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Sukkot: Public Displays of Jewish Pride

by Rabbi Lazer Gurkow

  

Library » Holidays » Sukkot » The Sukkah | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Inside Outside

I know you are Jewish at home, but are you comfortable with your Judaism on the street? Would you walk home from Shull with a Talit (prayer shawls) on your shoulders? Do you sport a Kippah (head covering) when shopping at your local grocery store? Are you Jewish outside or only inside?

Inside Outside, is a fascinating book written by Herman Woulk, in which the American Jewish experience in the early part of twentieth century is described. Judaism was practiced at home and in the Synagogue, but at school, work and play Jews took pains to hide their religion. Their reticence was fueled by concern of what the nations might think. Would public demonstrations of pride in our identity, traditions and beliefs fuel anti-Semitic sentiment? Rather than risk a negative result North American Jews largely opted for a private religious posture.

Identity Erosion

The problem with hiding our faith is that we soon come to sense that something might be wrong with it. If all were right with our faith there would be no need to hide it. The original immigrants, who hid it for legitimate reasons, maintained a passionate if private relationship with G-d. Their children, who were raised to think and behave like non Jews on the street and keep their Judaism a dirty little secret at home, came to identify with and think like the non Jew. The views of the emerging generation were formed more by prevailing political atmospheres than their parents’ old world opinions. They learned to shed their home bred religious perspectives and adopt the modern and more popular perspectives of their peers.

The first sacrifice was religious practice. Knowing that Shabbat and Kashrut would form a barrier against their acceptance into modern society, this practice was the first to go. Sadly, it was not the last; slowly they also abandoned their faith. With time their Jewish pride eroded and, soon after, their identity. It reached a point that Jews were afraid to stand up for Jewish rights. Jews were on the front line of the Vietnam War protests and the first to march in support of black civil rights. But when it came to the Holocaust, Jewish religious rights in America or the existential rights of Jews in their own homeland the silence of American Jews was deafening. This was a silence of fear; fear of rocking the boat. Fear of awakening the ugly specter of anti-Semitism in America.

Standing Tall at the UN

It was a breath of fresh air when Mr. Nitanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, spoke last Thursday from the United Nations rostrum with passion and eloquence in defense of Jewish rights. He spoke with pride in the very room that filled his predecessors with fear. He words were a clarion call for truth and through him the Jewish people finally found a voice. It was a cathartic moment for the Jewish collective; Jews came away feeling that something that needed saying for a long time had just gotten off their chest.

I, for one, was not surprised when Nitanyahu later recounted that his inspiration for the speech was the Lubavitcher Rebbe O”BM. Twenty five years earlier when he was first appointed Ambassador to the United Nations Nitanyahu called upon the Rebbe. It was the night of Simchat Torah and the Rebbe was surrounded by thousands of Chassidim who awaited the commencement of the celebrations. The Rebbe talked to Nitanyahu for forty minutes and communicated many messages. One message that resonated more than others was the need to light the candle of truth.


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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Sukkot
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
Kippah
(pl. Kippot). The head-covering worn by Jewish males. Serves as a constant reminder of the existence of a Higher Being.
Kashrut
Laws of Kosher (Jewish dietary laws).
Chassidim
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) Following the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Shofar
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Lulav
A palm branch. One of the Four Species we are required to take on the holiday of Sukkot. We shake it together with a citron, myrtle, and willow.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Tabernacle
Mobile sanctuary which traveled with the Jews in the desert, containing the Ark with the Tablets, and the sacrificial altars. When the Jews entered Israel, it was erected in the city of Shiloh where it remained for more than 300 years. It was buried when the permanent Holy Temple was erected in Jerusalem.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.