CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 8
Voices of Torah (Continued from page 5)
Israelites interpreted as eitz p'ri hadar? As Pesach is associated with the barley harvest and Shavuot with the wheat
harvest, could the origins of Sukkot be the olive harvest, which occurs around that time?
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz ends his essay on V'zot HaB'rachah as follows: " It is certainly fitting to conclude
[Deuteronomy] with the following mysterious words, which we would not have believed had our Sages not
uttered them: 'What is the meaning of " Moses, man of God " ? From the middle of his [body] downward, [he
was] a man; from the middle upward, [he was] God' (Deuteronomy Rabbah). "
Twelve others in Tanach are referred to as " man of God, " yet our Sages cast only Moses in this bizarre demigod
image. Mystical? Mythological? Blasphemous? Or did Moses seem immortal because " his eye had not
dimmed, nor had he lost his natural freshness " (Deuteronomy 34:7) even at the age of 120? The unparalleled
face-to-face encounters with God, acknowledged in Deuteronomy 34, had rendered Moses otherworldly. The
intimacy between them was a mutual recognition of each other's vulnerabilities and need for encouragement
At the Golden Calf incident, God rages, Let My anger blaze forth that I may destroy them and make of you
a great nation! (Exodus 32:10). Moses warns this would be divine self-sabotage and result in embarrassment
were God to liberate the people, only to destroy them. Only Moses, who knows God so well, can change
When Moses cries, I cannot carry this people by myself, kill me rather, I beg You... (Numbers 11:14-15), God
responds with empathy, deputizing elders, providing quail, asserting authority, giving Moses a break.
As close as two who are unequal can be, yet both ultimately alone as Moses ascended Nebo.
Sh'mini Atzeret/Simchat Torah
Many people are confused about whether Sh'mini Atzeret is part of Sukkot or a separate holiday. The
confusion may come from Leviticus 23:35-36: The first day shall be a sacred occasion [mikra kodesh], do not
work.... On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion... it is an Atzeret, do not work. Precisely the same.
Earlier, when explaining Passover, Leviticus 23:7-8 says, On the first day you shall celebrate a sacred occasion, do
not work.... The seventh day shall be a sacred occasion, do not work. The difference is that for Passover, the mikra
kodesh occurs on the seventh day, while for Sukkot it occurs on the eighth day. However, for Sukkot it is also
called an Atzeret. The confusion is completely understandable. Is Sukkot seven days or eight?
In contrast to Leviticus, Numbers 29:12-38 presents evidence that Sh'mini Atzeret is separate from Sukkot.
It explains the sacrifices commanded in Leviticus. Each day, the number of bulls being sacrificed is decreased
by one: the first day, 13 bulls; the second day, 12 bulls; until the seventh day, on which 7 bulls are sacrificed.
However, on the eighth day, rather than 6 bulls, the number is only 1.
What is an atzeret? Its root is alef-tzadi-reish, meaning " stop. " Atzeret means " ending " or " conclusion. " Why
have a holiday marking the end of Sukkot? Possibly, to remind us that every ending is also a beginning,
something not to be grieved, but to be celebrated for the possibilities that lie before us.
Parashat B'reishit begins with a vision of the world before the Creation: the earth being unformed and void,
with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water (Genesis 1:2). This single
verse is tantalizing, dark, dangerous, and mysterious. God proceeds to bring order to the chaos, calling for
light, and separating light from darkness. God names the light and the darkness. Subsequent days follow a
similar pattern of separating and naming: waters from sky, dry land from water, and so on. As each element
of Creation is separated from the others and
named, a universe comes into being through the
instrumentality of God's words.
In the beginning of Parashat B'midbar, God brings
order to the community of Israel in a similar fashion.
In chapter 1, God speaks to Moses, who is standing
in the wilderness of Sinai. The midbar, like the tohu
vavohu, is disorganized, unmapped, and replete
with dangers. Again, God employs words, calling
for a census, tribe by tribe, name by name to order
the elements of the nation. Chapter 2 describes the
camp, organized tribe by tribe, with the Mishkan in
the center. Again, a world comes into being at (or, is
shaped by) the words of God.
When the world feels to us like wilderness, when we
hear the wind whistling (or howling) over the tohu
vavohu, let us emulate the God of Israel: let us use
words to bring peace and order from chaos.
When he wants to ascertain the level of the waters
on the earth, Noah releases not a dove (that was
the second and third time), but a raven. The raven
flies around widely but returns, having found
nowhere dry to land or food to eat. While most
people remember the dove that is sent out and does
not return, few remember that the dove was sent
out twice and returned the first time having found
nowhere to roost. And no one remembers the raven!
If Noah was prepared to send the dove out twice,
why did he send a raven out only once? After forty
days, Noah undoubtedly knew his animals well.
He would have noticed that ravens possess superior
intelligence to other birds, even if he could not have
known that the brain of a raven is nine times larger
than a dove.
Apparently, when the far-ranging raven returns,
Noah understands there is nothing visible to eat.
Next the first dove goes out, flies round the ark, and
returns; the second dove goes out when the waters are
appreciably lower, and it never returns. And where is
the raven all this time? It remained lounging on the
ark, fed daily, enjoying the rest of the cruise. It did
not depart until everyone disembarked on Ararat.
No great moral here, apart from carefully choosing
the ones you ask to do specific tasks; play to your
strengths and to theirs. But perhaps a reminder that
in a big narrative, the bit players and tiny details
should never be overlooked.
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 1
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 2
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 3
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 4
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 5
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 6
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 7
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 8
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 9
CCAR Newsletter July/August 2021 - 10