Sukkos Blogging

1) We just hit the hoshanos against the floor this morning.  My father always said that you can determine a person’s lack of intelligence by  the amount of force he uses in smacking the aravos. The harder they hit it, the less refined they are. This really bothered him. He saw the anger during the hoshanah strike as ignorance.  

The early protagonists of Refrom- or Liberal Judaism- were utterly embarrased by the banging at the mention of Haman in the Orthodox synagogues. They juxtaposed this wild revelry with the decorum held sacrosant at the Christian houses of worship and Judaism seemed primitive and folksy in comparison. Of course, history has mostly proven them wrong in their search for a sanitized religion. But there was a general need to improve our worship in the places where a lack of a good Jewish education left the masses to revel in pettiness. The answer, as it turned out, wasn’t to Christianize Judaism, but to Judaize it. It would take a century or two for that to really happen.  

Nevertheless, it is through my father’s disdain for wild engagement in ritual- WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING- that I see some of what bothered the discerning eyes of  those who left the shul for the “House of the Organ, and eventually for the Church itself. 

2) I cancelled my almost-annual trip to KAJ for Hoshanos this morning because I live in a hotspot, and, although I have been davening almost exclusively outdoors since Yom Kippur, my wife felt that my presence might make others uncomfortable. You’re welcome. 

3) Mr. Marc Breuer s’l (that is z’l in German vernacular and not my usual way of writing it except when I want to feel heimish) was a Jewish educator while fleeing the Nazi’s through Vichy France. His lectures from that period were published in his “La Tohrah Commentee” (I have a copy of my own!) and are available online in English. In this week’s sedrah (Vezos Haberachah) he has an explanation for the unusual order in which Moses blesses the tribes at his death. See here: 

The bulk of his thoughts are in the epilogue with a tidbit beforehand explaining why Shimon is not mentioned. An alternate – slightly similar idea is found on OU Torah, here:

My father z’l as a young single entering a sukkah on a rooftop on Bennett Avenue. Possibly the Sukkah of Mr. Carl Stern z’l.

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