Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17 and Numbers 29:35-30:1, Special Torah Readings for Shemini Atzeret, Saturday, October 10, 2020
This Shabbat is also Shemini Atzeret, which immediately follows the seven days of Sukkot. In Israel and in the Reform sacred calendar, Shemini Atzeret coincides with Simchat Torah, but in Orthodox and Conservative congregations Shemini Atzeret is its own holiday, with Simchat Torah falling on the next day.
Shemini Atzeret is probably the least known of all Jewish Holy Days. Shemini Atzeret translates to the Eighth Day of Assembly. It is a holiday in its own right, mentioned in the Torah. When the Temple stood, Shemini Atzeret was the day of the Water Drawing Ceremony (Tekes Beit Ha Sho’evah), a special Temple service calling for adequate rain in the coming winter, a necessity of survival for a people living in a semi-arid land. Our sages wrote of this ceremony, “one who has not witnessed the Water Drawing Ceremony has never truly experienced joy.”
In rabbinic times, Shemini Atzeret became one of the memorial days, with a special Yizkor (memorial) service to remember loved ones we have lost. In our time, Shemini Atzeret is often lost between Sukkot and Simchat Torah, but it is worth remembering.
Rashi, the great medieval Torah commentator, shares a midrash of a King who has invited his children home to feast with him for seven days. When the seventh day and the time for their departure arrives, he begs them to stay with him another day. Those of us who have grown children and know how much we long for more time together can relate to this parable.
So it is, Rashi says, with God and the Jewish people. Let us linger together for one more day amidst the intimacy of the High Holy Days before winter comes. Combining the ancient joy in the Water Drawing ceremony with its reminder of our reliance on nature, the memorial service of rabbinic origin with its connection to love, Shemini Atzeret combines happiness, memory, sadness vulnerability, intimacy and connection, all important themes of the High Holy Days.
Let us carry them with us into the New Year. Shannah tovah.
Read last week's commentary
From the President
Simchat Torah is my favorite holiday and my heart breaks a little knowing that we could not think of a way to safely observe this special occasion. I cherish my memories of dancing, adult beverages, and even heckling Cantor Moshe. It seemed that almost anything was allowed in the joy of celebrating Torah.
One year I was with the Fox family. At the time they lived on Weatherly Drive on the LA/Beverly Hills border. One block away was an Orthodox synagogue. In fact, Arnold and Hannah Fox bought the house from the Rabbi Emeritus of the synagogue. We weren’t planning to celebrate Simchat Torah that year, but Simchat Torah came to us. Around sunset the whole block was closed to traffic and a while later a crowd poured out of the synagogue and into the street singing and dancing with their Torahs. Soon people came from all directions to join the celebration. Since our car was on that block, our plans of going home were delayed and we joined the celebration. The pure joy was palpable and grew in intensity well into the night. When we could finally get to our car, we headed home completely exhausted.
I will miss sharing that joy with you this year, but the joy is still there. I am thankful for our amazing community and am honored to be a part of it and I am thankful for Torah. I pray that next year we can celebrate together.
We are Temple Beth Hillel.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am not for others, what am I?
And if not now, when?
Read last week's letter
High Holy Day Appeal Continues – Food for Thought
Although the High Holy Days are over, the need in our community continues. This year, Temple Beth Hillel has chosen Food for Thought for our annual High Holy Day Appeal. Food for Thought is a program that addresses food insecurity at the poorest schools in the WCCUSD. As you can imagine, the number of people experiencing food insecurity has ballooned over the past seven months.
For over a decade, Temple Beth Hillel and our partners have provided food in December for elementary school children and their families who are eligible for free school lunches, but do not get them when schools are closed over winter break. We work with the schools to provide a box of fresh produce, a box of non-perishables, a large turkey, and usually a science game for each family. The need is so great that we are determined to make the program work and deliver food to 400 families. just as we did last year.
If you have not yet done so, please make a donation to the TBH High Holy Day Appeal. Here's how:
- By credit card
- By check - Write your check to Temple Beth Hillel with Food for Thought in the memo line, and mail your check to Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central Blvd., Richmond, CA 94803
Want to do more? We need volunteers to pack and distribute boxes Dec. 12-16. All work will be performed as safely as possible. If you or a group you know of is interested, please contact Laura Taub
Donate to Food for Thought
High Holy Day Donations
Although we are welcoming everyone to our High Holy Day services, we are affected by the current economic situation as are many others. If you would like to make a donation to Temple Beth Hillel, you may do so here
, or send a check to Temple Beth Hillel, 801 Park Central Blvd., Richmond, CA 94803.
Donate to TBH
Join us for community Shabbat candle lighting this Friday, October 9 at 7:00 pm
Let’s begin Shabbat together by lighting Shabbat candles. Please join us at 7:00
. In this way we can all be together in this time of physical isolation.
Recurring Shabbat zoom link: https://zoom.us/j/517749891
You can also join by calling
1 (669)900-9128 Meeting ID: 517 749 891
One tap mobile: +16699009128,,517749891#
TBH Sandwich-Making for the GRIP Souper Center -- Wednesday, Oct. 28
Wednesday, Oct. 28, is our Temple's next day to make sandwiches for GRIP. We each make about forty sandwiches (your choice) and bring them to the Temple parking lot at about 9:45 AM. Please put the sandwiches in individual baggies, place them in a bag or box, and label the type of sandwiches made. If you can make sandwiches that day and/or if you have any questions, please contact Jane Kaasa (510)222-3221 or (510)421-7331.
Notes from the Board, Sept. 16, 2020
The board welcomed new members and a religious school family, reviewed plans for High Holy Days, food distribution plans from Food for Thought, news about religious school, and improvements made to Temple Beth Hillel.