Adventures of a Chief Rabbi: Non-drug-induced 3-day Festival Inspiration

September 22, 2013

Non-drug-induced 3-day Festival Inspiration

For our friends living in Israel, you may not remember the experience of three consecutive days of non-electronic existence (except for this past Rosh Hashana). However, for all of us now living in Exile, somewhere on the theoretical level the middle, crucial day (this year it was Friday) is an old Rabbinic enactment of having to keep a second day of the Festival as opposed to the biblically mandated single day. Our “artificial” two-day prohibition from work for the beginning of Sukot extended seamlessly into the weekly prohibition from work of the Sabbath, leading to our 3 day challenge.

However, one of the things I found surprising about the experience was how pleasant it was. There was a certain enforced tranquility that for days, as opposed to the usual 25 hours, I would be undisturbed by the global angst, by constant electronic invasion of privacy. Instead there was a certain serenity, a certain joy that descended upon us. It was the different meals with different families where we had quality uninterrupted time. There were the community meals in the large Sukka where we interacted with friends new and old. The rhythm of life slowed dramatically. Even amongst the hustle and bustle of an active city I felt as if I had been magically transported to a different era, a tranquil more civilized time where you could actually speak to another human being for more than five minutes without interruption or distraction.

We hosted three meals in our precariously built but miraculously sturdy Sukka. The children decorated the Sukka with gusto and Tamara cooked up a storm, thrilling our guests with dishes, many if not all of them new to the local population. There was excited and extensive talk of menus and recipes which I was unable to follow after mention of vegetables beyond the basic ones I know how to identify.

For some reason, I found the prayers highly inspirational. The Hallel service was particularly exuberant and the congregants broke out into spontaneous dancing (this one is for you, Javier!). I found my own prayers uplifted, filled with new force and meaning. I was even struck by not one, but by two new ideas which I hope to convert into articles in the near future.

Having passed the pastoral tests of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with flying colors I was particularly relaxed, now on what amounted to a few days of pastoral vacation. The free-flowing of whisky by each of our hosts didn’t hurt either and may have contributed more inspiration to my spot-discourses.

However, all the laid-backness didn’t interfere with my “after-the-holidays” thinking and plans for an ambitious new project to be launched right after Simhat Torah. I have lined up participants. I have planned how the project will play out and now I just need to work on implementation (details to be disclosed at a future date).

So for all the Israelis and Olim terrified or disparaging of the 3-day holiday – it’s not so bad – and there are even some very enjoyable aspects to it.

Moadim Le’simchah!

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