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Double Kohelet and No Simchat Torah

By Batya Medad
10/16/2009, 12:00 AM

Yes I'm back.  I've managed to post a bit on Shiloh Musings  and me-ander this morning.  And, yes, my father at the age of 89 made aliyah.

The Year of Double Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, and No Simchat Torah

This year I didn't celebrate Simchat Torah.  No, it wasn't a private protest against G-d and the Jewish religion.

For family reasons, I had to fly from Israel to New York, and there are differences between the calendars and customs.  In Israel, we celebrate the Jewish Pilgrimage Festivals, Succot, Passover and Shavuot with single day Holy Day restrictions, while in Galut, the Diaspora, they are double-days.  The result is that Passover lasts eight days in the Diaspora, rather than the Biblical seven in Israel, and Simchat Torah is a day later abroad, since Succot is a day longer. 

This year had another difference, because Succot began on a Shabbat.  The usual custom is to read Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, on the Shabbat during the week of Succot. Since there was no Shabbat Chol HaMoed (intermediate day,) it was read the first day of Succot in Israel but in the Diaspora the following Shabbat which was the day before Simchat Torah.  Because I'm an Israeli, I wasn't required to observe Simchat Torah on its Diaspora day, and I just walked very discreetly back to my parents' home after Shabbat.

I heard Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, twice, first in my own neighborhood synagogue here in Shiloh and then a week later in the Great Neck Synagogue, where I was a guest.  For those who don't know what Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, is about, it was written by King Solomon, King David's son, who built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  It's a beautiful philosphic testimony in which he admits that he wasted much of his life on material persuits. The phrase, "nothing's new under the sun," is repeated many times.  Kohelet is also the origin of:

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 קֹהֶלֶת א לַכֹּל, זְמָן; וְעֵת לְכָל-חֵפֶץ, תַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם. {פ} 1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: {P} ב עֵת לָלֶדֶת, וְעֵת לָמוּת; עֵת לָטַעַת, וְעֵת לַעֲקוֹר נָטוּעַ. 2 {S} A time to be born, {S} and a time to die; {N} {S} a time to plant, {S} and a time to pluck up that which is planted; {N} ג עֵת לַהֲרוֹג וְעֵת לִרְפּוֹא, עֵת לִפְרוֹץ וְעֵת לִבְנוֹת. 3 {S} A time to kill, {S} and a time to heal; {N} {S} a time to break down, {S} and a time to build up; {N} ד עֵת לִבְכּוֹת וְעֵת לִשְׂחוֹק, עֵת סְפוֹד וְעֵת רְקוֹד. 4 {S} A time to weep, {S} and a time to laugh; {N} {S} a time to mourn, {S} and a time to dance; {N} ה עֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ אֲבָנִים, וְעֵת כְּנוֹס אֲבָנִים; עֵת לַחֲבוֹק, וְעֵת לִרְחֹק מֵחַבֵּק. 5 {S} A time to cast away stones, {S} and a time to gather stones together; {N} {S} a time to embrace, {S} and a time to refrain from embracing; {N} ו עֵת לְבַקֵּשׁ וְעֵת לְאַבֵּד, עֵת לִשְׁמוֹר וְעֵת לְהַשְׁלִיךְ. 6 {S} A time to seek, {S} and a time to lose; {N} {S} a time to keep, {S} and a time to cast away; {N} ז עֵת לִקְרוֹעַ וְעֵת לִתְפּוֹר, עֵת לַחֲשׁוֹת וְעֵת לְדַבֵּר. 7 {S} A time to rend, {S} and a time to sew; {N} {S} a time to keep silence, {S} and a time to speak; {N} ח עֵת לֶאֱהֹב וְעֵת לִשְׂנֹא, עֵת מִלְחָמָה וְעֵת שָׁלוֹם. {פ} 8 {S} A time to love, {S} and a time to hate; {N} {S} a time for war, {S} and a time for peace. {N}

For me this was an extra reminder of why I was in New York instead of being at home.  My elderly parents need my help.  My mother's in the hospital, and I had to bring my father back to Israel with me.  They both must leave the house they have lived in since 1962.  They have to give up most of the possesions they have amassed in almost half a century.  Havel Havelim, Vanities of Vanities, is how King Solomon describes it all.

ו עַד אֲשֶׁר לֹא-ירחק (יֵרָתֵק) חֶבֶל הַכֶּסֶף, וְתָרוּץ גֻּלַּת הַזָּהָב; וְתִשָּׁבֶר כַּד עַל-הַמַּבּוּעַ, וְנָרֹץ הַגַּלְגַּל אֶל-הַבּוֹר. 6 Before the silver cord is snapped asunder, and the golden bowl is shattered, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel falleth shattered, into the pit; ז וְיָשֹׁב הֶעָפָר עַל-הָאָרֶץ, כְּשֶׁהָיָה; וְהָרוּחַ תָּשׁוּב, אֶל-הָאֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר נְתָנָהּ. 7 And the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it. ח הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר הַקּוֹהֶלֶת, הַכֹּל הָבֶל. 8 Vanity of vanities, saith Koheleth; all is vanity. ט וְיֹתֵר, שֶׁהָיָה קֹהֶלֶת חָכָם: עוֹד, לִמַּד-דַּעַת אֶת-הָעָם, וְאִזֵּן וְחִקֵּר, תִּקֵּן מְשָׁלִים הַרְבֵּה. 9 And besides that Koheleth was wise, he also taught the people knowledge; yea, he pondered, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. י בִּקֵּשׁ קֹהֶלֶת, לִמְצֹא דִּבְרֵי-חֵפֶץ; וְכָתוּב יֹשֶׁר, דִּבְרֵי אֱמֶת. 10 Koheleth sought to find out words of delight, and that which was written uprightly, even words of truth. יא דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים כַּדָּרְבֹנוֹת, וּכְמַשְׂמְרוֹת נְטוּעִים בַּעֲלֵי אֲסֻפּוֹת; נִתְּנוּ, מֵרֹעֶה אֶחָד. 11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails well fastened are those that are composed in collections; they are given from one shepherd. יב וְיֹתֵר מֵהֵמָּה, בְּנִי הִזָּהֵר: עֲשׂוֹת סְפָרִים הַרְבֵּה אֵין קֵץ, וְלַהַג הַרְבֵּה יְגִעַת בָּשָׂר. 12 And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. יג סוֹף דָּבָר, הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע: אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר, כִּי-זֶה כָּל-הָאָדָם. 13 The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man. יד כִּי, אֶת-כָּל-מַעֲשֶׂה, הָאֱלֹהִים יָבִא בְמִשְׁפָּט, עַל כָּל-נֶעְלָם: אִם-טוֹב, וְאִם-רָע. {ש} 14 For God shall bring every work into the judgment concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. {P}

In the end, what is life all about?

Shabbat Shalom uMevorah

May You Have a Peaceful and Blessed Shabbat