Joel Orr's Radio Weblog

A Succot meditation from Naomi Ragen


As I sat reading Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) in the Tel Aviv synagogue on the Succot festival, I was struck by the words of King Solomon (generally considered the author) "I know that there is nothing better for them (ie, human beings) but to rejoice and to get pleasure for so long as they live. For every man to eat and drink and enjoy pleasure for all his labor is the gift of G-d."

The woman sitting in front of me was a stranger to me, no different than all the others in that unfamiliar synagogue near my hotel. But at a certain point in the service, she rose and said the prayer of "gomel," a prayer of thanksgiving to G-d for saving one's life from mortal danger.

After prayers, she told me she had been on the bus stop in Allenby waiting for a bus a few days before, when sale signs in a nearby department store suddenly caught her eye. She saw the bus pulling up, but impulsively decided to check out the bargains. Two minutes after she entered the store, she heard the deadly explosion which killed five and injured dozens.

We were strangers no longer. I put my arms around her and wished her a good holiday, knowing exactly the kind of emotions people fortunate enough to walk away from certain death at the last moment feel: euphoria, guilt, fear, anger, depression, sheer happiness, gratitude.

The Jewish people after the Holocaust are, in many ways, a person who stood at the edge of certain death and walked away. To let our sorrows destroy our joys is wrong, Ecclesiastes teaches. There is a time for everything. "A time to mourn, and a time to dance." The point is to separate each legitimate feeling and to deal with them one by one.

The Torah tells us to rejoice in our holidays. We are trying. The Palestinian terrorist shooting of a father and the wounding of his three sons - one gravely- as they stood praying at the graves of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, tears at our hearts. The deaths of Hindus at a temple in India at the hands of Muslim hate-mongers fills us with anger and despair.

Below is a beautiful meditation on the Sukkah.The author is a guitarist-rabbi-teacher in the Jerusalem area. The sender, his father, is an Orthodox rabbi formerly from the U.S. where he served in several pulpits till coming to Jerusalem some 20-25 years ago, Some of you may know or know of the author's maternal grandparents, Rabbi Philip Goodman, a prolific anthologist on Jewish festivals, and Hannah Goodman, author of some classical Jewish cookbooks, both of whom also live in Jerusalem. I thank my friend Moshe Kohn for forwarding this to me.

Happy Holiday.

Naomi Ragen

My place in the sky
by Rabbi Joshua Rubin

How much time do you spend staring at your computer screen? Nine out of ten people would answer- too much.

So if your are one of the nine, then right now tear your eyes away from the screen, look out the window and up at the sky because in the little computer screen we loose sight of the awesomeness of the sky. We lose sight of the awesomeness of our lives.

Staring up at the sky is so healing. Its vastness allows us to believe that hopefully there room, for me too in this world . The sky[base ']s openness reminds us, that no matter how complex and twisted life becomes there exists a place that is open and clear.

How I long for my place in the sky.
How I long for my place in the sky.

Jewish law asks us , Jewish law begs us: Spend one week staring up at the sky.

It is the mitzvah of Sukkah. Sukkah, a booth with a roof through which one must be able to see the sky and if you can[base ']t, your booth is not Kosher.

I think Don MacLean understood how much we need to stare up at the sky when he wrote [base "]Starry starry night
Paint your palette blue and gray
Look out on a summer[base ']s day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul"

Maybe King David was also feeling the complexity of life when he asked, in Psalm 121/1 [base "]I lift my eyes up to the mountains. From where, from where will my help come?

King David[base ']s eyes searched the mountains and the skies for a little piece of serenity Yet his answer doesn[base ']t quite match his question. His answer should have been [base "]I find a place of strength and a place of peace inside myself when I stare up at the awesomeness of the mountains and the sky[base ']s tranquility.

Yet his answer is that when He looked up at the sky he realized, [base "]My help is coming from the Lord, Maker of the Heavens and the Earth.[per thou] King David[base ']s answer teaches us how Judaism views the healing power of the sky. The healing power of the sky begins with its majestic beauty. Yet it is the vision beyond the mountains, beyond the sky which will heal our depressed condition.

So a million blessings and may you sit in your sukkah staring at the stars.Staring at the sky and whisper gently to yourself:

'How I long for my place in the sky.'
'How I long for my place in the sky.'

With love and blessings,

Please visit my web site

Hate constricts.
Love expands.

Naomi Ragen
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Last update: 9/25/02; 9:41:30 AM.