SUC­COT

The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - RABBI NANCY MOR­RIS

“All who sur­vive of all those na­tions that came up against Jerusalem shall make a pil­grim­age year by year to bow low to the King, Lord of Hosts and to ob­serve the Feast of Booths. Any of the earth’s com­mu­ni­ties that does not make the pil­grim­age to Jerusalem to bow low to the King, Lord of Hosts shall re­ceive no rain” Zechariah 14: 16-17

Thus Zechariah presents his apoc­a­lyp­tic vi­sion of Suc­cot as the mes­sianic end of days for all na­tions, the tra­di­tional haf­tarah read­ing for the first day of Suc­cot. In it, he vi­su­alises the vi­o­lent de­struc­tion of Jerusalem and the plagues that will harm the na­tions that de­stroyed it.

All na­tions will come to wor­ship in Jerusalem on Suc­cot or face fur­ther calamity, par­tic­u­larly lack of wa­ter. Suc­cot man­ages to en­com­pass both the most particularistic rit­u­als of Jewish fes­ti­vals as well as the most uni­ver­sal­is­tic. The To­rah read­ing for Suc­cot con­tains many particularistic laws such as the four species, while Zechariah en­vi­sions a fu­ture when all non-Jews will join with Jews in wor­ship of the One God.

Many com­men­ta­tors, like Rashi, see the univer­sal­ist link be­tween Zechariah and Suc­cot as the fo­cus on wa­ter. How­ever, the ba­sic un­der­ly­ing premise is pu­n­ish­ment against the na­tions of the world for fail­ure to recog­nise the One God, by with­hold­ing the uni­ver­sal el­e­ment of life, wa­ter.

The Re­form liturgy has there­fore re­placed this tra­di­tional haf­tarah read­ing be­cause of its fo­cus on pu­n­ish­ment and vi­o­lent de­struc­tion in favour of a pas­sage from I Kings 8, in which Solomon prays at the ded­i­ca­tion of the Tem­ple. The pas­sage main­tains a univer­sal­ist vi­sion by de­scrib­ing for­eign peo­ples com­ing as in­di­vid­u­als to Jerusalem to pray to God. In this read­ing they do not wor­ship God for fear of pu­n­ish­ment, but be­cause they have heard the fame of God’s great name “and so come to pray in this House.”

Rabbi Irv­ing Green­berg ar­tic­u­lates th­ese pos­i­tive as­pects of Suc­cot’s univer­sal­ist vi­sion when he writes: “Suc­cot rit­u­als af­firm the ho­li­ness of plea­sure, even while they in­fuse plea­sure into the holy. The Suc­cot liturgy cel­e­brates ma­te­rial wealth even as it warns that it is ‘van­ity of van­i­ties’, [and in this way]… Suc­cot’s cen­tral rit­ual model – reen­act­ment of the jour­ney to lib­er­a­tion – be­comes the fore­shad­ow­ing of the Ex­o­dus way through hu­man his­tory to a uni­ver­sal Promised Land.”

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