The Days of Awe may climax on Yom Kippur, but the evening shofar inaugurates a spirited and spiritual Oktoberfest unparalleled in the Jewish year. Immediately after breaking the fast, many started constructing sukkot, not only in backyards but also shoehorned with urban ingenuity into New York alleys and apartment terraces. We’re told that the days leading up to Sukkot are a time when Jewish people are preoccupied with mitzvot, preparing the sukkah, cooking meals, inviting guests, children scissoring and stringing decorations, buying lulavim and etrogim, and then the sweet peace of the holiday itself.
Mahmoud Abbas took a bit of the pressure off of Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli prime minister’s speech to the United Nation’s General Assembly on Monday. As least some of those who had hoped Netanyahu would make a bold gesture toward renewed peace negotiations understood that after the Palestinian president’s slanderous accusations against Israel in his own UN speech last Friday, Abbas was making the case for Jerusalem’s reluctance to proceed along the same old, unsuccessful path toward reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority.
In the words of an old country song, “Everybody wants to go Heaven, but nobody wants to go now.” For all of our well-validated concerns of a dangerous world, nobody wants to go to Heaven just yet. The world seems “unformed and void, darkness over the deep,” but the verse in Genesis continues, “the spirit of God hovers over the waters.” There is light, not at the end of the tunnel, but just one verse away.
With the exception of the glorious weather, the summer of 2014 was deeply depressing. There was the collapse of the Mideast peace talks. Then came seven weeks of war in Gaza with much of the world seemingly more critical of Israel for aggressively defending itself than of Hamas for initiating, prolonging and expanding the conflict. Hamas fired from within civilian areas and encouraged their citizens to stay put rather than escape from Israeli-targeted buildings. Yet the onus of a United Nations commission on human rights violations no doubt will highlight alleged Israeli violations, once more equating the arsonist and the fireman.