HA’AZEENU & SUKKOT

11-21 Tishri 5782

[Please scroll down for Sukkot Readings]

The Fifty-third Sedra

FROM THE TORAH

Deuteronomy 32:1-52

In the previous Sedra Vayelech, Moses anticipated the future idolatry of the Children of Israel upon the Land of Settlement.  He introduces a poem, to be taught to them, and to serve as God’s witness against them.  In this week’s Sedra Ha’azeenu, the poem is recorded.  Then the Eternal advises Moses of the time and place of his death.  He reiterates that Moses shall not enter the Land.

THE POEM
32:1-47

Moses, together with Hosea son of Nun, delivers all of the words of this poem,
in the hearing of the people:

Testimony Before Heaven and Earth

Give ear (Ha’azeenu), O heavens, and I shall speak;
pay heed, O earth, to the words of my mouth!
Let my teaching come down as rain,
my words as dew upon the grass.
As I declare the Eternal’s Name,
ascribe greatness to our God!

Justification of God’s Judgment

The Rock, His work is perfect,
all of His ways are just,
faithful God,
without unrighteousness,
true and upright is He.
Of corruption:
not His,
but His children’s,
a generation
crooked and perverse!

Ungrateful People

Is this how you repay the Eternal,
O people foolish and unwise?
He is your Father, your Creator;
He made you and sustains you!
Remember the days of old,
study the past generations.
Ask your father, he will tell you.
Consult your Elders, they will teach you.

For the Sake of Israel

When the Most High granted portions to the nations,
He established their borders with Jacob in mind,
the Children of Israel, His people,
whom He found in the desert;
like an eagle, He spread His wings,
bearing them upon His pinions,
with no strange god at His side.

He carried him
to the Land’s sacred heights,
He fed him its yield:
honey from the rock,
oil from the flint,
the milk of cows and goats,
rams of Bashan,
the finest of wheat,
and the drink of grapes.

Jeshurun Rebelled

But Jeshurun grew fat and rebelled—
you grew fat and heavy!—
he abandoned the God who made him,
spurned his saving Rock,
they angered Him with their alien abominations,
sacrificed to gods unknown to their fathers—
you forgot the God who bore you!

The Eternal Would Punish Them…

When the Eternal saw this,
angrily He determined:
Let Me hide My face from them,
and I shall see what becomes of them!
They are a generation of perverseness,
children with no faithfulness.
They have insulted Me with a no-god,
so shall I insult them with a no-people.
For My wrath is a fire
that burns to the bottom of She’ol;
it consumes the land and its produce,
destroys the mountains’ foundations.

I would use up My arrows on them,
let loose plague and pestilence,
reptiles and vipers,
the sword from outside
and terror from within,
against boy and girl,
both the suckling and the aged!

…Except for the Enemy’s Arrogance

Except that the enemy might think,
our hand has prevailed,
not that of the Eternal,
for they lack understanding
(if they were wise,
they would understand
what lies ahead for them):
how could one of them
have pursued a thousand of Israel
unless Israel’s Rock had sold them!

What our enemies consider
to be their “rock”
is not like our Rock!
Their wine is from grapes
grown on the vines
of Sodom and Gomorrah,
the venom of poison vipers.
I have it, stored up,
ready for vengeance
when their foot slips,
as their day of disaster is near!

God’s Vengeance Is His People’s Vindication

For the Eternal will vindicate His people,
seeing that they are helpless.
Where are their gods, He will say,
whose sacrifices they ate,
and whose libations they drank?
Let them get up and shield them!
But only I, I, am He,
there is no true God besides Me,
bringing death and life,
wounding and healing,
none can override My power!

As I raise My hand to heaven
and whet the flame of My sword,
My hand shall grasp justice
and inflict vengeance
upon My enemies!
I shall intoxicate My arrows and My sword
with the blood of the fallen and captive,
and from those who drive the enemy.

Acclaim His people, O nations,
as He avenges on His enemies
the blood of His servants
and restores His people
upon its Land!

Testament for the Future

When Moses completes the recitation of all of these words to all of Israel, he calls for their attending to this, his testimony, as a testament to their children to preserve and observe all the words of this Torah.  For this is not a vain thing, he says, rather it constitutes your life and your length of days upon the Land which you are crossing the Jordan to possess.

ANTICIPATION OF THE DEATH OF MOSES
32:48-52

On the same day, the Eternal speaks to Moses himself:  Ascend to the hill country of Avarim, to Mount Nebo in Moab, overlooking Jericho, and see the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Children of Israel for a possession.  You are to die there in that mountain and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, for both of you acted unfaithfully against Me at the waters of Merivat-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Tsin, by failing to sanctify Me in the midst of the Children of Israel.  From a distance you may view the Land, but you may not enter it, the Land which I am giving to the Children of Israel.

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for Shabbat Ha’azeenu
II Samuel 22:1-51

David recites to the Eternal the words of this poem
when the Eternal rescues him from all of his enemies and from Saul:

The Eternal is my Rock and Fortress,
He is my Refuge and Shield,
the Source of my salvation!
I called upon Him,
and I was saved from my enemies.

For the breakers of death surrounded me,
the rivers of Belial, the cords of She’ol,
in my distress I called to the Eternal my God,
and from His Temple He heard my voice.

His angry response caused the earth to quake,
the foundations of heaven trembled!
Smoke, fire, burning coals, from His nostrils and in His mouth!
He pushed down the heavens and stepped off,
a dark cloud under His feet.
He rode upon a flying cherub
as if on the wings of the wind,
sukkot of darkness around Him,
water and thick clouds in the sky,
illumined by burning coals of fire!

The voice of the Eternal thunders from heaven,
His arrows of lightning sow confusion:
channels of the sea are exposed,
foundations of the earth are uncovered
by the angry blast of His breath!

He dispatches from the Height,
draws me out of abundant waters;
He rescues me from my enemy,
from those who are stronger than I.

The Eternal favors me
and rewards me according to my merit.
For I have kept the ways of the Eternal,
I shall not deviate from His statutes.
With the straight You reveal Your lovingkindness,
and You requite the ways of the crooked.
You will save a humbled people,
You look upon the haughty to bring them down.
You are my lamp, O Eternal,
illuminating my darkness!

You enable me to take on an army,
by my God I can leap over walls;
O God, His way is perfect, His teaching is pure,
He is a Shield to all who take refuge in Him!
Who is God but the Eternal?
Who is a Rock but our God?

God, my Fortress, trains me for war,
He bends a bow of brass for my arms;
You grant me Your saving shield,
Your gracious attention makes me great!
You enable me to firmly pursue my enemies
and to persist until they are destroyed!
They, too, seek Your help,
but You answer them not!

You deliver me also from the quarrels of my people,
and You preserve me as the undisputed ruler
of nations whom I knew not
as they fall before me!

As the Eternal lives, blessed is my saving, avenging Rock,
who brings peoples down below me,
who removes me from my enemies,
and exalts me above those who come against me,
delivering me from men of violence!

Therefore shall I sing Your thanks among the nations:
A Tower of salvation for His King,
showing lovingkindness to His anointed one,
to David and to his seed,
forever!

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Deuteronomy Rabbah 10:1
Preeminence of Hearing

“Give ear, O heavens, and I shall speak;
pay heed, O earth, to the words of my mouth!”
(Deuteronomy 32:1)

The Rabbis teach: If you wish to prevent harm to your ears or any of your other organs, incline your ear to the Torah and you will obtain life!  Whence?  The prophet taught: “Incline your ear and come to Me; be attentive and your entire life shall live” (Isaiah 55:3)!

Said Rabbi Chaninah ben Pappa: Whoever removes his ear from hearing Torah—his prayer is rejected, as was said: “If one turns away his ear from listening to Torah, his prayer also is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9)!

Rabbi Levi likened the ear to a pomander: Garments are placed in the pomander and benefit from the scent of burning spices under them.  Similarly, all 248 organs of a person owe their life to the ear, as was said: “Incline your ear and come to Me, be attentive and your entire life shall live!” (Isaiah 55:3)

In addition, the Holy One, blessed be He, is saying: If you incline your ear to the Torah, then when you start to deliver words of Torah, everyone will listen to you and hear your words just as you inclined your ear to hear words of Torah.  Whence do you learn this?  From Moses our Rabbi, who inclined his ear to the Torah, and therefore, whenever he sought to deliver words of Torah, inhabitants both on high and below became quiet and listened to his words.  This we know from what we read in the Sedra: “Give ear, O heavens, and I shall speak….”

Deuteronomy Rabbah 10:4
Both Heaven and Earth

“Give ear, O heavens, and I shall speak;
pay heed, O earth, to the words of my mouth!”
(Deuteronomy 32:1)

Said Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman:  Moses was of the earth, as he was human.  But he also became great in heaven, as was said, “He was there with the Eternal forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 34:28).  This duality presented him with a dilemma:  If I appeal to heaven, the earth will be upset; and if I appeal to earth, heaven will be upset.  So his solution was:  I shall appeal to both of them, to heaven and to earth, as was said, “Give ear, O heavens…pay heed, O earth…!”

Said Rabbi Tanchuma:  Why to both heaven and earth?  Because the Holy One, blessed be He, will not redeem Israel except by the agencies of both, for thus is written: “Shout aloud, O heavens, for the Eternal will act; sing out, O depths of the earth” (Isaiah 44:23)!

Another interpretation:  Why to both heaven and earth?  Because both were involved in the giving of Torah, as was said, “From the heavens He caused you to hear His voice, instruct you; and on earth He caused you to see His great fire, from which you heard His words!” (Deuteronomy 4:36)

Another interpretation:  Because the provision of manna and quails was worked through both of them.  Whence?  “I shall cause bread (manna) to rain down to you from the heavens” (Exodus 16:4) and “In the evening quail came up (from the earth) and covered the camp” (Ibid. 13).

Another interpretation:  Because the Holy One, blessed be He, likened Israel to both heaven and earth.  He said to Abraham, “Look up to the heavens, and count the stars, if you could…thus shall be your seed” (Genesis 15:5)! and He said to Jacob in his dream, “Your seed shall be (as numerous) as the dust of the earth” (Genesis 28:14)!

Rabbi Chanina taught:  This may be likened to one who dies after entrusting a valuable possession to his friend.  The son and heir of the deceased shows honor to the man with whom his father entrusted the possession—and to the man’s wife as well.  The son is asked: Why do you show honor to both of them, to the man and his wife?  He answers them:  I (as his father’s heir) now own something valuable that is with them, but it is not clear to me exactly which of them is holding it, the man or his wife.  I just want to be sure that wherever the object is, it is kept safe.

So was Moses asked the same question when he said, “Give ear, O heavens…pay heed, O earth…”:  Why are you charging both heaven and earth?  His answer:  I will in the future die, but I do not know to which of these my soul is going, whether to heaven or to earth.  Whence?  “Who knows if a man’s spirit rises upwards or, as a beast’s spirit, goes down to the earth” (Ecclesiastes 4:21)?  Therefore I charge both of them, just to be sure that wherever my soul rests, it is kept safe!

The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him:  By your life, no created thing will have dominion over your soul.  Where will it rest?  Under My throne of glory in heaven!  This is as Abigail said to David: “The soul of my lord will be bound up in the bond of life with the Eternal your God” (I Samuel 25:29)!

Numbers Rabbah 2:6
How God Found Israel

“The Children of Israel, His people,
whom He found in the desert,…”
(Deuteronomy 32:10a)

In the desert?
Did He not find us
in Egypt?!

He means to characterize God’s finding of Israel in the sense of a gift: The Holy One, blessed be He, found Israel at first to be refreshing, as the prophet said, “I found Israel to be like grapes in the desert; I saw your fathers like the first fig to ripen on the tree” (Hosea 9:10).

“…in a wasted, howling wilderness;”
(Ibid.)

Such was the world before Israel went out from Egypt and received the Torah.  The world, then without Torah, was a wilderness!  But once they came out of Egypt and received the Torah, then:

“He surrounded him,
He attended him,
He guarded him,
like the pupil of His eye.”
(Ibid. 10b)

“He surrounded him” in that He surrounded Israel in the wilderness with Clouds of Glory (cf. Sifre Numbers Beha’alot’cha 25 and 48).

“He attended him” in the sense of teaching: He taught them words of Torah in the wilderness (cf. Talmud Sanhedrin 56b on Exodus 15:25; Exodus 19:1-23:19 et al).

“He guarded him”: Happy are the ears who heard (cf. Deuteronomy 32:1) through these words how much He loved them (by “surrounding” them), how much He assured their observance (by “teaching them words of Torah”), and how closely He guarded them as if they were “the pupil of His eye,” as if they were His own eyes!

For not only did their ears hear but their eyes saw how He surrounded them, how He attended them, and how He guarded them, when He said to Moses, “Let them make for Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8).  It was if He were leaving the Heavenly hosts (cf. Psalms 80:15 et al.) to dwell among Israel below, as was said, “I shall bring out My hosts, My people, the Children of Israel, from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 7:4)!  He made this apparent when He charged Moses: “Let the hosts of the Children of Israel encamp, each man by his division, each man by his banner” (Numbers 1:52)!

Talmud Kiddushin 36a
God’s Children

“They are a generation of perverseness,
children with no faithfulness.”
(Deuteronomy 32:20)

It is taught: Rabbi Meir says, Even when Israel fails to do God’s will, they are still called His children!

Yerushalmi Peah 1:1
Making the Torah “Your Life”

“Apply your heart to all of the words
that I attest to you this day,
which you shall command to your children to keep,
in order to carry out all of the words of this Torah.
For it is not too vain a thing for you [mikem],
but it is your life,
and by this thing you will have many days upon the Land…”
(Deuteronomy 32:46-47)

Rabbi Mana taught: “For it is not a vain thing from you” [mikem]—meaning that if it were a vain thing, then it would be “from you!”  Why?  Because in that case you would not be laboring in the Torah.  This teaches you that any matter for which the members of the Beth Din truly devote themselves, even at the risk of death, will be sustained as truth in the end.

When is it “your life?”  When you labor in it!

 SHABBAT SHALOM!

SUKKOT READINGS

FROM THE TORAH

FIRST AND SECOND YOM TOV DAYS OF SUKKOT
Leviticus 22:26-23:44

PATTERN OF SANCTIFICATION
22:26-33

The Eternal explains to Moses that a newborn ox or sheep or goat remains with its mother for the first seven days of its life.  From the eighth day onward it is acceptable for a fire offering to the Eternal.  However, you may not slaughter an ox or a sheep with its offspring on the same day.

When you make a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Eternal, you sacrifice it for your acceptance.  It must be eaten on the same day; nothing of it may remain until the morning.  I am the Eternal.

Preserve and fulfill My commandments.  Do not profane My holy Name, but let Me be sanctified in the midst of the Children of Israel.  I am the Eternal, who sanctifies you, who is bringing you out of the land of Egypt to be your God.  I am the Eternal.

THE SABBATH
23:1-3

The Eternal tells Moses to advise the Children of Israel regarding His appointed times:

For six days you shall do your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation.  Do no work.  It is a Sabbath to the Eternal in all of your settlements.

PESACH AND UNLEAVENED BREAD
23:4-8

The following also are appointed times of the Eternal, holy convocations which you shall declare at their appointed time:

On the Fourteenth Day of the First Month, at twilight, there is Pesach for the Eternal, and on the Fifteenth Day there is the Festival of Matzot for the Eternal: you shall eat Unleavened Bread for seven days.  The First of the Seven Days shall be a holy convocation for you: you shall do no work of service.  Throughout the seven days you shall bring fire offerings to the Eternal.  The Seventh Day shall be a holy convocation: you shall do no work of service.

GRAIN HARVEST
23:9-22

The Eternal tells Moses to advise the Children of Israel regarding the grain harvest:

When you come to the Land which I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring to the Kohen the First Sheaf (Omer) of your harvest.  Eat no bread or parched ear or fresh grain until the very day that you bring this offering to your God.  The Kohen shall wave the Sheaf before the Eternal for your acceptance on the morrow of the day of rest.  On that day you shall provide a year-old lamb without blemish for a burnt offering to the Eternal.  Its meal offering shall be two-tenths of a measure of fine flour mixed with oil, a fire offering to the Eternal of pleasant aroma, and its libation shall be a quarter of a hin of wine.  This is an everlasting statute throughout your generations in all of your settlements.

You count from the morrow of the day of rest, from the day when you bring the Sheaf of Waving, seven complete weeks.  Then, on the morrow of the seventh week, count a Fiftieth Day and bring thereon a new meal offering to the Eternal.  You shall declare on that very day a holy convocation for you.  You shall do no work of service.  It is an everlasting statute in all of your settlements throughout your generations.

On that day, from your settlements bring two loaves of bread as a wave offering: two-tenths of a measure of fine flour shall they be and baked leavened, Bikkurim (First Fruits) for the Eternal.  Bring with the bread seven year-old lambs without blemish, one bull of the herd, and two rams, as burnt offerings to the Eternal, and their meal offering and their libations, a fire offering of pleasant aroma for the Eternal.  You shall provide one male goat for a sin offering and two year-old lambs for a sacrifice of peace offerings.  The Kohen shall wave them as a wave offering before the Eternal along with the bread of Bikkurim, which shall be holy to the Eternal for the Kohen along with the two lambs.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not wholly reap the corner of your field, and do not gather the leftovers of your harvest.  Leave them for the poor and for the stranger.  I, the Eternal, am your God.

THE SEVENTH MONTH
23:23-36,39-43

The Eternal tells Moses to advise the Children of Israel regarding other holy convocations:

On the First Day of the Seventh Month, you shall have a day of rest, Zichron Teruah (“Announced by the Blast of a Horn”), a holy convocation.  You shall do no work of service.  You shall bring a fire offering to the Eternal.

But, says the Eternal to Moses, the Tenth Day of this Seventh Month shall be Yom Hakippurim (“The Day of Atonement”), a holy convocation for you, on which “you shall afflict your souls” (Leviticus 23:27) and bring a fire offering to the Eternal.  As it is the Day of Atonement before the Eternal your God, you shall not do any work on it, it is Shabbat Shabbaton (“Complete Sabbath”) for you.  Indeed any soul that is not afflicted on this same day shall be cut off from its people; I shall cause anyone who does work on this day to be lost from among his people.  You shall not do any work as an everlasting statute throughout your generations in all of your settlements, beginning on the Ninth Day of the Month in the evening, from evening to evening shall you observe your day of rest.

The Eternal advises Moses to speak further to the Children of Israel:

Beginning on the Fifteenth Day of this Seventh Month, when you gather in the produce of the Land, you shall have the Festival of Sukkot (“Booths”) to the Eternal for seven days.  The First Day is a holy convocation, a day of rest: you shall do no work of service.  You shall take for yourselves the fruit of a splendid tree, branches of palm trees, a bough of a leafy tree, and willows of the brook, to rejoice before the Eternal your God for these seven days.  It is an annual observance, an everlasting statute throughout your generations.  In addition, you shall dwell in booths throughout the seven days, every native in Israel, so that future generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.  I am the Eternal, your God.  Throughout the seven days you shall present a fire offering to the Eternal.

Then, on the Eighth Day you shall have a concluding holy convocation, a day of rest; on it you shall do no work of service, and you shall bring a fire offering to the Eternal.

SUMMARY OF APPOINTED TIMES
23:37-38,44

These, then, are the appointed times of the Eternal, which you shall declare, holy convocations, to bring a fire offering to the Eternal: burnt offering and meal offering, sacrifice and libations, each on its day, besides the Sabbath offerings to the Eternal and besides your gifts and vows and besides all of your voluntary offerings which you bring to the Eternal.  Thus Moses explains the appointed times of the Eternal to the Children of Israel.

Maftir for First and Second Yom Tov Days of Sukkot
Numbers 29:12-16

On the Fifteenth Day of the Seventh Month there shall be a holy convocation for you; do not perform work of service; celebrate a Chag (“Festival”) to the Eternal for seven days.

On the First Day, offer a burnt offering to the Eternal: thirteen bulls of the herd, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs; see that they are without blemish.  Their meal offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths of a measure for each of the thirteen bulls, two-tenths of a measure for each of the two rams, and one-tenth of a measure for each of the fourteen lambs.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

FIRST DAY OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT
Numbers 29:17-25

On the Second Day, twelve bulls of the herd, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and their libations.

On the Third Day, eleven bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the Fourth Day, ten bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

SECOND DAY OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT
Numbers 29:20-28

On the Third Day, eleven bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the Fourth Day, ten bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the Fifth Day, nine bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

SHABBAT CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT

THE MEGILLAH OF ECCLESIASTES

THE ENIGMA OF FUTILITY
1:1-18

Words of Ecclesiastes (Koheleth),
son of David,
King in Jerusalem:

Futility!
There is no lasting result
in all of man’s labors under the sun.
One generation replaces another
while the earth is never altered,
as the sun rises, sets, and rises again,
as the wind comes and goes,
southward and northward,
and comes again.
The same may be said of the rivers,
which empty into the sea,
which itself is not filled
and to which the rivers return.

All things are wearying beyond words:
the eye is never satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear with hearing;
what was shall be,
what was done shall be done again;
it is an illusion to think otherwise:
there is nothing new under the sun!

Remembrance of what has preceded—there is not,
nor will those in the future
look back with memory
to that which has not yet occurred.
Here I am, King over Israel in Jerusalem,
seeking to investigate with wisdom
all that occurs under heaven:
it is an enigma
that God has placed before us
to understand!

When I consider all of the acts
that are done under heaven,
to try to make sense of them
would be like herding the wind.
The crooked cannot be made straight
nor can the wanting be found.
And even with my superior achievement in wisdom and knowledge,
surpassing all who ruled before me over Jerusalem,
informed as I am not only of wisdom and knowledge
but of madness and folly as well,
I recognize that this achievement also is futile.

For with an abundance of wisdom
comes a profusion of indignation;
one who adds to knowledge
adds to anxiety.

WHICH IS BETTER: POSSESSIONS OR WISDOM?
2:1-26

But I thought to conduct a test on myself
of partying and pleasure,
those futile, mad pursuits:
I would ply my flesh with wine,
seizing folly
even as my heart would follow after wisdom,
in order for me to see
which is better for the children of man
to practice under heaven
for all the days of their lives.

So I increased my possessions and made for myself
houses and vineyards, gardens and parks,
and planted within them
all kinds of trees bearing fruit,
replete with reservoirs to keep them well-watered.
I acquired servants, who over time produced more servants,
possessions of herds and flocks,
exceeding in number any who were before me in Jerusalem.
I amassed chests full of silver and gold, kingly and stately treasures,
more than any who were before me in Jerusalem—
all the while my wisdom stayed with me.

But as I enjoyed the possessions
that I labored to acquire for myself,
I found all of it to be futile, as insubstantial as wind,
of no lasting value under the sun.
There was good reason for me
to turn to wisdom and madness and folly,
for who else could have done it better than I, the King?
What I found for others to learn, then,
is that wisdom excels folly
in the same measure that light exceeds darkness.
The wise man foresees the outcome of his actions
while the fool walks in darkness.
But given that the same end awaits them both,
why should I value wisdom more?
Herein lies the futility:
neither the wise nor the fool
will be remembered after they die.

So I despise that fact of life—
that whatever is done under the sun
is futile and unstable as wind—
and I resent that my labor
will benefit another after me
who may be wise or may be a fool
but either way will rule over
whatever I have achieved
in my wisdom, knowledge and skill.
That is not only futility;
it is a great evil!

So what does a man have
to show for all of his toil under the sun,
for both his pain during the day
and his grief at night?
There is nothing better for a man
than to eat and drink,
to enjoy the benefit of his labor,
to see it, as I have,
from the hand of God.
He gives it to us to enjoy!

For to the man that is good,
He gives wisdom and knowledge
and the ability to enjoy.
While to the sinner
He gives the drive to amass
only to pass it on
to one who is pleasing to God—
an end that is futile
and the equivalent of wind.

ALL IS DETERMINED
3:1-22

All of the important events of life
occur at the right time of God’s choosing:
Birth
Death
Sowing
Harvesting
Violence
Healing
Destruction
Construction
Weeping
Laughing
Mourning
Dancing
Intercourse
Abstinence
Embracing
Releasing
Seeking
Losing
Keeping
Abandoning
Rending
Mending
Hushing
Voicing
Loving
Hating
War
Peace

Men cannot alter them
anymore than he can find the way
to change the order of the world
that God established
from beginning to end.
I know that it is best for man
to rejoice in his life,
to enjoy the reward of his labor
as a gift of God.
Whatever God does
stands forever,
and nothing can be added to it
or taken from it;
thus should men
stand in awe of Him.

Whatever is
and whatever shall be
already were;
whatever is chosen by man
was sought by God.

Even in courts of justice
evil can be found,
and ultimately God will judge
the righteous and the wicked alike,
as their actions occur
at the time of God’s choosing,
and God created man as a type of beast,
sharing a common fate,
originating in dust and returning thereto.
Who knows that the spirit of man ascends upward
while the spirit of a beast descends down into the earth?

Therefore I realize that there is nothing better for man
than to enjoy what he has acquired,
for that is his allotment,
and who is there
to bring him to see
what will be thereafter?

PREDATION

Strong on the Weak
4:1-3

But then there is the fact of oppression under the sun,
that is to say, the tears of the oppressed,
uncared for,
victims of the power of oppressors.
It makes me envy the dead over the living,
or even more those who have not yet been,
who have never seen the evil
that is done under the sun.

Peers on Each Other
4:4-6

Even the act of labor and competition—
it is a form of envy between peers
and partakes of that futility in the pursuit of wind.
On the other hand,
to sit on your hands and consume your own flesh
is foolish.
Better is the middle ground
of a mellow handful
over two fists full of toil.

Single On Oneself
4:7-12

Here is another example of futility under the sun:
The single without son or brother,
working only for himself without surcease,
never satisfied with enough wealth,
depriving himself for the sake of no one else—
an evil practice.

Two are better than one:
They enjoy more for their labor;
and if one should fall,
the other is there to lift him—
but in that event,
woe to the single!—
not to mention the warmth enjoyed
by two who lie together
in contrast to the single.
Two are better in defense than one,
and three are even more secure!

Kings on Kings
4:13-16

Better fares the poor child but wise
than the old king too foolish to accept advice.
Then,
one born poor may walk
even out of prison a king.
Besides these,
I have observed the acclaim
given by people
to yet another successor.
But then,
those who come still later
show no pleasure with him.
Here we have
many changes of throne
which only reflect futility
and the pursuit of wind!

Fools on God
4:17

When you go the House of God,
watch your step:
Drawing near to learn
is greater than
sacrifice by fools,
who ignore the doing of wrong.

KEEP YOUR WORDS FEW AND TRUE
5:1-6

Keep few your words to God,
for He is in heaven
and you are on the earth;
a multitude of words
reflects a multitude of confusion.

Better not to promise God
a voluntary offering
than to promise and not pay;
so if you do so vow,
fulfill your vow on time
without excuse;
simply fear God!

CORRUPTION IS SYSTEMIC
5:7-8

Be not surprised
to find corruption
in the government:
it is on every level;
and atop the column
of oppression
sits the king,
the source of whose profit
is the land’s cultivation.

THE DUBIOUS BENEFIT OF PROSPERITY
5:9-19

Those who love silver
will never be satisfied with silver;
abundant in wealth,
they cease to appreciate
new earning—
what futility is this!

The greater the prosperity
the more its creditors;
its only use of its gain to its owners
is to behold it.
As for consumption,
it will not help
the prosperous to sleep,
whereas the laborer
will sleep,
however much he consumes.

I have seen
this malignant evil
under the sun:
the accumulation of riches
with evil intent.
Moreover, he may easily lose
what he has accumulated,
left with as little as when he began
and lacking anything
to bequeath his children.
As he came out naked
from the womb of his mother,
thus shall be return
for any labor that he expended
or trouble that he suffered
for his gain.

Nonetheless,
whatever God has given a man
has been intended by God
for his enjoyment,
so let him take his portion
to eat and drink,
and rejoice in his labor,
remembering that
the days of his life are not many.

THE EVIL OF FRUSTRATION
6:1-12

If God has given a man
all of the property and honor
that he could possibly want,
yet, for whatever reason,
no opportunity to enjoy it himself,
what utter futility!
It matters not
how many years
or how many children
have been given him;
I say a stillborn child
is more fortunate than he,
for the stillborn has no experience,
is noted by no name,
he comes and goes in darkness,
never having seen the sun.
Where he ends up
is the same place where
the frustrated man
who lives for thousands of years
ends up.

Yes, a man strives
to satisfy his appetites,
yet his appetite is not fulfilled.
He is better off to enjoy
merely having his appetites!

Whatever has preceded
is known and named,
including the man.
All of the many words that there are
increase vanity without helping the man.
For who knows what is good for a man,
for the duration of his days of vanity,
which he spends like a shadow?
Who can tell a man
what will come after him
under the sun?

LEARN FROM THE WISE
7:1-22

An earned reputation
is more to be valued
than prominent anointment,
as is the day of death
than the day of one’s birth,
for there is more to be gained
about life
from the house of mourning
than from a mere celebration.

There is more to be learned
from anger than from laughter,
from the wise in sorrow
than from the fool in mirth,
from thoughtful rebuke
than from thoughtless praise—
although extortion and bribery
may yet corrupt the wise.

All told,
the end of a thing
is better than its beginning,
patience than anger or arrogance,
bad new times than the good old days.

Wisdom is more affordable
with an inheritance than without,
but the knowledge provided by wisdom
in any case
is a boon to life.

Accept and respect the work of God,
for who can settle what He has convolved:
embrace your good day,
and recognize the evil that comes your way
also as the doing of God,
keeping in mind
that there is no alternative.
Adhere not exclusively
to either righteousness or wickedness,
for there are righteous
who perish in their righteousness
as there are wicked
who thus die before their time.
Rather, fear God
as you hold on to both.

Wisdom prevails for the wise
over a multitude of rulers,
and the limits of your popularity
should be merged
with your criticism of others.

MY OWN “SUCCESS”
7:23-29

All of the aforementioned
have I tried
with respect to wisdom:
it is far from me,
so deep, who can find it?
Only one man among a thousand
have I found.
Yet I search for its understanding of things
and to know wickedness
as the foolishness that it is.

I find more bitter than death
the woman who is a trap
to be avoided with God’s help.
Nonetheless, I have found,
God created the man upright;
it is they who have figured ways around it.

BE PRUDENT BEFORE POWER
8:1-9

The wise man,
knowing the interpretation of a thing,
shows it in his
glowing and resolute visage.

Follow the king’s command,
remembering that he has taken an oath to God.
Take care not to hurry out of his presence,
also not to be involved in some evil plot,
for the king does whatever he wishes
while the subject cannot rule over the wind.

THE LIMIT OF WISDOM
8:10-17

I have seen wicked men buried
and succeeded by their sons,
while other men are distanced from a holy place
and their achievements forgotten in their city—
what futility there is in this!
When people observe
the impunity of wrongdoers,
their hearts are filled
with temptation to sin.
Yet I know that those who fear God
will fare well,
unlike the wicked,
devoid of fear,
whose days
pass away like a shadow.

So when it appears in the world
that righteous and wicked fare alike,
the trouble of righteousness
seeming futile thereby,
I counsel man
to eat, drink and be happy,
as the fitting accompaniment of his labor
for all the days of his life
that God grants him under the sun!

This is my practical response
to the acknowledged dilemma
apparent in the work of God,
which a man,
though he labor day and night,
shall not find the wisdom to explain.

LIFE AS AN ANTIDOTE TO FUTILITY
9:1-10

All that happens to
the righteous and wise
and to those who serve them
is in the hand of God,
whether for good or for bad,
and no one knows what it shall be.

All things come alike to all,
whether to the righteous or to the wicked,
to the pure or impure,
to the one who worships
as to the one who does not worship.
This is the worst thing that happens under the sun,
as men are left thereby to plan evil while alive—
and then they all go to the dead!

Yet there is the security
of being counted among the living:
a living dog is better than a dead lion.
The living know that they will die,
while the dead know nothing
and cannot expect the gratification
that can come to the living,
nor do they exist in remembrance.
Their love, their hatred, their envy,
all have perished;
they have no more portion
of anything that is done under the sun.

So go and eat happily your bread,
drink your wine goodheartedly—
this is what God wants!
Wear white garments,
pour oil upon your head abundantly!
Enjoy life with the woman you love
all the days of your futile life,
for that is your portion in life
and in your labor under the sun.
Whatever you can achieve in life,
achieve!
For there is no achievement or measure
or knowledge or wisdom in She’ol,
where you are going.

THE STRENGTH OF WISDOM
9:11-18

Upon continued reflection
have I observed:

Victory of the race is not to the swift,
war is not won by heroes,
bread is not secured by the wise,
riches are not awarded to the intelligent,
nor acclaim to the knowledgeable.

Time and chance befall all men.
A man knows not his time
like fish who are caught in a net
or birds who are trapped in a snare;
his time befalls him without warning.

Once there was a little city,
the home of a few men,
it was besieged by a mighty king.
One of its inhabitants,
impoverished yet wise,
found a way, through his wisdom,
to rescue the city.
Yet no one paid him heed.

Wisdom proved greater than strength,
but the wisdom of that impoverished one was despised,
his words were disregarded.

The quiet words of the wise
are better heard
than the cry of a ruler among fools.
Wisdom is better than the weapons of war,
yet it takes only one sinner to ruin much good.

DISTINGUISH WISDOM FROM FOLLY
10:1-20

Just as a lethargic fly
can ruin a batch of perfume,
so may a pinch of folly
undermine wisdom and honor.
The heart of a wise man
is at his right hand,
while the heart of a fool
is at his left;
on the road,
unsure of his heart altogether,
the fool is seen
for what he is.

If the ruler’s ire pursues you,
stand your ground,
because presence of mind
calms the greatest of aggressors.
An evil that I have seen under the sun
is the ruler’s committing an error:
a fool is installed in a high place
while the worthy sits below.
I have beheld servants riding upon horses
and princes walking along like servants.
Remember, he who digs a pit
may be inclined to fall into it!
(Cf. Proverbs 26:27; Psalms 7:16; 57:7)
Let the wise man only remember
to prepare the defense that is at hand:
if it be iron, be sure to sharpen it
so that the blade is ready to apply
with the slightest effort!
If the serpent should bite
before it is charmed,
then there is no profit in being a charmer.

Recognize the fool
for his multitude of meaningless words,
for his lack of common sense,
in contrast to the gracious speech
of the wise.

Prefer the kingly qualifications of
maturity, independence, and temperance,
over impressionable youth and indulgence.
Laziness will undermine the house
for failure to maintain it.
Rather, apply the prescriptions of
feasting, drinking and merriment,
as the rewards of diligence.
And whatever you do,
curse not the king within your mind
or the privileged within your bed,
lest the wings of birds carry your words.

FERTILITY AND FUTILITY
11:1-10

Cast your bread upon the waters:
risk your wealth in maritime trade,
for the prospect of its future gain.

Consume a small portion of your gain now,
save as much as possible for the future,
since you do not know what the future holds.

Let the rain and the trees fall where they may;
in other words, expect some rainy days
and unrecoverable losses.
Don’t waste your opportunities by inaction,
worrying about the wind and the rain.
You can no more predict the storm
than you can understand the growth
of a child’s bones in the mother’s womb.
These are the work of God;
they need not stop you
from doing your part:
sow your seed in the morning,
and again in the evening,
knowing not in advance
the success of either or both!

Enjoy the sweet light of the sun
for as many years as you live,
keeping in mind the dark days
of futility that will follow.

Yes, rejoice, young man,
with cheerful heart,
in your youth,
and as you follow
your feelings and your senses,
know that for all this
God will bring you to judgment.
In the meantime,
employ your heart and your flesh
for good,
even as childhood and adulthood
are, in the end, futile.

PREPARE FOR THE END
12:1-14

So remember your Creator
when you are still young,
before your years
rob you of enjoyment,
before your sun is darkened
and the rain is punctuated
only by clouds,
when the supporters of your house
lose their strength,
and your means
of taste and sight,
of breath and sound,
are dulled,
except for your start
at the unexpected
shrill cry,
when the arts and the fruits
which once gave you pleasure
have become impenetrable
and inaccessible,
and that which was your high place
you now fear to ascend.

For the man now proceeds
to his eternal home,
surrounded by mourners
on the way,
knowing that the silver cord
will be severed,
as will its connected vital organs,
and the dust will return to the earth as it was,
the spirit, to God who gave it.

What futility seems all of this,
says the congregant (ha-koheleth).

But besides being wise in and of himself,
Koheleth taught the people
through speaking,
based on research,
and enabled by the metaphors he created.
He chose words which would be embraced,
created writings of integrity,
vehicles of truth.

Words of wisdom are instruments of edification;
so many are they
that they have been collected in books.
But those that are true
emanate from a single Shepherd!
Waste not your time with the others,
but fear God,
observe His commandments—
that alone will occupy all of a man—
and in the end God will be the Judge
of every act,
apparent or not,
both the good and the bad,
in the end
God is the Judge.

SHABBAT CHOL HAMOED
Exodus 33:12-34:26

Prologue: The First Set of Tablets

The Eternal gave Moses on Mount Sinai two stone tablets of testimony (edut) inscribed by “the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18).  But in Moses’s absence the people made a molten calf of gold and began to worship it.  Whereupon the Eternal dismissed Moses from the mountain and sent him down to see for himself what his people had done.  Moses went down the mountain, carrying with him the tablets, that were “the work of God with God’s writing incised upon them” (Exodus 32:16).  But when he drew near enough to the people to see the “calf” that they had made and to witness their “celebration,” “angrily he threw down the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain” (Exodus 32:19).  Moreover, the Eternal told Moses: I shall not continue this journey in your midst, “because you are a stiffnecked people and I am liable to destroy you on the way” (Exodus 33:3), “but now My angel shall go before you” (Exodus 32:34).

THE ETERNAL REASSURES MOSES
33:12-23

Moses says to the Eternal: See, you tell me to continue this journey, but (cf. Exodus 33:7-11) whom will You send with me to bring up this people (Exodus 33:12a; cf. Exodus 33:2)?  Moses acknowledges that the Eternal has confirmed revelation of His Name to him (Exodus 33:12b; cf. Exodus 6:2ff.) and that he has found favor in His sight (Exodus 33:12c), but he implores the Eternal: “Make known to me Your plan so that I may continue to understand you and thereby continue to find favor in Your sight” (Exodus 33:13a)!

Then Moses adds a rejoinder to earlier words of the Eternal.  When the Eternal disclosed to Moses the sin of the golden calf, He said to him, “Go, descend, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, has corrupted” (Exodus 32:7).  Now Moses concludes his request for divine clarification by insisting, notwithstanding, “And see that this nation is Your people” (Exodus 33:13b)!

Thereupon the Eternal reassures Moses on both points, “My face shall go, and I grant it to you” (Exodus 33:14).  Moses responds that only if Your face shall go, should He bring them up from their current place (Exodus 33:15).  Moreover, it would be known thereby that both “I and Your people” have found favor in Your sight, for “when You go with us,” we—”I and Your people”—are thereby distinguished “from every other people that is upon the face of the earth” (Exodus 33:16)!

The Eternal again assures Moses that He will grant him his wish and that he retains divine favor and acquaintance (Exodus 33:17).  Moses responds, “Then show me Your Kavod (‘Grave Presence,’ often translated ‘Glory’)” (Exodus 33:18).  The Eternal answers: “I can show you My Goodness, I can declare to you My Name (referred to herein as ‘the Eternal’), and I can demonstrate My Favor by My Compassion, but no living person can see ‘My Face’” (Exodus 33:19-20).  The Eternal then proposes: You can take your place “with Me” in the cleft of a rock, and as “My Kavod passes by…I shall put My hand over you…then, when I remove My hand, you shall see My Back, but My Face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:21-23).

THE SECOND SET OF TABLETS
34:1-26

Moses Ascends

The Eternal tells Moses to “carve two tablets of stone like the first ones, and I shall write upon the tablets the words which were on the first tablets that you shattered” (Exodus 34:1). Then, in the morning, you shall go up to Mount Sinai and be present to Me there upon the top of the mountain.  Let no one else come up with you, not even be seen in all the mountain, and let no flock or herd be pastured at the foot of the mountain.  So does Moses, taking up with him the two tablets of stone in his hand.

The Eternal Descends

The Eternal descends in the cloud and stands with him there, proclaiming the Name of the Eternal.  The Eternal passes over his face and declares, “The Eternal, the Eternal, God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, preserving lovingkindness for the thousandth, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, but without acquitting, visiting the iniquity of fathers upon children and upon children’s children to the third generation and to the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7; cf. Exodus 33:18-23).

Moses Requests Divine Presence

Moses quickly bows down to the ground and prays, “If indeed I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, let the Lord go in our midst” (Exodus 34:9a), offering the very reason of the Eternal’s previous demurral (cf. Exodus 33:3) as cause to grant his request for reconsideration: “For it is a stiff-necked people” (Exodus 34:9b)!  Therefore he asks audaciously: “Forgive our iniquity and our sin, and accept us as an inheritance” (Exodus 34:9c)!

The Eternal Outlines His Covenant

The Eternal responds by taking into account what has preceded: I hereby make a covenant.  I shall perform before the people, in whose midst you are, awesome wonders that have not been created before.  Observe well what I command you this day!  (Exodus 34:10-11a)

Do not make a molten god.  I am expelling from before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  Do not worship another, for the Eternal is a jealous God.  Take care not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the Land that you may encounter, but break down their altars, shatter their pillars, and cut down their idols, lest they become a snare in your midst and you make a covenant with them and sacrifice to their gods and accept their invitation to eat of their sacrifices, or you marry your sons to their daughters and your sons are drawn to their wives’ gods.  (Exodus 34:11b-17)

Observe the Festival of Pesach.  For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, for the festival of the month of Aviv, as in that month you went out from Egypt.  (Exodus 34:18)

All that opens the womb is Mine.  Sanctify the firstborn males of ox and sheep.  Redeem with a lamb the firstborn of an ass, otherwise break its neck.  Redeem every firstborn of your sons.  Let them not appear before Me empty-handed.  (Exodus 34:19-20)

Six days shall you work.  On the seventh day shall you rest.  You shall rest in ploughing and in harvest.  (Exodus 34:21)

Observe for yourself the Festival of Weeks, first fruit of the wheat harvest.  (Exodus 34:22a)

Observe the Festival of Ingathering, at the completion of the year.  (Exodus 34:22b)

Three times in the year shall all of your males appear before the Lord, the Eternal, the God of Israel.  For I will drive out nations from before you and expand your territory, so that no one will covet your property when you go up to appear before the Eternal your God.  (Exodus 34:23-24)

You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice when leavened bread is there, and the sacrifice of the Festival of Pesach shall not remain overnight until morning.  (Exodus 34:25)

The prime quality of the First Fruits of your Land shall you bring to the house of the Eternal your God.  (Exodus 34:26a)

Do not boil a kid in the milk of its mother.  (Exodus 34:26b)

Maftir for Shabbat Third Day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot
Numbers 29:23-28

On the Fourth Day, ten bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the fifth day, nine bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

FOURTH DAY OF CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT
Numbers 29:26-34

On the Fifth Day, nine bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

On the Sixth Day, eight bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libations.

On the Seventh Day, seven bulls, two rams, and fourteen year-old lambs, without blemish.  Their meal offering and their libations, for the bulls, for the rams, and for the lambs, shall be in prescribed amounts.  There shall be one goat for a sin offering.  All of this is besides the regular burnt offering, its meal offering, and its libation.

HOSHANAH RABBAH
Same as Fourth Day of Chol Hamoed Sukkot

 

FROM THE PROPHETS

Haftarah for the First Day of Sukkot
Zechariah 14:1-21

Behold, the Eternal’s Day is coming,
when your spoil shall be divided in your midst.
I shall gather all of the nations for war against Jerusalem,
the city shall be captured,
the houses plundered,
the women raped,
half of the city shall go into exile,
while the rest of the people shall remain.

The Eternal shall fight against those nations,
as He fought in the day of battle,
His feet standing on the Mount of Olives,
which faces Jerusalem from the east,
and the Mount shall be split between east and west,
with a large valley between them,
and half of the Mount shall move to the north,
while the other half shall move to the south.

You shall flee to the valley,
the valley reaching as far as Atzel,
as you fled from the earthquake
in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah,
and the Eternal, my God,
shall come for you
together with all of the holy ones.

On that day there shall be
no natural light of any kind,
a day known only by the Eternal,
neither day nor night;
at the time of evening
there shall be light!
Living waters shall come out of Jerusalem,
flowing equally to the eastern sea and to the western sea,
in the summer and in the winter.
The Eternal shall become King over the earth;
on that day shall the Eternal be one
and His Name one.

All the Land shall be turned
low like the Aravah,
from Geva to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem,
and Jerusalem shall be elevated and populated,
from the Gate of Benjamin to the First Gate
as far as the Corner Gate,
from the Tower of Chananel
to the Royal Winepresses,
and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety.

The Eternal shall strike with a plague
all of the peoples who waged war on Jerusalem:
their flesh and their eyes and their tongue shall rot;
the resulting havoc will cause
each one to attack his neighbor,
Judah will wage war against Jerusalem
and will collect the wealth of all of the surrounding nations—
gold, silver and fine clothing in abundance.
All of the beasts in those camps
shall experience a plague like this:
the horses, mules, camels, and asses.

All of the remnant of those nations
who came up against Jerusalem
shall go up from year to year
to worship the King, the Eternal of Hosts,
and to celebrate the Festival of Sukkot.
Upon the families of the earth who do not go up,
there shall be no rain.
Upon the families of Egypt who do not go up,
there shall be the plague.

On that day there shall be
on the bells of the horses
“Holy to the Eternal,”
and the pots in the House of the Eternal
shall be like the pans before the Altar.
Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah
shall be “Holy to the Eternal of hosts,”
and all sacrificers will take of them
and cook in them,
and there will no longer be traders
in the House of the Eternal of Hosts
on that day.

Haftarah for the Second Day of Sukkot
I Kings 8:2-21

All of the men of Israel join King Solomon in the month of Etanim, at the Festival of the Seventh Month, and all of the Elders of Israel come with them.  The Kohanim and the Levites carry the Ark of the Eternal and the Tent of Meeting and all of the sacred vessels in the Tent.  The King and all of the community of Israel who are with him sacrifice innumerable animals of flock and herd.

The Kohanim bring the Ark of the Eternal’s Covenant to its place, to the Devir of the House, to the Holy of Holies.  The Cherubim spread their wings over the Ark and its staves.

The staves were long enough for their ends to be seen, from the Sanctuary, above the Devir, but they could not be seen outside; and there they have been until this day.  In the Ark there were only the two tablets of stone, placed there by Moses at Horeb, which the Eternal covenanted with the Children of Israel in their Exodus from the land of Egypt.

As the Kohanim go out from the Sanctuary, a cloud fills the House of the Eternal, preventing them from staying to minister, for the Kavod  (Grave Presence) of the Eternal fills the Eternal’s House.

Then Solomon speaks:  The Eternal has said that He will dwell in thick darkness (cf. Exodus 20:18; Leviticus 16:2).  Now I have built for You an exalted habitation for You to dwell in forever!  The King then turns to the congregation, and as he blesses them, all of the congregation rises.

He speaks further:  Blessed is the Eternal, the God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to David, my father, and authorized him in accordance with these words.  From the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I did not choose a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a House to bear My Name, but I chose David to be over My people Israel.  It was the wish of David, my father, to build a House in the Name of the Eternal, God of Israel.  To my father He said: Insofar as it was in your heart to build a House in My Name, you did well that it was in your heart.  However, you shall not build the House, but your son, who emerges from your loins, he shall build the House in My Name.

Solomon continues:  So does the Eternal fulfill His promise, and I arise in the stead of David my father to sit upon the Throne of Israel, as the Eternal promised, and to build the House in the Name of the Eternal, God of Israel.  So have I put there a place for the Ark, containing the Covenant of the Eternal, which He made with our fathers when He brought them out from the land of Egypt.

Haftarah for Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot
Ezekiel 38:18-39:16

When Gog attacks the soil of Israel, says the Lord God, My anger shall well up.  I commit with passionate wrath a great commotion upon it, moving the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the beasts of the field, everything that crawls upon the earth, and all the people upon the Land, toppling mountains and walls!  I shall call for the sword throughout My mountains, a sword shall there be of each man against his brother!  I shall enter in judgment with him and his allies, by pestilence and blood, by driving rain and stones of hail, by fire and brimstone.  Thereby shall My greatness be known to many nations, and they shall know that I am the Eternal.

Now you, son of man, prophesy concerning Gog:  Thus says the Lord God, I am against you, O Gog, head prince of Meshech and Tubal (cf. Genesis 10:2), and I will bring you up from the distant north and release you upon the mountains of Israel, striking your bow from your left hand and your arrows from your right!  You and your allies shall be prey for the birds and the beasts.  I shall send fire upon Magog and upon all who dwell securely in far-off islands; yes, they shall know that I am the Eternal!

I shall make My holy Name known in the midst of My people Israel and not let it be profaned anymore; thereby shall the nations know that I am the Eternal, the Holy One in Israel!  The day that I have promised shall come about: the inhabitants of Israel’s cities shall burn all of their weaponry for seven years, so that they will not need wood to be cut from their forests, and they shall despoil their despoilers.

On that day I shall provide Gog a burial place in Israel, in the Valley of Passers, east of the sea.  The place shall become noteworthy and be called the Valley of Gog’s Horde.  There shall all of the House of Israel bury them, to purify the Land, for seven months, to mark My victory; and even after seven months specially-designated buriers shall recover the unburied remains of Gog and bury them in the Valley of Gog’s Horde, to purify the Land.  Horde (Hamonah) shall also be the name of a city.

FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH

Leviticus Rabbah 27:10
The Sabbath Queen

“When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born,
it shall stay with its mother for seven days;
then, from the eighth day onward,
it is acceptable for a fire offering to the Eternal.”
(Leviticus 22:27)

Rabbi Joshua of Sichnin in the name of Rabbi Levi taught:  This may be compared to the conquering king who decrees that none of the population shall see him before they have seen his queen.  Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He: You shall not bring Me an offering before the Sabbath has passed over it, as there are no seven days without a Sabbath!

Similarly there is no circumcision without a Sabbath.  That is what is meant by: “From the eighth day onward it is acceptable!”

Leviticus Rabbah 27:8
Unjustified Accusations

“When an ox or a sheep or a goat is born…”
(Leviticus 22:27)

What did He see
to mention the ox
before all of the other
sacrificial animals?

Said Rabbi Levi:  It may be compared to the case of a lady whose reputation was besmirched by one of the nobles in the kingdom.  The king looked into the facts and found no basis for the rumor.  So he put on a banquet and placed the noble who had started the rumor at the head of the table.  What did all of the king’s efforts accomplish?  They let it be known that he had looked into the facts and found no basis for the rumor!  So the nations of the world harass Israel: You made the golden calf!  But the Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the facts and found no basis for the accusation.  For that reason, the ox was made chief of all the offerings, as is written: “An ox or a sheep or a goat…!”

Rabbi Huna and Rabbi Ayvu in the name of Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman argued in support that if Israel had made the golden calf, then they would have produced the rallying cry, “This is our God, O Israel!” Instead, it must have been the non-Israelites who came up with them from Egypt who made the golden calf and then egged them on by saying, “This is your God, O Israel” (Exodus 32:4)!

Sifra Emor 8 Parshata 10 Perek 12:12
Expansive Offering

“When you reap the harvest of your Land,
do not wholly reap the corner of your field,
and do not gather the leftovers of your harvest.
Leave them for the poor and for the stranger.
I, the Eternal, am your God.”
(Leviticus 23:22)

Rabbi Avardimas son of Rabbi Yosi asks why this commandment of providing corners and leftovers of the harvest for the poor is placed in the Torah alone amid instructions for festival offerings.  (The commandment was first included in Leviticus 19:9 among general matters of holiness and rules of fair treatment.)  The reason for its placement here, amid festival offerings, is to teach that one who provides corners and leftovers of the harvest for the poor is acting as if the Temple is standing and he is bringing his festival offerings to it.  Obversely, one who fails to provide corners and leftovers of the harvest for the poor is acting as if the Temple is standing and he is not bringing his festival offerings to it.

Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush ben Yechiel Michel, 19th cent.): One of the purposes and benefits of the festivals was to provide for the kohanim and for the poor, both of whom depended upon the sustenance of God’s table, as in Deuteronomy 26:12: “You shall provide for the Levite, for the stranger, for the orphan, and for the widow…”, and elsewhere.  The insertion of this mitzvah here indicates that these provisions must continue beyond the festivals themselves to gifts from the harvest and that these gifts to the poor are on the same level as the festival offerings from which the kohanim derive sustenance, coexisting with the spirit of Deuteronomy 18:1: “The Kohanim, the Levites, all of the tribe of Levi, shall not share any portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall consume the fire offerings of the Eternal and His inheritance.”  Providing for the poor is observed for the entire year, and also after the Temple has been destroyed. Obversely, one who does not provide a portion for the poor resembles one who holds back from bringing his offerings to the Temple!

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 27:1
The Greatest Acquisition

“You shall acquire for yourselves
the fruit of a splendid tree…”
(Leviticus 23:40)

“A good acquisition have I given you,
My Torah,
do not forsake it!”
(Proverbs 4:2)

Rabbi Abba bar Kahana opened his discourse with the verse:

“Wisdom calls…
Acquire my teaching, and not silver;
and knowledge over fine gold!”
(Proverbs 8:1, 10)

He then explained:

“Acquire My teaching…,” meaning: Acquire the teaching of Torah rather than silver!

“Why pay out silver for that which is not bread,
and your toil for that which does not satisfy?”
(Isaiah 55:2)

“Why do you pay out silver…” to the children of Esau?  (“Children of Esau” refers to the Roman conquerors of Judea.)  Is it not “for that which is not bread?!”  That is to say, what you are paying for does not provide you with the nourishment of Torah! “…And your toil for that which does not satisfy?” Why do you toil for the benefit of foreign nations?  “Which does not satisfy”: Wherein you have derived no benefit from the “bread” of Torah or the “wine” of Torah, as wisdom implied, “Come, eat of My bread, and drink of the wine I have prepared” (Proverbs 9:5)!

So much so—according to Rabbi Berechia and Rabbi Chiya his father in the name of Rabbi Yosi son of Rabbi Nehorai—that the prophet foresaw that Jacob’s children would be reconstituted by God as before, “and (in addition) I shall overrule all who squeeze him” (Jeremiah 30:20), including even charity collectors—except for those who receive stipends for teaching Mishnah and Bible as compensation for their idleness from gainful employment!  Whereas a payment for teaching even one word of Torah no one could rightfully provide!

It was taught:  At the beginning of the year responsibility for meals to students and scholars is assigned.  But this does not include what they receive on holidays, sabbaths, new moons, intermediate festival days, and what children bring to school.  How little or how much they receive depends on how little or how much is contributed.

Rabbi Yochanan journeyed from Tiberias to Sepphoris accompanied by Rabbi Chiya bar Abba.  When they came to a certain farm, Rabbi Yochanan said: I used to own this farm, but I had to sell it in order to engage in the study of Torah.  When they came to a certain vineyard, Rabbi Yochanan said: I used to own this vineyard, but I had to sell it in order to engage in the study of Torah.  When they came to a certain olive grove, Rabbi Yochanan said: I used to own this grove, but I had to sell it in order to engage in the study of Torah.  Rabbi Chiya bar Abba began to weep.  Why are you crying? asked Rabbi Yochanan.  I am crying, he said, because you have nothing left for your old age.  He said to him: Chiya my son, do you really think that it was a mistake on my part to sell what was made in six days in order to acquire something that was made in forty days and forty nights?  So was the entire world created in six days, “For in six days the Eternal made the heavens and the earth” (Exodus 31:17), but the Torah was not given until the completion of forty days and forty nights, as is written, “And he (Moses) was there (on Mount Sinai) with the Eternal for forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 34:28)!  When Rabbi Yochanan died, his generation said of him, “Even if one offered all of his wealth for love” (Song of Songs 8:7), as Rabbi Yochanan loved the Torah, “he would be scorned” (ibid.)!

Song of Songs Rabbah 8:7:  “Mighty waters cannot quench love…” (ibid.), those “mighty waters” being the nations of the world; “…even if one offered all of its wealth for love” (ibid.), even if any of the nations of the world opened up its treasuries for one word of Torah, “it would be scorned” (ibid.), it would be of no avail to them!

“You shall acquire for yourselves
(1) the fruit of a splendid tree,
(2) branches of palm trees,
(3) a bough of a leafy tree, and
(4) willows of the brook…”
(Leviticus 23:40)

Said Rabbi Abba bar Kahana:  From the reward of acquiring in Egypt you may infer the reward of acquiring the four species of lulav.  In Egypt, Moses ordered the Elders: “Acquire a bunch of hyssop” (Exodus 12:22) to apply the blood of the Pesach to the lintel and doorposts of your houses.  For how much in cost?  For four or five coins, which enabled you to enjoy the spoils of victory when you left Egypt, when you crossed the Red Sea, when you defeated Sichon and Og, and thirty-one kings.  Now, a lulav, how much the moreso, for while it costs much the same as a bunch of hyssop, it enables you to perform several mitzvot by virtue of the four species that are bound with it!  Therefore Moses charges Israel, “You shall acquire for yourselves on the First Day” the four species” (Leviticus 23:40)!

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 27:2
Signal of Victory

“You shall take for yourselves
on the First Day
the fruit of a splendid tree,
branches of palm trees,
a bough of a leafy tree,
and willows of the brook
(the four species constituted in lulav and etrog),
to rejoice before the Eternal your God
for these seven days.”
(Leviticus 23:40)

“Make known to me the path of life;
in Your presence is abundant joy,
pleasure in Your right hand forever!”
(Psalms 16:11)

Said David before the Holy One, blessed be He:  Master of the universe, when petitioners appear before me, “make known to me the path of life!”—How can I know which of the petitioners is to be favored?

When this was debated among the Rabbis, one said: Favor the group who comes with the scholarship of Torah and charitable deeds.  The other opinion was: Favor those who teach Bible and Mishnah rigorously to children.

Rabbi Abin compared the question to two groups of litigants who come before the judge.  How do we know which of the two prevails?  The one who emerges carrying the palm—we know that he is the victor.  (A palm was the signal of victory throughout the ancient Middle East and Mediterranean.)

Thus, when Israel and the other nations present their cases before the Holy One, blessed be He, on Rosh Hashanah, we have no way of knowing which of them prevails, except for the fact that Israel emerges joyously from before the Holy One, blessed be He, with their lulavs and etrogs in their right hands!

Therefore, Moses was careful to prepare Israel with lulav and etrog “on the First Day!”

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 27:6
Honest Acquisition

“You shall take for yourselves…”
(Leviticus 23:40)

These words can be construed literally: You shall take that which is for yourselves, i.e., that which belongs to you.  Rabbi Chiya taught: The taking should be of that which is yours, not of that which belongs to someone else, such as that which was stolen.

Said Rabbi Levi:  The taking up of a stolen lulav is a case of one’s defender turning into his prosecutor.  This may be compared to a highwayman who robbed a tax collector who was on his way to perform his duty.  The highwayman took all that the tax collector had collected.  Eventually the highwayman was arrested and about to be put on trial before the king.  The tax collector went to the highwayman and promised to testify on his behalf if he would return to the tax collector all that he had stolen from him.  All that the highwayman had left of what he had stolen from the tax collector was a single rug, so he gave him that.

When the tax collector was called to testify, he recounted to the king:  You sent me to collect tax from a certain province, and this man held me up and took everything that I had, and this rug is a witness to what he did!  Whereupon all began to say: Woe to him whose defender turns into his prosecutor!

Similarly, a man takes a lulav to advocate for him, but if the lulav was stolen, it cries out before the Holy One, blessed be He, “I am stolen! I am robbed!” and the ministering angels say: Woe to him whose defender has turned into his prosecutor!

Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 27:9
The Inclusiveness of the Four Species

“The fruit of a splendid tree,
branches of palm trees,
a bough of a leafy tree,
and willows of the brook…”
(Leviticus 23:40)

The lulav and etrog, as a cluster of four species, represent Israel.  As the etrog has both taste and aroma, so also does Israel have those who both study Torah and perform good deeds.  Just as the fruit of date palms has taste but no aroma, so there are in Israel those who have knowledge of Torah but do not perform good deeds.  Just as the leafy bough of myrtle has aroma but no taste, so there are in Israel those who perform good deeds but lack knowledge of Torah.  Just as the willows of the brook have neither taste nor aroma, so are there in Israel those who lack knowledge of Torah and fail to perform good deeds.

When Moses commanded the banding together of the four species into a single cluster, he was reflecting the refusal of the Holy One, blessed be He, to omit any of the four.  Instead, He said, let them compensate one for the other!

Talmud Pesachim 50a
A Single Response

“On that day the Eternal shall be one…”
(Zechariah 14:9)

Why “on that day,” as in the future?  Is He not one now!  Said Rabbi Acha bar Chanina:  The difference may be found in how we respond to God’s decrees.  In this world we thank God for the good by saying, “Blessed is the One who is good and does good,” while for evil tidings we say, “Blessed is the true Judge.”  But in the future world all thanks shall be one; we shall respond to everything as to one, “Blessed is the One who is good and does good!”

Genesis Rabbah 58:2
Succession of the Righteous

“The sun rises, and the sun sets…”
(Ecclesiastes 1:5)

Said Rabbi Abba bar Kahana:  Do we not already know that the sun rises and the sun sets?  What does Ecclesiastes teach us with this verse?  What he teaches us is that before the Holy One, blessed be He, allows the sun of one righteous person to set, He causes the sun of a righteous successor to rise.  On the day that Rabbi Akiba died, our Rabbi (Judah Hanasi) was born, and they cited this verse for him: “The run rises, and the sun sets.”

Before the Holy One, blessed be He, let the sun of Sarah set, He caused the sun of Rebecca to rise:  First we have, “Abraham learns that Milcah too has borne eight sons to Nachor his brother: Utz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel father of Aram, Keshed, Chazo, Pildash, Yidlaf, and Bethuel, who begat Rebecca” (Genesis 22:20-23).  Only then we read, at the beginning of the next Sedra Chaye Sarah, “Sarah dies at Kiryat Arba…” (Genesis 23:2).

Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13
Genesis Rabbah 14:6
Preservation and Repair

When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the First Man, He took him around and showed him the trees of the Garden of Eden.  He said to him:  See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are, and all that I have created, I have created for you.  Therefore take care not to destroy My world!  For if you ruin it, there will be no one after you who can repair what you have destroyed:

“The crooked cannot be made straight
nor can the wanting be found.”
(Ecclesiastes 1:15)

“Accept and respect the work of God,
for who can settle what He has convolved…”
(Ecclesiastes 7:13)

̶̶̶ ̶̶̶

“The Eternal God formed the man,
dust from the earth…”
(Genesis 2:7)

Said Rabbi Levi: The first man, of course, was Adam, but “the man” is “the man who was great among the giants…” (Joshua 14:15), Abraham.  He was called “great” because, although he was worthy of being created before Adam, the first man, the Holy One, blessed be He, thought that the first man might make a mistake and then there would be no one to repair what he ruined.

Deuteronomy Rabbah 9:2
Unexpected Outcomes

“The race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the mighty,
nor even bread to the wise,
nor even riches to the understanding,
nor even grace to the skillful…”
(Ecclesiastes 9:11)

Said Rabbi Tanchuma: This truth is reflected in the life of Moses.

How so?

“The race is not to the swift…”

Yesterday he ascended to the firmament like an eagle, then he sought to cross the Jordan and was unable, as was said: “Ascend to the summit of Pisgah and raise your eyes west and north, south and east, and see with your eyes, for you shall not cross this Jordan” (Deuteronomy 3:27)!

“nor the battle to the mighty…”

Yesterday angels trembled before him, but now he says, “I am afraid of the fiery anger that the Eternal has shown to you…” (Deuteronomy 9:19)!

“nor even bread to the wise…”

Yesterday “a wise man went up to the place of angels and brought down the object of strength and confidence” (Proverbs 21:22) from heaven, but now it has been taken from him and given to Joshua son of Nun.  (Chidushey HaRadal [David Luria, 19th cent.]: “Bread” is a metaphor for Torah, as in Proverbs 9:1,5, “Wisdom has built her house…come, eat of my bread…”)

“nor even riches to the understanding…”

Yesterday the understanding one said to God with the confidence of a rich man, “Turn from your fierce anger” (Exodus 32:12)! and “Pardon, I demand, the iniquity of this people” (Numbers 14:19)! but now he speaks like one dispossessed, “I entreated the Eternal at that time…” (Deuteronomy 3:23): I beg of You, do me a favor!

“nor even grace to the skillful…”

Yesterday he was skilled in appeasing his Creator, “Arise, O Eternal One, let Your enemies be scattered…” (Numbers 10:35)! and “Repent, O Eternal One, for (allowing harm to) the many thousands of Israel” (Ibid. 36)!  (Maharzu: Grace was poured into his lips, God heard him and did what he asked.) But after he supplicated for his own survival all seven days (Maharzu: 1-7 Adar), at the end the Holy One, blessed be He, said to him, “Behold, your days to die are drawing near…” (Deuteronomy 31:14)!

Talmud Berachot 7a
Talmud Sanhedrin 27b
Theodicy

“Moses implores the Eternal:
Explain to me Your plan [derachecha]…”
(Exodus 33:13a)

Rabbi Yochanan in the name of Rabbi Yosi: Moses observed that the righteous do not always fare well and that the wicked do not always fare poorly, so he asked the Holy One, blessed be He, “Explain to me Your ways [derachecha],” that is, Your method for measuring out the just deserts of a person according to his goodness or wickedness.

He answered Moses:
When you see a righteous person who fares well,
he is a righteous person whose parents were righteous.

When you see a righteous person who fares poorly,
he is a righteous person whose parents were wicked.

When you see a wicked person who fares well,
he is a wicked person whose parents were righteous.

When you see a wicked person who fares poorly,
he is a wicked person whose parents were wicked.

But wait, it cannot be as simple as that,
for while the Eternal did pass over his face and declare:

“The Eternal, the Eternal…visiting the iniquity of parents upon children…”
(Exodus 34:6-7)

He has also taught us:

Children shall not be put to death on account of parents,
but a person shall be put to death for his own transgression.”
(Deuteronomy 24:16)

Yes, and both teachings can be sustained:

He visits the iniquity of fathers upon their children
who hold on to their parents’ ways,
and He forbears punishing children on account of parents
when they do not hold on to their parents’ ways.

With this explanation in mind,
we may explain God’s answer to Moses as follows:

A righteous person who fares well is fully righteous,
enjoying the benefit of his own righteousness and that of his parents.

A righteous person who fares poorly is not fully righteous,
suffering the diminution of his own righteousness by his parents’ wickedness.

A wicked person who fares well is not entirely wicked,
benefitting from the discounting of his own wickedness by his parents’ righteousness.

A wicked person who fares poorly is entirely wicked,
suffering from the burden of his own wickedness and that of his parents.

This is in accordance with the teaching: “And even by means of the iniquities of their fathers shall they rot” (Leviticus 26:39) when they hold their parents’ practice in their hands! — But it is not necessarily true that He visits the iniquity of parents upon children only when the children hold on to their parents’ evil way; it may be true even when they do not hold on, and is it not written,  “They shall stumble, one against his brother…” (Leviticus 26:37), understanding it “because of his brother,” that is, because of the sin of his brother (not necessarily his parents), thereby teaching that everyone is held responsible one for the other! — But the responsibility might be limited to situations where he could have restrained his fellow from sinning and did not!

Rabbi Meir took a different view from Rabbi Yochanan, that God did not grant Moses’s request to understand His method for measuring out the just deserts of a person (Exodus 33:13a: “Explain to me Your ways…”), but instead declared: “I can demonstrate My Favor” to whomever I please, worthy or not, “and I can show My Compassion” to whomever I please, worthy or not (cf. Exodus 33:19).  It is not for you to understand!

CHAG SAMEACH!

SHABBAT SHALOM!

Copyright © 2021 Eric H. Hoffman