|September 25, 2010
September 25, 2010
Chol Ha Moed Sukkot
A word of explanation:
This concludes my first of year of writing d'vrei haftarah. If you would like to read any of the haftarot commentaries that were written this past year go to http://www.fjmc-consultants.org/listing.html.
This continues to be a wonderful learning experience but I never intended to continue to write d'vrei haftarah or to recirculate those that have already been written This year, I hope to explain the special holiday haftarot, and occasionally suggest different passages from the Former Kings and Prophets that might appears to be closer to the weekly Torah readings. On occasion I hope to introduce non-related material from the Apocrypha and pseudopygrha literature for your consideration. Your responses to this material will determine whether or not it should continue.
And now dear reader the haftarah for Chol Ha Moed Sukkot.
Why is it that right in the middle of the harvest festival we read about the cataclysmic final battle when Gog (of the land of Magog) sweeps down from the North and the land is completely decimated by the fury of our God? Why do we have an apocalypse, an end of days in our tradition?
This text was probably written around 573 B.C. E. that is to say, after the Temple's destruction and the deportation and exile of large numbers of our ancestors. This was most likely written before the rise of Cyrus who authorized the Temple's rebuilding and empowered Ezra with the task. Our ancestors were living in a time when they believed the world might end.
Unlike the end of days in Norse and Scandinavian mythology which ends in total destruction; our tradition points us in the direction of future posterity, to a world ruled by peace, justice and God's love. I suspect that this haftarah was positioned to be chanted on Chol Ha Moed Sukkot because the days of harvest and the rejoicing that were occurring positioned our people on one side of the greater agricultural battle that continues to take place amongst agrarian based peoples. When we harvest and rejoice we also prepare for a season when the earth requires rest and rejuvenation. When we reap the bounty of God's love (agricultural produce), we begin to store food so we will survive the season that follows. Unlike the Greek story of Persephone when the earth mourns when she descends into Hades for six months each year; our story reminds us that seasonal harvests are part of a larger, mythological story.
It is possible that our ancestors living in Roman times with the destruction of the Second Temple still fresh in their memories, anticipated God's intervention once again and that is why this reading was selected. At the same time it causes me to wonder if our ancestors living during the Spanish expulsion would have looked to Ezekiel for similar inspiration.
On the other hand they might say to one another. It didn't happen during Roman times, it hasn't happened in the past 1300 years, it probably won't happen in our life times either.
Let's live in the moment. Harvest the gifts of God and prepare for the future.
This week's commentary was written by
Rabbi Charles Simon,
Executive Director of the FJMC and author of
"Building A Successful Volunteer Culture: Finding Meaning in Service in the Jewish"
Jewish Lights Publishing.