Having taken time off from work recently, my non Jewish colleagues were naturally interested as to how we celebrate Rosh Hashana. This is fairly easy to explain as our New Year, with symbolic honey for a sweet new year, round apples (as the year goes round) and time for reflection and a fresh start.
Chol Hamoed Succot
Chol Hamo’ed is the name for the days during Succot that fall in between the yomtovim at the beginning and end of the festival. Chol means secular or profane – the opposite of kedushah – holiness. We use the word chol in the Havdalah ceremony at the end of Shabbat when we distinguish between Shabbat and the working week. And mo’ed is associated with ohel mo’ed – the part of the Sanctuary which was protected by a tent – the Holy of Holies and in the Talmud known as the Camp of the Shechinah. ‘Can’t get much holier than that but yet we can work, travel and shop on chol ha’moed.
Dr Meesh Hammer-Kossoy notes that “The Mishnah states that just as the individual fate of each human being is judged by God on Rosh Hashanah, divine decisions about water for the coming year – i.e. about rainfall - are made on Succot (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:2). Similarly, Zechariah 14: 16-17 foretells of an age in which not observing Succot will be punished with drought. Many of the Succot rituals, both those observed only in the time of the temple and those still observed today, relate to the motif of rainfall and water.”
For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what was planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to search, and a time to give me thing up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; A time to ri
The Torah commands us to be happy on Sukkot. In our prayers we call it the “time of our joy”. But aren’t there many elements of Sukkot that make it feel like a period of sober endeavour?
The answer is not totally transparent. Really, every day in the Jewish year is a day fitting for joy and today suitable for thoughtful introspection.
During Sukkot, we read the Scroll of Kohelet, which is one of the five scrolls, to be found in the third Biblical section which is called Writings. In Hebrew the section is called Ketuvim. The Hebrew word for the Bible is Tanach, which is an abbreviation for Torah, Neviim, the prophets, and Ketuvim. The section of the Writings contains the books of the Bible which were not written by the prophets and which were written in the end of the Biblical era, in about the fifth century BCE. Bible scholars classify the Book of Kohelet as part of the collection of the Wisdom Literature.
In Succot shall you dwell for seven days… (Vayikra 23:42)
What is a Succah? I think many of us could offer a technical definition or an instruction manual for constructing a Succah but what is a Succah? To understand a thing well one is advised to visit the first time it is referenced in the Torah. Where is “Succah” first mentioned in Torah?