Shabbat Hol haMo'ed Sukkot--Exodus 33:12-34:26
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Questions for Young Children

  • Sukkot is a harvest festival.  What foods are being harvested now in your area?  Why do you think there is a celebration after harvest?
  • What are symbols of Sukkot?  Do you know what they mean?
  • Do you know of other harvest festivals?  What traditions do people follow on those holidays?

Questions for Older Children

  • In the Torah reading Moshe is angry at B'nei Yisrael because of the Golden Calf and God has to help him lose his anger and return to his job of leading. What helps you when you're angry? Who can talk you out of your anger? 
  • Do you enjoy the experience of sitting and eating in a sukkah?  Why or why not? How does it feel to return to your dining room or kitchen table for your meals after Sukkot?
  •  Can you create a midrash or story about why we dwell in sukkot during the harvest festival?

Questions for Teens and Adults

Consider the Torah reading from a psychological perspective.  Think about Moshe as having suffered severe trauma.  He had come down from Mt. Sinai after fasting forty days and forty nights to find B'nei Yisrael worshipping a golden calf.  He threw down the tablets. He tells the people he has to go back up to Mt. Sinai to seek forgiveness. Our Torah reading this Shabbat picks up from there.  Follow the conversation between Moshe and God.  You'll notice forgiveness is not first on the agenda.  How do you understand this extended conversation and God's revelation to Moshe?  What do we learn from God's command to Moshe to carve two tablets of stone like the first and God will inscribe the same words on those tablets?

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It's no surprise that the Maftir for this Shabbat is Numbers 29:17-31 which lists the sacrifices B'nei Yisrael were to bring on Sukkot. There's a lot of livestock listed here. More surprising is the Torah reading which follows the episode of the Golden Calf. Sukkot is mentioned but is clearly not the main thrust of the reading.

Moshe asks God to let him know God's ways. God does more--God allows Moshe to see God's kavod, God's glory. Moshe stands in the cleft of a rock and covers Moshe with God's hand until God passes by. Then God removes God's hand and Moshe sees God's back. Following this extraordinary experience, God commands Moshe to make two new tablets to replace those that he broke when angry. God is described as descending in a cloud and standing with Moshe as he proclaims the Thirteen Attributes. The Torah reading concludes with a brit, a covenant God makes promising to drive out the tribes currently inhabiting Eretz Yisrael. For their part, B'nei Yisrael will have to obey only God and observe God's commandments including the three pilgrimage holidays. Sukkot is referenced in 34:22 as Hag ha-Asif, the Holiday of Ingathering.

Find the Food Connection (from the Haftarah)...

וְרָעֲשׁוּ מִפָּנַי דְּגֵי הַיָּם וְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וְחַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה, וְכָל-הָרֶמֶשׂ הָרֹמֵשׂ עַל-הָאֲדָמָה, וְכֹל הָאָדָם, אֲשֶׁר עַל-פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה; וְנֶהֶרְסוּ הֶהָרִים, וְנָפְלוּ הַמַּדְרֵגוֹת, וְכָל-חוֹמָה, לָאָרֶץ תִּפּוֹל

The fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the beasts of the field, all creeping things that move on the ground, and every human being on earth shall quake before Me.  Mountains shall be overthrown, cliffs shall topple, and every wall shall crumble to the ground.

--Ezekiel 38:20

Deconstructed Prakes!

The Side Dish

Deconstructed Prakes may be a stretch from Ezekiel's vision of the War of Gog and Magog and the ensuing destruction. This week the recipe came first and I had to search for a verse in the Torah readings, haftarah, and Kohelet for a thought that hinted at undoing.  Years of hosting dinners in the sukkah have taught me that one dish casseroles--otherwise known as hot dish in Minnesota--are the easiest meals to serve.

Our Shabbat readings don't lend themselves to the feeling of z'man simhateynu--the time of our happiness--the phrase we use when we describe Sukkot.  The Torah reading reflects God's after care for Moshe following the Golden Calf.  The maftir lists some of the 70 bulls that are to be brought for sacrifice.  The haftarah sketches the apocalypse and we read Kohelet--all is vanity.  Where's the simha?  

During Sukkot I'm reminded of  two deaths that profoundly changed my life.  My great grandmother died during Sukkot.  I was ten years old at the time and this was my first encounter with death.  I kept replaying what my dad said to us when he returned from the funeral in Norfolk--"Baubie didn't want to make a fuss so she died on Sukkot." I pictured her for years sitting in her chair at Aunt Ruth's home holding her Yiddish prayerbook and simply closing her eyes.  More recently, my friend Sandi died during Sukkot.  I talked to her after the second day of the hag and she died the next day.  Sandi's Hebrew name was Simha which I hear every time I say the phrase z'man simhataynu

Kohelet's words ring true--there is a time for everything and often happiness and sadness mix together. Even at this time of joy there will be a yizkor service on Sh'mini Atzeret and as we invite guests into our sukkot, we can't help but remember the guests who are no longer with us.  Part of this z'man simhataynu for me is learning to be happy for the years I spent with my Baubie and Sandi and all the people who have been part of my life and brought happiness into it.  Like the sukkah, life is a temporary structure and we enjoy our life and our sukkah because of the people we invite in.


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A Dash of Explanation

I spent part of Rosh haShana services trying to figure out how the phrase from this week's Torah reading added up to Shlosh Esray Middot, the Thirteen Attributes. You may also remember the phrase from the Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur liturgy.

יְהוָה יְהוָה, אֵל רַחוּם וְחַנּוּן--אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם, וְרַב-חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת.  נֹצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים, נֹשֵׂא עָו‍ֹן וָפֶשַׁע וְחַטָּאָה; וְנַקֵּה

The Lord, the Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast kindness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.

--Exodus 34:6-8

I discovered that even in the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 17b) where the thirteen attributes are mentioned, they aren't listed.  Medieval commentators differed on the thirteen but here's a list I found that explained what I was missing.  I usually counted only 10 middot because I wasn't including God's names as qualities.

1. Lord

2. God

3. Compassionate

4. Gracious

5.  Slow to anger

6. RIch in steadfast kindness

7. Abundant in truth

8. Keeping mercy

9. Keeping faith to the thousandth generation

10. Forgiving iniquity

11. Forgiving transgression

12. Forgiving Sin

13. Acquitting

A Dash of Etrog Trivia

The word "etrog" is not in the Torah.  The Torah stipulates we use pri aytz hadar--the fruit of a beautiful tree.  The citron or etrog has most likely taken on that role since  Second Temple times and perhaps even earlier.  Seventy percent of citrons used in the Jewish world are grown on one farm outside of B'nei Brak--appropriately called The Central Israel Etrog Co. Where do citrons come from during sh'mita years?  In 2021 watch for etrogim from other Mediterranean countries like Italy, Morocco, and Corfu as well as from California.


A Dash of Kohelet

In our synagogue we read Kohelet on Shabbat Hol haMo'ed Sukkot.  You may not have the same custom since there are seven different approaches to the inclusion of Kohelet in the Sukkot liturgy including reading it in installments.

Why Kohelet on Sukkot?  Again, there are multiple answers.  The most straightforward and probably the most historically accurate is that the rabbis wanted to read all five megillot during the year.  The other four matched up thematically with holidays--Shir haShirim on Pesah, Ruth on Shavu'ot, Aikha on TIsha B'Av, and Ester on Purim.  That left Kohelet and Sukkot.  A more compelling midrash comes from Rabbi Mordechai Yaffe ca. 1600 in Poland.  He wrote,  “because it is zeman simhateinu, (the season of our rejoicing) and Kohelet urges people to rejoice in their portion and not run after increased wealth. A person who enjoys what he has, it is a gift from God”. This echoes earlier rabbinic thought like Pirkei Avot where we read, "Who is rich? The person who rejoices in his portion."

Although Kohelet is traditionally ascribed to King Solomon in his old age, this scroll was most likely written around 300 CE, more than six centuries after King Solomon.  This is the era immediately following the deaths of Plato and Aristotle and one can imagine Kohelet holding his own in the Greek agora in a philosophical discussion of the meaning of life. If you want to learn more about this fascinating scroll, read Robert Gordis's book, Kohelet: The Man and His World which provides both context and interpretation.





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Deconstructed Vegan Prakes

Pareve and vegan.  Serves 8-12.


1 medium cabbage, cut into thin paillards
Fillingrsz prakes copy

  • Oil for sauteeing
  • 1 onion, diced or 3 onions carmelized an hour before adding the other vegetables
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 3 c. cooked brown rice
  • 2 c. drained chickpeas, mashed in a food processor or by hand
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • 1- 12 oz. bottle of Heinz chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce


  1. Layer a 9"x13" (or slightly larger) casserole dish with cabbage paillards.
  2. Sauté the onion until soft. If you prefer, you can double the onions and carmelize them by cooking for about 45 min. before proceeding to step 3.
  3. Add the green pepper and garlic and saute 5 min longer.
  4. Remove the vegetables from the stove and mix with the cooked rice and mashed chickpeas. Season to taste with smoked paprika, salt, and pepper.
  5. Spread the mixture on top of the cabbage.
  6. Top with another layer of thin cabbage paillards. The pan will be very full.
  7. Combine the sauce ingredients and pour over the casserole.
  8. Cover and bake @ 350º 1 to 1-1/2  hrs.

Can be frozen and reheated.

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