Thursday, October 5, 2017
A Poem for Sukkot by the Editor
Shlomo ben Moshe HaLevi
And you shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree, the branch of the palm tree, a bough from the avot tree, and willows of the stream, and you shall rejoice before your God for seven days. Leviticus 23:40
It rained in Kansas on Sukkot this year making
the waving of the lulav seem a bit unnecessary.
Ironically, the etrog we held together with the lulav
to complete the commandment had to be imported
from Israel this year a bit under ripened
due to a winter frost that nearly wiped
out Italy’s entire crop. Still, we could smell
the citrus fragrance of the fruit of a beautiful
tree right through the rind. It was cold and wet
in the sukkah, a source of complaint, but then we
imagined how it must have been for our ancestors
who had to sleep in makeshift booths in the fields
in order to maximize their time there. Those who
made this extra effort often endured frigid nights,
mud and rain, insect bites, and other minor discomforts,
but they were also blessed with more bountiful harvests,
an additional yield that insured they would survive
the coming year. Thus we their descendants are alive.
Editor's/Poet's Notes: Most Jews of the Diaspora these days do not mark Sukkot, but I personally find it to be a meaningful and festive holiday week. Every year as I take my meals in the sukkah enjoying the pleasant temperature, singing of birds, and beautiful trees, I make a vow (which I sadly never keep) to eat outside on my deck much more often in the coming year.
Yesterday it rained while my family and I waved the lulav. This is ironic, as the poem points out to the reader because the waving of lulav is done in part to ensure rain in its proper time, season, and amount.
The story about the etrog is truly what happened this year https://www.vosizneias.com/278247/2017/08/22/new-york-why-some-jews-are-paying-500-for-an-italian-etrog/?comments_sort=desc. My family and I feared as a result of the fruit being unripe and green instead of lemon yellow that it would lack any scent, but God made a little miracle for us here.
The poem, while free verse and definitely post-modern, contains many assonances, consonances, alliterations, and intra- and end-line rhymes, so that it reads much like a traditional form poem much of the time. It is exactly eighteen lines in length. This is no accident. The number eighteen is associated with "chai" (pronounced with a ch like the German "ach" not like the spicy tea beverage) meaning "life" in Hebrew. Without good harvests and proper rain, there would be no life, and without the sacrifices of the ancient Hebrews who upheld the commandments of Sukkot there would perhaps be no Jews.
Become an expert on the holiday of Sukkot by going here http://www.chabad.org/holidays/JewishNewYear/template_cdo/aid/4784/jewish/What-Is-Sukkot.htm. Chag sameach!