist, holiness, sabbath keeping Christian upbringing. They hated religion because in their home the parents wanted to keep all the commands that they could, especially the sabbath. So their mother would not allow them to do any activity, nor would she even feed them at all because she wouldn’t cook for the sabbath; even digestion was considered work to her. They saw the commandments as oppression and restriction instead of as a symbol of joy. They were shocked to see me celebrate each week so much joy. Their parent’s attitude is very typical of people who aren’t used to the commandments, they do them with extremity and without mindfulness; only wanting to act super-religious so they appear to be “chosen” too. The result is warped and discouraging.

One of the reasons us Jews do not try to impose our way of life on other people is that not everyone has the wear-with-all to be able to take on our way of life. Furthermore, the less familiar one is in doing mitzvot the more they tend to jump to the wrong conclusions and get messed up, it’s just a matter of lack of experience to the point people can’t even consider the mechanics of the things they have never tried. That is the odd thing about us Jews, that we learn from doing; that is our way. When we accepted Torah as a people what did Israel say? “Naaseh v’nishma / We will do and we will understand.” (Exodus 24:7) Only by our doing do we gain the understanding, each time we do we ask more questions we wouldn’t have thought of until we put out our hand to do a mitzvah. Notice the new Jews-by-choice in our communities, many of them often freak out over the littlest thing because they don’t have enough experience to know what to do, nor what is really appropriate or not; most of the time the issues isn’t that big and they just don’t know yet. For this reason many people fall away from observance, because they got discouraged by being overwhelmed. As soon as the enthusiasm wore off it only became a burden to them. (Look at the infamous Dr. Laura Schlessinger who abandoned Judaism for being too demanding.)

We do not want to do this to people, we as Jews do not want to force our Torah responsibilities upon other people who are still children of G-d and when it is well enough in His eyes that they, “Do justly and love mercy and walk humbly with your G-d.” (Micah 6:8) This yoke of Torah-living is not a burden, we see it as more of a directing bridle that we as Jews need to help steer us the right way. This yoke is not easy, but it is what we take much joy in. We do not assume it to be so for others. Of course we accept those who wish to accept Judaism as their faith, we accept converts fully and rightfully so. But we don’t believe anyone is incomplete if they aren’t Jewish, and proselytize accordingly.

Accepting Judaism is a serious matter. Conversion is strenuous thing that I have helped many through. But for as many people as I have taught basic Judaism to, I would say only 1 in 10 actually make it through to conversion. More revealing is that I would only say of those people who do, less than that remain observant over the long haul. It’s not necessarily their fault, they just didn’t think it was going to cost so much. They only considered the moral and theological rightness, not if they could pay the price Jews do.

In conclusion I would like to discuss the second example, the lesser known one. For the sake of time I would ask you to refer to the text of Talmud Bavli Avodah Zarah 3b yourself, the next page over from the text we reviewed above, as I can only touch on it briefly. Rabbi Yosi makes the point that in the world to come there will be no idolaters. He comes to the conclusion that people will come and present themselves as proselytes. However, when rebuffed by the rabbis that there will be no conversions in the coming and Messianic age, as there will be no need for one to do so (because the Temple will presumably stand again, and atone for them as well, as in days of old), he says they will be self-made converts.

Now this second example is a bit more complicated than the first, because these people accept many of the mitzvot upon themselves. They go so far as to even accept the traditions that are only understandable through rabbinic law and Talmudic teaching. They will put tefillin on their head and arms, they will put tzitzit on the corners of their garments and mezuzot on their door posts. They will accept all the noticeable symbols of observant Judaism; even the most intimate and complex to perform. Ones that take some forethought and real knowhow, this time the people being discussed aren’t just mere empty-heads.

The tragedy of this example is for all the seeming dedication and knowledge this group of people has, when it comes time that the nations go against Israel in the battle of Gog and Magog, the assumed apocalyptic war, the nations will ask them why they have come up to Israel; what are their intentions? In the face of extermination they cannot pay the price of a Jew, they are not convinced enough that they should be martyred for their beliefs, so they declare that they too were there to go up against the Israel and the Messiah in battle. The end is the same as the first example, they then declare, “Let us break off their chains, let us throw off their fetters.” (Psalm 2:3) They too reject the Torah mitzvot in the end as bondage. They didn’t think it would cost so much, it’s more than they are willing to pay. The problem with this latter example, unlike the first, is that in this example they get put in the precarious situation of rejecting godliness with a disgusting amount of premeditation. Like I said, not everyone has the wear-with-all for Jewish living.

In the end we as Jews will always accept people who take on the Torah, who like Ruth cast their lot with the Jewish people, that our fate be the their fate, our G-d be their G-d. (Ruth 1:6) I will always work with helping to teach those who want to learn more and do more good deeds. But this story I present as a warning to those who Willy-nillie accept or try to force mitzvot on others. One should only take up tradition with mindfulness and with joy.

During these high holidays we continue to offer prayers for ourselves and the nations, that all the nations should accept the yoke of Torah, all of them, and that Hashem should reign over us all forever. This is part of our concluding prayers three times a day. It’s just that time hasn’t come yet, but it will. All nations will keep even Sukkot with us in the age to come, in that Messianic age; we just aren’t there yet. Some people would do well, for their own sake, to slow their row.

Starting off the Spiritual New Year Right

Starting off the Spiritual New Year Right
Mitzvah-making Opportunities for the Spring and Summer

As we came into the month of Nissan we began celebrating the height of our spiritual year, in fact this is the start of the biblical year. (see Exodus 12:2, and Parshat Archarei). Whereas in fall we observe the start of the civil year and consider the concepts of righteousness, justice and repentance, we celebrate the spiritual new year with the joy of the “z’man cheiruteinu / season of our freedom.”

Just because Pesachthe Passover holiday– is over doesn’t mean this season ends. In the Talmud and classical Halachic works Nissan itself is considered an entire month dedicated only to joy and celebration; one big holiday free of mourning. There are a lot of ways to celebrate our freedom. One of the best was is to take advantage of that liberty and work towards our own enrichment. Nothing is more important to work on than our spiritual and emotional state. Coming out from under the effect what ever complications we might have stepped out of in this season should take first priority. There is no better investment we can make than in our own soul.

The spring season comes with unique opportunities for spiritual advancement and self-reflection. One of the best ways is by following along with the Sefirah haOmerthe Omer Count. Learn how to make this period between Pesach and Shavuot work for you. You can find a study and the Blessings according to the minhag Nusach haAri z”l (Chabad) with a counting guide in the links below. Also, part of the reflection is the recitation of the Psalm 67 (I failed to cite the source in the Siddur release, it will be corrected shortly). We can delve even deeper by meditating upon this Psalm as well, learn how:

Also during this season, we have to keep in mind that the physical seasons change as well. That means that the nights are getting shorter, and the days longer. This can effect some people, especially if you live in the far north, where daylight can be as little as as 4-6 hours long at best in the height of summer even if your not in the Arctic Circle. The following guides are how to approach Tikkun Chatzotthe Midnight Rite – during this season, as well as an introduction and the liturgical text:

At of course, in gearing up for Shavuot we again will need the prayers of the Shelosh Regalim, don’t forget to also get the Hallel and Rosh Chodesh packets. We are so grateful to have these resources hosted by our partners at the Open Siddur Project. You can find the link below.

And finally, the month of Nissan isn’t over yet. Have you had a chance to say the Blessing on a Blossoming Fruit Tree? For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, we still have a few more days to make this happen. Find out how:

Last but not least, it is important for us to remember when studying the parsha according to the 1-year scheme t – the weekly Torah portion schedule for a single year – that in 2012 it differs outside of Israel from the one read inside Eretz Yisrael. Those who are inside Israel and only observe 1 day of Yom Tov already began Parshat Shemini last Shabbat. For everyone else b’chutz l’aretz outside of Israel, in the Diaspora – we are just beginning it this week as last Shabbat was still Yom Tov. This schedule will remain ahead of us by one week until Shavuot of this year.

With all that said, I want to commend everyone who worked so hard to make a kosher and liberating Pesach. I am proud of all the hard work people in our little learning community have invested in cleaning not just their homes, but their inner self with careful scrutiny and humility. I am even more thrilled to see how much joy and feeling of freedom we are all experiencing for it as well. Now on to Har Sinai!

Do you need a siddur? This blog proudly cooperates with The Open Siddur Project. The project is a volunteer based organization dedicated to documenting and making the wealth of Jewish prayer and prayer resources available with free, redistributable licensing in electronic format and print formats. You can find my contributions of liturgy HERE. Find out how you can also be a part of this worthy cause!

The Etrog: The Beautiful Fruit

The Etrog: The Beautiful Fruit
Musings of Sukkot: Why Sukkot Feels Like the Jewish Xmas to Me

Sukkot is oEtrog Lulav and Boxne of my favorite festivals of the year. It really is probably one of the most festive all times of entire Jewish Year for me. Being a long festival like Pesach, but without the dietary restrictions, this holiday for me and my friends is a big deal. When people ask me to explain what it’s like in the western calendar, Sukkot is probably closer to the celebration of Christmas for us. Except no 12 days of Christmas, its the 7 days of Sukkot. Everyone coming over to have meals in each others proudly decorated sukkot (booths), its a mitzvah to have a meal in a sukkah so most of us really go all out on the holiday dinner fare. The planning is obsessive. You know how Americans go do their Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving, us Jews got that same obsession to get the holidays started, we start building our sukkah the morning after Yom Kippur.

One of the things though that I’ve often joked is “it has all the cheer, but without the fruitcake!” Fruitcake in the American tradition is so common during the Christmas season for non-Jews that it’s a staple, and sometimes even a cultural joke. People are so burnt out of the tradition of giving the stuff away you can even find inflatables that look like candied fruitcake with pecans, you know just to look good then re-gift it to the next person, so next year they can inflate and keep around to decorate the table with.

Imagine my horror when a few weeks ago I’m reading through some non-Jewish bible commentaries, following up on some citations. All of a sudden I start finding these references by Christian bible commentators saying that the Levites invented fruitcake. In 1 Chronicles 16:3 it says that David had them give the people bread, a pan-cake and sweet-cake know as ashisha. For the most part is assumed to be some sort of fruitcake, as it has been understood since at least the middle-ages. Some scholars think it might have been some sort of cake mixed with raisins and dates, species of the area. I dunno, a good case can be made for this theory, but still it sounds hard to swallow!

It might not be re-gifting sickening sweet fruitcake, but there is something about the holidays of Sukkot and Christiams that are also oddly similar; if you dare consider it. These holidays come accented with the flavor of etrogim. Whereas most non-Jews don’t know what a sukkah is, they are more likely to know what an etrog is – a citron fruit. It is a delightful citrus fruit that is candied and included as an essential part of most fruitcake recipes. But this fruit is a rare and precious fruit, so it almost never seen whole and fresh, except by Jews during Sukkot.

The etrog along with the lalav bundle of the native Israeli tree species are the symbols of Sukkot and this fall harvest. Because we should always select the best items for using in a mitzvah, people obsess over the quality of their etrogim and lulavim. They do it for a good reason, there are many requirements of Jewish law in order for them to be usable. For an etrog; it must be a pure breed, it must be disease free, no pests, the blossoming tip on the end must be intact, the stem must not damage the fruit; lots of requirements. But one thing above all for most of us, it must be beautiful. There are different minhagim (traditions) about what makes one beautiful in different Jewish communities, but we all insist on its beauty. Aside from the beauty of doing a mitzvah, there is also well known Midrashim that suggest the etrog was the tree of knowledge, it was an etz hadar – a beautiful tree; based on this many reckon it was delightful to the eye and therefore we should seek an etrog that is also beautiful.

Few etrogim live up to this scrutiny, I am told only about 1 in 10 survive to make the cut by the farmers in the end. The rest of them that are of eatable quality usually go into the hopper for being candied and dried. With so few etrogim being suitable but a demand for a couple million ritually acceptable etrogim each year, they can be quite expensive. When you go looking for your etrog for the holiday you know your gonna spend at least $25 dollars for a single fruit. You pick the finest one you can, and treat it like a treasure; many people having beautiful etrogim boxes or silver holders to protect and properly display it. Like I said, its a big deal.

With etrogim being so expensive, naturally an entrepreneurial person would consider this and say “lets make some money, import a bunch of etrogim; we can make a killing.” Well, its not that simple (you know I’ve tried, ok!). The problem is not importing them, the problem is that there are never enough of them to go around no matter how hard a farmer tries. But how can this be?

You see growing a etrog takes careful consideration. It’s a fruit that must be grown intentionally, with careful planning involved. It is not incidental at all. This is because the etrog is a pure species of citrus fruit. It is one of the only three pure species of citrus fruit, the fruits that are only indigenous to Asia; they are the Mandarin, the Pomelo and the Etrog (citron). All other species of citrus fruits from our navel oranges to our tangerines are just crosses of these species. Citrus fruit so easily cross pollinate that there are a myriad of varieties of citrus fruit. Those of you who have citrus trees in your backyard know this, if you have various kinds they often mix and your tree comes out covered with mutations of orange and lemons for example.

This cross pollination is true for any species of citrus, but it especially so for these pure species. So pure are they that pollination from other species takes off drastically, more so that in other species that have been hardened by cross pollination. Pollination from afar can take hold and mutate the fruit until it not at all distinguishable, and surely not fit for proper use as food or in ritual. When I say mutate, I really mean it. Again people with many citrus trees know this, you have seen this in the form of volleyball sized fruit that taste horrible and are deformed.

So the problem is that most people who live here in places like southern California, or even in most parts of Israel, where there are a lot of citrus fruits you cannot grow etrogim. You can certainly buy a tree, but it would not grow actual true citron fruit. There is so much pollen from the other trees it doesn’t stand a chance; pollen in the wind and that insects carry. It is more likely they will get pollinated by the other species of citrus, than get the lucky chance at getting pollinated by another etrog tree. So you see the problem is growing etrogim, we just can’t ever seem to grow enough. The odds are against them it seems.

And that reminds me of the final reading of the Torah for Simchat Torah, which comes at the end of the Sukkot holiday; Parshat Vezot haBerachah. We learned through midrash that there were three tribes of Israel that at the time of the Exodus were pure Hebrews; the tribes of Revein, Shimon and Levi. Levi was called up to be priests, having set upon them laws of marriage purity more than even the normal Jew. Revein and Shimon, they suffered great losses because of their involvement in the sexual worship of Baal Peor. However, for Shimon it was worse. Early on in the conquest of Israel they had decreased to the point that they could not even be counted as an autonomous tribe. In time their existence as a people became obscured, their tribal heritage is no longer distinguishable in Israel.

You know if we were talking about honey, another symbol of the holidays, cross pollination wouldn’t be that big of a deal. Though most people like mono-floral honey; orange blossom, clover, cherry blossom, etc. That’s because the taste is pretty consistent and intense. But when bees make honey from mixed species of pollen the color of honey often becomes cloudy, sometimes much darker, sometimes much harder, but the crossing makes the flavores indistinguishable, not as sweet to the taste, so bee keepers like to keep their bees around the sweet species of tree. Other pollen wont hurt the honey, but it won’t be as pleasing; its not what you really want, being a bit of this, and a bit of that. Because influences of herbage can change in open environments this year it can be good honey, next year not so good, it depends on what the bees have had to work with, and how much a certain pollen effects that batch.

But for the etrog, it is devastating. The fruit will deform beyond recognition and clear identification sometimes. When this fruit reproduces its naturally going to want to reproduce mutated fruit by nature, even aside from pollination; there is no next year to try again for that offspring tree.

So as we celebrating our high holidays let’s stop for a moment and consider how we are going to react during the gentile big holiday of Christmas; when it comes time for us to reject or re-gift that fruitcake they push our way with a smile. Don’t hurt their feelings, just tell them if your not going to eat it yourself because its not kosher. When they ask why, tell them because keeping kosher is just another way that Jews keep their distinct flavor. Even if they don’t know it, or appreciate it, us Jews like the etrog are a secret ingredient that no one really should have to do without.

Hag Sameach!

Parshat Vezot haBerachah (2011)

Parshat V’zot haBerachah
Deuteronomy 33:1 – 34:12

The Tribe of Shimon: What It Feels Like to Go From Hero to Zero

“And this is the blessings

that was bestowed by Moses,

the man of G-d,

to the children of Israel

before he died.”

| V’zot hab’rachah

| asher berach Moshe

| ish ha’Elohim

| et-benei Yisra’el

| lifney moto.

Deuteronomy 33:1

Where is Shimon? Do you feel left out, like a black sheep?

He we come to the final parsha of Devarim (Deuteronomy). We have made a wonderful trek through this entire book together. Not only does the book come to an end, but we come to the end of the Torah reading. However, one should take notice that we are currently in the middle of Sukkot. During Sukkot, being one of the Shelosh Regalim (three pilgrimage festivals), we instead do not read this Torah portion in the synagogue on Shabbat. Instead the Sukkot reading that is themed for the holiday is read instead. The only time this is not the case is in the rare occurrence where in Israel there is a Shabbat not covered; since in Israel there are not two days of holiday observance like in diaspora, occasionally this can happen.

The other reason it is not read in the line-up, and curiously not just read in combination with a holiday reading, is because we reserve this final reading to take place on Simchat Torah, which comes butted up against the last days of Sukkot and the observance of Shemini Atzeret. On that day we read the final reading, and then we immediately roll back to the beginning of the Sefer Torah (the Torah scroll) and begin to read there. In this act we can see the symbolism of renewal, and of continuity without much explanation need; Torah learning is a constant cycle that never ends. The depths of this wisdom are endless and keep on going.

Even thought this parsha is not part of our Shabbat readings, I do recognize that people have gone through this Torah with dedication this far. We want to complete the journey. During the rush of all these high holidays this parsha can be left out. So aside from honoring our dedication to Torah by following through, I would also like to touch on this parsha for the sake of those people that feel left out. People who feel like they aren’t recognized in our tradition, or are overlooked.

If you feel left out, disenfranchised or ignored; this parsha really is for you. In this parsha we are going to discus someone who can share your feelings. But very little can be pulled from this parsha about this person, because he isn’t mentioned here. In fact, its not just a person but a whole tribe that appears to be left out.

The Context

Here as we begin our parsha Mosheh Rabbeinu (Moses our Teacher), has finished teaching the children of Israel and administering oaths to them. He is now 120 years old and his death is imminent, a fact that he and the people are fully aware of. For the last time the people are gathered together to receive a blessing from him.

We read in the text:

“Moses decreed a doctrine [Torah. or law] for us,

an inheritance for the congregation of Jacob.

And He was a King in Yeshurun,

when the heads of the people were

assembled, all the tribes of Israel united”

| Torah tzivah-lanu Moshe

| morashah kehilat Ya’akov.

| Vayehi viYeshurun melech

| behit’asef rashei am

| yachad shivtei Yisra’el.

Deuteronomy 33:1

This is the “crowning moment.” The leadership of the people is handed over from Moses to G-d Himself to be King over the people, and the leaders come together represented their tribes, all the tribes gather according to their clans but united as a people. This was generally the case when the people gathered together, they were assembled according to their tribes; when meeting, when camping (Numbers 2), when traveling (Numbers 10) and even when worshiping as we will see going on through the Tanach (Bible).

Imagine what is going on, the blessings are being given. All the people are gathered together according to their own tribe, their leaders and princes go to receive a blessing. Everyone is being blessed here. There are Twelve Tribes and twelve blessings given. Everyone is mentioned here by Mosheh, except for the tribe of Shimon.

Behind the Story: Shimon, This Is Your Life!

There is a lot of commentary on this subject by our greats rabbis. I don’t want to debate or pick at too many ideas, because I think the actual reason here is quite obvious if we consider it. Though quite honestly, all is not as it seems.

But before we get to the hashing out the reason why, I think it is very important to the story for us to understand the tribe. One can say that the feeling of rejection goes back to before the tribe was born. It goes back even before the birth of a son of Yaakov by the name of Shimon, who was born of the less loved wife of Yaakov named Leah. His mother was jilted because of his father’s love for her sister Rachel, whom Yaakov was also husband to. When Shimon was born to Leah she named him a play off the word shamah meaning “to hear,” because Hashem heard that she was despised (Heb. “sinuah,” also meaning hated or abhorred) and therefore gave her a son (with her presumption this would win her affection from her husband; see Genesis 29:33). In the end the sons of the household of Leah outnumbered the household of Rachel.

Not only would Leah’s clan grow, but Shimon would also come to be a big player among the sons of Yaakov (also named Israel). He was in the bigger clan, the family of Leah. His brother Ruvein was the eldest brother and therefore the honored brother, but they appear very close to each other (see Genesis 48:5, where they are depicted as being almost attached, that close). But it appears that Shimon shared much of the respect of the family being the second eldest of the brothers, because we see in the case of the quarreling with Yosef (Joseph) our Midrashim have Shimon as the one who speaks up and dished out the verbal wrath. In various places through out the commentaries we see the tribe of Shimon regarded as fierce warriors, often noted for their ferocious battle cry that would send the enemy on the run. Their warrior status would be revered even until the days of David. (see 1 Chronicle 12:26) One can almost wonder sometimes, if he was over-compensating to win affection and honor for himself. (George W. Bush Daddy-complex of sorts)

Shimon’s charismatic and warrior nature actually had a lot do with his downfall. He would be the chief instigator in a violent display that would forever come to hang over this tribe like a dark cloud, the incident at Shechem in which he along with his younger brother Levi (also son of Leah) slaughtered the inhabitants. These Canaanites had tried to make right as a whole clan for a man who sexually victimizing a daughter of Israel, even taking on the covenant of circumcision; they were all slaughtered while they were ill and recovering, by Shimon with the help of Levi. So infuriated by this travesty Yaakov on his deathbed would end up cursing Shimon that he be scattered among the tribes along with his co-conspirator Levi.

Our tradition also hints at his responsibility in the incident of selling Yosef. Because of their roles in this Ruvein, Shimon and Levi would seemingly all suffer being less that fully honored when the blessings by Yaakov and Mosheh are given out; presumably for these and other individual sins (example Ruvein slept with one of his fathers concubines, dishonoring his father, see Genesis 35:22).

When the blessings are handed out, Reuvein’s sexual indiscretion seems to get him a finger shaken at him, but his father would still speaks highly of him nonetheless. But Shimon and Levi are going to get a harsh rebuke from Yaakov, “Shimon and Levi are brothers, weapons of violence their kinship… cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel. I will divide them in Yaakov and scatter them in Yisrael.” (Genesis 49:5;7)

But like the tribe of Revien, the tribe of Levi would also be rehabilitated in the end. The tribe of Levi would go on to serve as priests, it is well known in out tradition that this position was given to them precisely because of their bloody nature. They had the capacity to deal with it, it was like turning a knife fiend into a surgeon; it made good use of a terrible skill. Through they were notoriously scattered among the people in Levite cities of refuge, where accidental killers sought refuge among the priest. The Levities, the tribe that Mosheh and Aharon came from, were not bad guys; in fact in the end they seem quite honored among all the other tribes with being able to serve as priests. Mosheh would bless them for their dedication.

But what about the tribe of Shimon were they rehabilitated? We have no reason to believe that they were not. After all they are mentioned in the other places where the people are gathered. They are not scattered and forgotten. Quite the contrary, we find in our Midrash that Shimon was only one of three tribes of Israel that did not intermarry with the foreign peoples; the three tribes being Ruvein, Shimon and Levi (see Midrash Rabbah Numbers 13:8). They remained distinct and recognized. They were given a flag and banner among the procession of the tribes (Numbers 2). They were given an inheritance of land (Numbers 7). So why are they snubbed in Mosheh’s blessing? Is this some sort of delayed collective punishment? Why are they the black sheep?

The Obscuring of Shimon: Cause and Effect, or Not?

Ibn Ezra (the Spanish writer, scientist, mathematician, poet and commentator of 12th century) is the one that answers this for us. Though it is debated at length by all the great commentators, it is the opinion of Ibn Ezra that stands as the most logical and is sustained in the Jewish tradition. Whats his final position? You know the saying about two Jews having three opinions. It’s true, Ibn Ezra is one man but he has two opinions. His first possibility is that Moses could have blessed by the order of birth, and Shimon being second by birth was ignored because of worshiping Baal Peor, and their nasi (prince) was killed for it (by Pinchas, see Parshat Pinchas). His second possibility, that they were blessed according the the order of Yaakov who didn’t bless Shimon or Levi; but that in honor of Aharon (a Levite, like Moses), the people were blessed (in only mentioning Aharon, it is hinting at the priestly service of his tribe).

Ibn Ezra is a master teacher, a scholar of scholars. What he is doing is laying out for us two points to shows that we can go beyond previous objections based on a strict analysis of tribal enumerations in the Torah where the tribes are mentioned by name. Why does he present us with two reasons? Because there were those such at the Rambam who believed that there were plenty of examples where other people of Israel had done wrong but were forgiven.

I don’t want to get to far into it because it really is a major discussion, but the Rambam (and the Tur who also sides with him on this point) argues that others were involved even in the sin of worshiping Baal Peor (see Psalms 106:17-28, Dathan and Aviram were worshiper of Baal Peor, and they were Reubenites). Secondly, there was no proof that Zimri the son of Salu was the nasi (prince) of Shimon.

Instead the Rambam proposes, the reason that the Tribe of Shimon was not mentioned was because of a reason all together different, not because anyone had done anything wrong. It was merely because the population of Shimon had decreased to the point that they were not counted as a distinct tribe here. When blessings of the tribes were given, it should be noted that there are always 12 tribes, only twelve blessings with tribes sometimes being lumped together. And sometimes some of the names of the sons of Yaakov are substituted with names of his grandsons (and technically adopted sons, meaning heirs) Ephraim and Menasheh. But always 12 tribes are blessed. Interestingly all the commentators note, it is always 12 just like the signs of the zodiac. Someone had to be left out in the naming. The Rambam says only 12 tribes were to be called up to be bless, he proposes that they were included in the blessing of the tribe of Yehudah even if not mentioned.

Ibn Ezra is not unaware of this position, and it seems that he does relent to these facts (even though he presented his commentary almost 2 centuries before the Rambam). Nonetheless we see that even though other tribes did involve themselves in grave sins and were also punished by plagues for it, it appears that the Tribe of Shimon suffered from this the most. If we look at the census counts from before Baal Peor to those after, Shimon had the most dramatic decline. The plagues decreased them the most. If we look at the census taken a year after the Exodus from Egypt there were 59,300 heads of household in the tribe of Shimon (Numbers 1:23). By now, at this point in history as the people are about to go into the the Land they were a mere 22,200; minor numbers in comparison to Reuvein who totaled 43,730 and the other tribes who each numbered in the 60 to 70-thousand ranges in many cases (see Numbers 26).

His second point is that even though Zimri might not have been the nasi (prince) of the tribe, he encouraged his brothers to do likewise which they did and thus their numbers decreased. But even more importantly he also is of the opinion that there was no one else in their tribe of stature that demanded recognition like Aharon, that could be called up to represent them for any distinguished honor.

What do all the commentators have in common though? They all share the position that it is as the Torah says, that all the people who stood before Mosheh to go in to inherit the the land were not guilty of of the sins of the previous generation, those who had sinned had perished and the new generation was actualizing the dream of inheriting the Promised Land. They were not judged corporately, no. This was not vicarious or delayed punishment. Such an idea is rejected by Torah; see Exodus 32:33, who ever sins G-d will blot that person out. It can’t be that. But the effects their sin had on the population of Shimon was so drastic that it made growth of this clan unsustainable.

Their reasons rings true also in light of future Israelite history as well. After the conquest of the Land of Israel the Tribe of Shimon would not be forgotten, they would remain distinct for some time. But their weak numbers would be pointed out in the time of the early kings as being “lo hirabu ad benei Yehudah / not numerous like the children of Yehduah” and the cities of Shimon would be counted in the territories of Yehudah (see 1 Chronicles 4:24-33). As early as they went into the land this was noticed and therefore even the first judges had to deal with this, notice the verses of Yehoshuah (Joshuah) regarding their allotment of territory:

“The second allotment was for Shimon

for the Tribe of the children of Shimon

according to their families;

and their inheritance came from within

the inheritance of the children of Yehudah”

| Veyeitzei ha-goral ha sheini l’Shimon

| l’matei bnei shimon

| l’mishpachotam

| vayehi nachalatam betoch

| nehalat bnei Yehudah

Josuah 19:1

The phrase continues listing the families of Shimon, but then in verse 9 it again reminds us that the tribe of Shimon received their inheritance from within the inheritance of Yehudah because that tribe had come to conquer a tract of land that was too large for them. In the times of the kingdom of Israel before David the leadership had to incorporate Shimon into Yehudah for both reasons of Yehudah’s largeness and later, for Shimons smallness. Either way, their status changes because the facts on the ground changed.

The last an final blows to the Tribe of Shimon would come during the Babylonian exile. When the kingdom of Yehduah was conquered and the people were taken into exile. Their distinctiveness became more muddled as they intermarried within the other remaining survivors. And as is well know, some even took foreign wives. But they had come from Yehudah, they would return again to settle in Yehuda so they like the other survivors who mixed would shed their tribal identities in favor of the unifying term Yehudi, to be Jewish. The only distinct group would be the Levites going forward in Jewish history.

So in short the only distinction to me that there seems to be between the opinions of the Rambam and the opinions of Ibn Ezra is whether or not the downfall of the tribe was because of a fault. The Rambam says its just mere demographics that their honor disintegrated. Ibn Ezra presents us with the picture of the tribe of Shimon descending with each generation until they were no more.

In the end it is Ibn Ezra’s position that speaks to the critical thinker the most, his position is sustained in our tradition widely. He does not detract at all from the things the Rambam postulates, but he does insist on giving us two different reasons to say that its probably more that just decreasing birthrates that accounts for it; this is true but, it wouldn’t have gotten to that point without the tribe helping it along.

Now in passing I should tell you that this issue of Shimon getting left out has irked the scholars and sages alike for ages. No one really knows definitively why the tribe of Shimon is not mentioned by name. Ibn Ezra’s reasons stand as the most logical. But so egregious an omission, that some even tried to fix it; the Greek Septuagint tries to fix Deuteronomy 33 by injecting Shimon’s name into the blessing of Yehudah. Modern scholars would call Shimon’s exclusion just a copiest error.

I am not of the authority to say if it was a copiest error (G-d forbid), but by the material presented to me it seem unlikely. The tribes in my estimation do not go in any specific order (notice Benyamin comes before his elder brother Yosef; Deut. 33:12-13). But either way, the fact that Shimon was counted among Yehudah makes even more sense if we read the first blessing pronounced by Mosheh, to Reuvein right before mentioning Yehudah:

“Let Reuvein live and not die

that his men become few.”

| Yechi Re’uvein ve’al-yamo

| vyhi metav mispar.

Deuteronomy 33:6

It appears Mosheh was hoping that the tribe of Reuvien who had also had a checked past for being a brazen and ornery people would not also decrease in number, to be absorbed into the tribes like had apparently begun with Shimon.

What This All Means for Us

As we come to the conclusion of the Torah and start the new cycle for the year I appeal to all of you who have made this trek with me through the Torah. I know many of your stories. Many of your feel like you have lost your way in the faith. Many of you feel left out, ignored or even like you don’t have a place anymore. You are the forgotten tribe, the passed over son.

There are many reason why we might feel left out, or even rejected. It could be for things that we have done, maybe we have a back-story that makes it difficult for us to show our face or mention our name among the “the tribe.” Or it could be for things which have little to nothing to do with us, experiencing difficulties in relating to our Jewishness because of ideas or complexities inherited from the generations before that still play out in our lives. It might be just a misunderstanding, a fluke.

It really doesn’t matter why though. You aren’t forgotten! This Torah calls out to your, that you still have a home. A home in the people of Yehudah; the people of Judah, the Jewish people. There is still room for you, there is still enough rich heritage to go around. And the rest of us tribe members need to accept you and receive you into our inheritance to share it with you. My appeal is to all you who are small and few of like the tribe of Shimon, the wild and rebel black sheep; when the blessings are given out, are you gonna come? There is room for you here.

The Festival of Sukkot

The Festival of Sukkot: Thoughts and Prayers
The Lesson of Sukkot – “Stay sweet, my friend!”

On we continue with the season of sweetness, on to Sukkot – the Festival of Booths (or Feast of the Tabernacles, in arcane English). We have just started the new year with Rosh haShanah, and have been through the highs and lows of Yom Kippur; but the sweetness keeps on going. One of the ways to remind ourselves of this to dip our bread in honey.

All throughout the year the Jewish tradition is to dip or our bread in salt. There are several reason that we dip our bread. Some are health related ideas laid down in the Talmud. But mostly, for taste! Because flavor brings the senses to life. If you don’t believe me look at kiddush and havdalah as example of our tradition, where a pleasing taste or fragrance rouses us spiritually. Our senses are used to awaken the inner-self.

Though G-d commands us to take pleasure in the wonders of the world (and this would be reason enough), we like to include a spiritual thoughts as well. There are actually two reason handed down to us.

The one most often noted by people is the symbolism of Genesis 3:19, “by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground.” Bread is the main staple of our food, a meal is not a meal in Jewish tradition until we have bread. The saltiness of sweat is represented by the dipping of our bread in salt. We recognize that to get by, it takes hard work. During the work week, often times this symbolism can be easily grasped without much imagination at all.

But there is a more important reasons handed down to us, and that is because the offerings of the Temple were salted. Since there is no longer a Temple in Jerusalem, we make our dinning tables our altar. (Talmud Bavli Berachot 55a ) We sanctify things upon it on holy days, and everyday! Therefore we salt our bread, in order to represent us bringing a complete offering before G-d. This is a meaning that has significance for us both during the work week, and especially on Shabbat and festivals when additional offerings were given.

The only time we don’t salt our bread is from Rosh haShanah to the end of Sukkot. Instead our tradition is to dip in honey, in delight of the sweetness of the New Year.

So far we have had it easy, the holidays we have had up until now were proper haggim, being yom tov we are not permitted to work. Taking time to indulge in holidays and all this pleasure has been smoothing sailing. But for many of us religious people the trouble comes right about now. In diaspora Tishrei can come with as many as 13 religious holy days, as many as 7 days can be work restricting (that’s not counting Shabbat either!). Often times we can feel under the stress of celebrating, its all so much. This repose really tests our personal will sometimes, at least for us control freaks. Sure we enjoy the holidays, but we wanna get back to the sweat and grind.

But our tradition instead gives us bread with honey. It commands us to continue to dip our bread in honey until Sukkot is over. We need to keep the sweetness going in our lives, we keep dipping until we can remember to keep this sweetness going throughout the year.

Sukkot is a holiday that is mixed with both work restricting days and regular days we can go about our business. This holiday really pushes us on a soul level to try to come to grips with the reality we need to have the pleasure of life both on holidays and regular workdays. Even if we toil, we should slow down and have a movement to enjoy it all. If your not feeling it yet, keep dipping!

But don’t let it stop there. When we get back to salting our bread after the holidays, we can either consider the hard work of living when salting our bread daily; and the drudgery. Or we can salt our bread daily and consider the joys of our worship before G-d; and savor it with wonder and delight. Which will you choose?

Got Siddur? For the holidays we have three sections that you will require for prayers:

Prayers for The Three Festivals – Shelosh Regalim

Prayers for The Three Festivals
Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot

Download: Prayers for The Three Festivals

As part of my ongoing commitment to transcribe the Nusach Arizal (Chabad) liturgy, I am pleased to present the prayers for the Shelosh Regalim – the three pilgrimage festivals.  This text contains the Festival and Chol haMoed Amidah, Mussaf, Kiddush, and additional learning material for Mincha (The Pesach Offering). This text also includes Yikzor (Memorial Prayers for the Departed) and the Birkat Kohanim (The Priestly Blessing for Festivals – The Duchan).

You can download the PDF, ODT or TXT version HERE at the Open Siddur Project, as well as find the rest of the related Nusach haAri transcriptions generously hosted by them.

As we move into the holiday season we are actually beginning the “spiritual new year,” it is my hope that all of us find new joy and meaning in this “zman cheiruteinu,” the season of our freedom.

I wish you all a happy and kosher pesach!

Do you need a siddur? This blog proudly cooperates with The Open Siddur Project. The project is a volunteer based organization dedicated to documenting and making the wealth of Jewish prayer and prayer resources available with free, redistributable licensing in electronic format and print formats. You can find my contributions of liturgy HERE. Find out how you can also be a part of this worthy cause!

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