Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
Psychology, Medicine, Science, Politics, Oppression, Integrity, Philosophy, Jews

The Feast of Tabernacles, a Nothing Festival

Sukkoth is the pre-eminently happy Jewish holiday. Why?

Well, just four days prior, we ended Yom Kippur with a feeling of tremendous joy. Most Jews at the end of the Day of Atonement feel very happy. Not that the intense day is over. Even before breaking the fast, we sense this bliss of an important job well done with considerable effort and successfully. We did our part and it feels as if G^d did His.

It seems that Judaism says: don’t just be happy. Give it some form.

It reminds me of the failed attempt to serve G^d which ended up with worshipping a Golden Calf. Says G^d: Nice try but don’t use your own tools – use what I give you. And He gave us the Tabernacle (Temple in the desert) and its appliances. So for this Festival, to clothe our happiness, we also get tools. But how different from a Tent of Meeting.

For the Celebration of Sukkoth, we received as symbol a booth, a non-house. The roof must be from plant material, but it must be cut off, dead. We also get the Four Specious, to … wave. What a non-action!

On the Shabbat of the Festival, we read from the Torah Exodus 33:12-34:26. It starts at the aftermath of the story with the Golden Calf. There G^d “clarifies” to Moses that He will favor whom He’ll show favor and give mercy whom He’ll show mercy, which does not reveal a whole lot about G^d, and that no one alive can see His face though Moses gets to see His back – a non-portray. Yet, we should not serve non-gods. As we said in many ways in whole Hallel (in Psalms 115) how idols are non-powers.

The Prophets’ reading Ezekiel 38:18-39:16 speaks of the two wars of Gog and Magog, which some rabbis hold has happened already: the Six Day War – a non-war – over within a week. Whoever saw such a war?!

That Shabbat we read Ecclesiastes, whose recurring theme is that all of life is futile, amounts to nothing. (But still adds, it pays to live soundly.)

This reminds me of what we say in our last main Prayer on Yom Kippur, that all is futile. A quote from early Morning Prayers that all is in vain.

However. The text doesn’t stop there. Judaism isn’t a nihilistic worldview.

On Yom Kippur, we continue with two counter-arguments: that from the start, G^d has set Man apart from the rest of Creation, and is eager to forgive.

The Daily Morning Prayer says after that all is futile: Yet – we are Your People, We have a covenant and we are offspring of our Patriarchs.

It somehow reminds me of the Mishnah (Avot 2:21): It is not yours to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Anyway, so, Sukkoth seems a Feast of Joy but with emptiness to counter over-attachment to comfort, self-importance and false reassurances from the material world. However, it’s followed by Simchat Torah with a main part of it also not celebrated at home – but in the Synagogue – different from the next Festival, of Chanukah, which is all about our homes.

There’re uncertain or unknown things that’ll stay uncertain and unknown. Yet, we have Torah learning with its endless depths that will put justice, meaning and wisdom into our lives and continuously elevate us. But only after first, a happy Nothing Festival cleansed us from over-attachment.

Happy Holidays!

About the Author
The author is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (DES - Diethylstilbestrol), born in 1953 to two Dutch Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a vegan for 8 years now. * His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach and lehavdiel bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo and Rav Zev Leff. * Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science, Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, GLBTQAI, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Many people can't understand or like him because he has such a wide vision that he never fits any specialist's box. But that exactly what others love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quit a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500st blog post with the ToI. * He likes doing age-appropriate and age-inappropriate things and looks forward to getting to know his timeless mature out-of-the-box soul mate. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.
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