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Sermons

If I Am Only For Myself: The Toxicity of “Company Over Country” – Noah 5782

הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי? וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי

[Hillel] used to say: If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I?…

Pirqei Avot 1:15

I was extraordinarily shocked this week to hear reports of the testimony from whistleblower Frances Haugen, who worked at Facebook in their “civic integrity department,” about how Facebook’s leadership has been aware, from their own extensive research, of potentially toxic effects of its products on its users’ mental health. Despite this research, showing, among other things, that the use of Instagram (which is owned by Facebook) increases thoughts of suicide and eating disorders among teenage girls, Facebook has done effectively nothing to prevent these toxic effects. 

But in particular, the thing that shocked me the most was that at Facebook meetings, CEO Mark Zuckerberg would often conclude by repeating the mantra, “Company over country.”

The accusation that weaves through Ms. Haugen’s testimony is that Facebook has, except in a few limited circumstances, consistently chosen to try to keep your attention focused on Facebook or Instagram or WhatsApp, because the more you keep your eyeballs on those products, the more money Facebook makes, regardless of the cost to our mental health.

We must ask ourselves, how many fewer people could have died of Covid-19 if no misinformation had been spread via Facebook and other social media platforms? How many fewer young women would be suffering from eating disorders or other emotional health issues without the influence of Instagram? How many of us would be spending better quality time with our children, if our noses were not permanently pointed at our screens? Would there have been a home-grown terrorist attack on the halls of Congress, the seat of American democracy, without these tools?

But the problem does not end with Facebook. The wider problem with the very idea of “company over country” is that it sounds like our social contract is broken, that the ties that bind us together as a nation are dangerously frayed; that we have lost the social capital in our society that holds us together, that we have forgotten that we are all in relationship with one another. It is easy for us to recall the first part of the mishnah from the great 1st-century sage Hillel, “Im ein ani li mi li?” If I am not for myself who am I? But perhaps it is more difficult to remember the second part: “Ukhsheani le’atzmi mah ani?” And if I am ONLY for myself, what am I?

And the challenge here is not limited to our social and emotional health. What about the warming climate? The microplastics in the ocean? The chemical contaminants that are now found in our drinking water, and throughout our ecosystem?

Humans are brilliant at manipulating our environment with our God-given intellect and abilities. We are always striving to create new technologies that help us do that even better and cheaper and easier. But we are very, very bad at anticipating negative long-term consequences of such manipulation. We all rush to embrace new technologies, because if something makes your life easier and better, why wouldn’t you? 

But we rarely have the patience or the collective will to determine how these innovations will ultimately affect us over years of use and exposure, how they will affect our brains, our bodies and our environment. And when that change is incremental – rapid in terms of geologic time, but very slow in human years – it is even harder to see and respond to.

Ukhshe-ani le’atzmi mah ani? What am I? Who are we? And what are we destroying by being only for ourselves, and not looking out for others? By focusing on company over country, by looking out only for number one rather than considering the common good?

Parashat Noaḥ opens with a general observation about the state of the world, of the people of his generation (Bereshit / Genesis 6:11):

וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱ-לֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס׃

The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness.

Vatishahet,” here translated as “became corrupt,” could be better understood as “destroyed.” The Earth was destroyed before God, in the passive (nif’al) voice. Medieval commentators want to make it clear to us that people did this, we were the destroyers. God’s Creation did not merely corrupt itself, as the passive voice suggests. Ibn Ezra, for example, writing in 12th-century Spain:

The meaning of לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱ-לֹהִ֑ים before God is that the humans acted brazenly, like a servant, who in the presence of his master, disobeys him and thereby shows that he does not fear the master.

And this is in the wake of God’s imperative to humanity, which we read last week in Parashat Bereshit (2:15):

וַיִּקַּ֛ח ה’ אֱ-לֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעׇבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשׇׁמְרָֽהּ׃

God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.

The first people had a mission: to take care of the world. And, only one parashah, a few chapters later, like deceptive servants with no respect for their Creator, they abused Creation for their own purposes.

So what does God do to remedy this unfortunate situation? A flood, to start again. To give (as our bar mitzvah said earlier) humanity a second chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we have no respect for what we have been given, if we have no fear or reverence for our Master and Creator, if we continue to take, to steal, to abuse, to manipulate, our future looks bleak indeed.

We are destroying. We are corrupting the Earth and ourselves once again. We have placed company over country, time and time again. And we cannot be sure that there will be a second chance this time. 

So what are we going to do about it?

We could wait until the flooding is so bad that climate refugees are streaming into Pittsburgh. We could just wait for another mass shooting, streamed to Facebook Live. We could wait for the troops of chaos mustered by white supremacist groups to cause democracy to crumble. We could inspire even more young women to feel inadequate about themselves. We could install air conditioning in our sukkot, to keep ourselves from sweating as fall temperatures rise, and just let the challenges continue to mount.

There are naysayers in the world, and I am hearing their voices more frequently, who are saying that we are doomed. That we will never be able to prevent the corruption of all life that will lead to the ultimate cataclysm.

Noah, the Eve of the Deluge – 1848, John Linnell

But here is where I prefer to be an optimist. And here is the solution, ladies and gentlemen:

Prayer. Tefillah.

But not like you think. Not necessarily to move God to act to save humanity from itself. But rather, the human side of prayer, prayer which brings us together. Prayer that focuses us and galvanizes us to act. Prayer that serves as the fulcrum of the arm of intention.

Worldwide prayer. Prayer across communities. Prayer across continents and timezones. Praying together in multiple languages, in multiple religious contexts.

We have to say words of prayer together so that we can think together and act together and understand that we are all in this together.

And of course, some of you are thinking, “Oh, come on, Rabbi. Religion is going to solve this?” 

Well, I have news for you:  People of faith are great at one thing: Gathering. We gather for community, to harness intent and to tap into our spiritual well. It is through gathering with a holy purpose that we can arouse the worldwide will to take on the intransigence of governments and corporations, who actually have the power to save us from ourselves.

We have many microcosmic prayer groups scattered all over the world. But people of faith – people who understand the value of religious traditions and teachings and reverence for what God has given us – have much more strength if we are united, so that we can stand together against the corrupt, destructive path of “company over country.”

Google announced this week, perhaps inspired by Facebook’s missteps, that they will no longer place ads alongside climate change denial. Many of the world’s automakers have pledged to turn their fleets electric in the coming decade. Some governments are coming around to the need to rein in the “company over country” model. Those are all good pieces of news.

But what will really make sure that we understand that we will only solve these challenges together? It will only happen if we can lead the world to a better place through shared meditation, shared words of peace and reverence and contrition, gathering together, however that might happen, to respect the qedushah / holiness in one another, to break bread together and sensitize ourselves to the needs of the other, to see humanity over company and country, and to seek the common good over myopic selfishness.

Ukhsheani leatzmi, mah ani? If I am only for myself, what am I?

~

Rabbi Seth Adelson

(Originally delivered at Congregation Beth Shalom, Pittsburgh, PA, Shabbat morning, 10/9/2021.)

Categories
Sermons

It’s Not Good To Be Alone – Bereshit 5782

I must say that this past week we celebrated what I think was the most joyful Simḥat Torah of my lifetime. We were outside in the Ohel (tent) at Beth Shalom both Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, which made it more comfortable for many families with young children to come and join us. So it was wonderful to sing and dance with abandon, and to celebrate the ancient wisdom of our tradition as we do on Simḥat Torah, and to feel some joy after 18 months of isolation and anxiety. 

I have always been of the opinion, by the way, that if you want to really experience Judaism, and you only have two days out of the year on which to do so, you should be at synagogue on Simḥat Torah and Purim, not on the High Holidays. While the gravitas of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur is certainly powerful, the true joy in Jewish life and practice is found on the celebratory days.

But what concerns me, of course, are the people who were not there, who still do not feel comfortable coming because they are anxious about the Delta variant or cannot get vaccinated for health reasons or have other complicating factors. It is for those people that we of course are still making our services accessible via Zoom, and of course we will continue to do so for some time. 

There is, however, a slight problem with Zooming synagogue services. I’ll come back to that.

***

You may know that I am fond of comparing and contrasting the two Creation stories of Parashat Bereshit; the first Creation story of Bereshit Chapter 1, the one which features six days of Creation followed by Shabbat, is about order, that the world which God created is an orderly one that is, in God’s estimation, “good.”

But the second story, beginning in Bereshit Chapter 2, is the human one, the one in which Adam is fashioned from the adamah, the Earth, and there is almost a sense of human-Divine partnership in that story. Adam is called upon to till and tend the Earth, and to give names to all the creatures and plants in the Garden of Eden. And ultimately, this story is about disorder, about human failure to meet God’s expectations, the messiness of humanity. 

Early on in that second story, Adam is lonely, and God says, (Bereshit / Genesis 2:18):

לֹא־ט֛וֹב הֱי֥וֹת הָֽאָדָ֖ם לְבַדּ֑וֹ אֶֽעֱשֶׂה־לּ֥וֹ עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ׃

Lo tov heyot ha-adam levado; e’eseh lo ezer kenegdo.

It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a fitting helper for him.

It is of course striking that, as the 19th-century Volhynian commentator Malbim notes, that all of the other creatures were created in male-female pairs, yet this human partner to God is unique in that Adam is initially alone. But furthermore, one of the essential features of humanity is, of course, society. There could be no concept of “humanity” without other human beings. 

Rabbi Ovadia Seforno, in 15th century Italy, reads this verse as follows:

The purpose of the human species on earth will not be achieved while the one who is supposed to reflect the divine image will be left to personally carry out all the menial tasks of daily life on earth by being solitary.

In other words, we humans, having been created (in the first Creation story) betzelem Elohim, in the image of God, have a job, and that job is to be God’s hands on Earth, to spread physical manifestations of the qedushah, the holiness embedded in that fundamental relationship with God. And that task clearly cannot be completed by one person. Reflecting the Divine image requires a lot of people; it requires human society.

And so God creates a second human being, to be an “ezer kenegdo,” a term that is not easy to translate. I said “fitting helper” a moment ago, according to the Jewish Publication Society translation. But there is a complication here! The term “fitting helper” does not capture the sense of opposition in the Hebrew.. “Ezer” means helper. But “kenegdo” includes “neged,” which means, “opposing.” So the human partner here can both help and oppose.

If we might envision this moment of the creation of Adam’s ezer kenegdo – when one became two, which became 4 and then 3 and then many others as we journey through the genealogies later in the parashah – as the beginning of human society, then we might read this passage as suggesting that we can stand with or against each other. We can advocate for each other or we can oppose. We can elevate the qedushah / holiness in the world together, or we can disagree about exactly how to go about that and accomplish nothing. We can solve problems, or we can argue about them.

That is one fundamental aspect of what it means to be human, to be in relationship with each other, to be a part of society.

And I am concerned that we are leaning too heavily into the “kenegdo,” the oppositional aspect of humanity today, rather than the “ezer.” 

And while certainly there are some bad actors who are doing this deliberately (e.g. those who knowingly spread false information about vaccines), there are many more of us who are doing this unintentionally. 

What do you mean, Rabbi?

Thanks in part to the Internet, which has allowed people to connect with and gather with each other and create micro-communities across continents and time zones, it is completely possible that today you can find the other people whom you perceive to be just like you all over the world. They think like you, they act like you, they have your particular tastes and inclinations. They watch all the same stuff on YouTube that you do.

So on the one hand, that’s great. It’s wonderful to know that people who have been marginalized for various reasons, for example, can find community.

But on the other hand, once you are socializing and forming communities with people who are far away from you, whom you cannot see in person, you are losing some of the essential aspects of what it means to be in relationship – that is, both the “ezer” AND the “kenegdo.”

And we are all actively creating this, even if we are doing it not on purpose. I am certainly not going to stop Beth Shalom from providing services via Zoom to people all over the world, but of course if you’re Zooming into a bar mitzvah from far away, and not actually coming to visit your friends and family in Pittsburgh, yes, you are sparing the atmosphere some carbon dioxide and contributing less to global warming. But you are also missing something else: the idea that synagogue, and, well, life takes place locally.

And of course this applies across all of our platforms, which both connect us and separate us.

The pandemic certainly has upended our lives in many ways, and the Zoom phenomenon is just one. All of the forces of isolation were in play long decades before the arrival of Covid-19, and even the Internet; sociologists and political scientists and psychologists have been talking about these things for years. (Many of you have heard me speak about the “Bowling Alone” phenomenon identified by sociologist Robert Putnam.)

But just one tiny anecdote that might hit home for us: the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle published a poll this past week regarding the building and use of sukkot in our community over the recent holiday. A few of the written responses that they published echoed this isolation:

  • “Unable to attend live services and visit the sukkah due to worry about leaving my ill wife!”
  • “I used to be Jewish. I am alone. People have not invited me to anything for a number of years.”
  • “Used to have a sukkah every year when my kids were here.”

There were of course some positive responses as well. But these kinds of statements make my heart ache. Social isolation is a problem in particular for people who are homebound, but it is growing for all of us as well. Perhaps we need to do a better job as a community to reach out to people who feel disconnected.

Fortunately, there is a remedy for that: communal organizations. And even more fortunately, we the Jews are very good at being organized: Bend the Arc, Repair the World, ZOA, NCJW, the Jewish Federation, and of course, your local synagogue are all organizations which help to mitigate the challenge of isolation. 

And in particular, in places like synagogues where you might rub elbows with people who are as much ezer as kenegdo, we need to ensure that we continue to be in touch with and serve all people, people of all walks of life, of all ages, colors, backgrounds, gender identities, financial means and yes, even people of all political persuasions.

That is what it means to be in community; that is what it means to be God’s hands in doing the holy work of being made in the Divine image. And that experience, of doing God’s work together in partnership, is a highly local endeavor, one that we do with ALL of our neighbors.

Yes, the pandemic is still going on, and of course we must continue to emphasize vaccination and the wearing of masks. But just as we saw lots of joy over this Simḥat Torah, just as people expressed their tremendous gratitude to me and other leaders of Beth Shalom for making it possible for us to be able to daven together in the building over the High Holidays, we will learn to live with this, we will continue gradually to protect everybody from the disease, and we will gather with even more joy and celebration and just the pure happiness of being together.

So, while I am grateful for Zoom, I am also looking forward to the day when we can all gather freely once again, to be ezer kenegdo to one another, as God intended.

~

Rabbi Seth Adelson

(Originally delivered at Congregation Beth Shalom, Pittsburgh, PA, Shabbat morning, 10/2/2021.)

Categories
Festivals Sermons

What’s Wrong With Ecclesiastes (aka Qohelet)? – Shabbat Hol HaMoed Sukkot 5782

הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל הָֽבֶל׃
מַה־יִּתְר֖וֹן לָֽאָדָ֑ם בְּכׇ֨ל־עֲמָל֔וֹ שֶֽׁיַּעֲמֹ֖ל תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃
דּ֤וֹר הֹלֵךְ֙ וְד֣וֹר בָּ֔א וְהָאָ֖רֶץ לְעוֹלָ֥ם עֹמָֽדֶת׃
וְזָרַ֥ח הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ וּבָ֣א הַשָּׁ֑מֶשׁ וְאֶ֨ל־מְקוֹמ֔וֹ שׁוֹאֵ֛ף זוֹרֵ֥חַֽ ה֖וּא שָֽׁם׃
הוֹלֵךְ֙ אֶל־דָּר֔וֹם וְסוֹבֵ֖ב אֶל־צָפ֑וֹן סוֹבֵ֤ב ׀ סֹבֵב֙ הוֹלֵ֣ךְ הָר֔וּחַ וְעַל־סְבִיבֹתָ֖יו שָׁ֥ב הָרֽוּחַ׃
כׇּל־הַנְּחָלִים֙ הֹלְכִ֣ים אֶל־הַיָּ֔ם וְהַיָּ֖ם אֵינֶ֣נּוּ מָלֵ֑א אֶל־מְק֗וֹם שֶׁ֤הַנְּחָלִים֙ הֹֽלְכִ֔ים שָׁ֛ם הֵ֥ם שָׁבִ֖ים לָלָֽכֶת׃
כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים יְגֵעִ֔ים לֹא־יוּכַ֥ל אִ֖ישׁ לְדַבֵּ֑ר לֹא־תִשְׂבַּ֥ע עַ֙יִן֙ לִרְא֔וֹת וְלֹא־תִמָּלֵ֥א אֹ֖זֶן מִשְּׁמֹֽעַ׃ מַה־שֶּֽׁהָיָה֙ ה֣וּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶ֔ה וּמַה־שֶּׁנַּֽעֲשָׂ֔ה ה֖וּא שֶׁיֵּעָשֶׂ֑ה וְאֵ֥ין כׇּל־חָדָ֖שׁ תַּ֥חַת הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃

Utter futility!—said Qohelet— Utter futility! All is futile!
What real value is there for a person / In all the gains one makes beneath the sun?
One generation goes, another comes, But the earth remains the same forever.
The sun rises, and the sun sets— And glides back to where it rises.
Southward blowing, Turning northward, Ever turning blows the wind;
On its rounds the wind returns.
All streams flow into the sea, Yet the sea is never full;
To the place from which they flow / The streams flow back again.
All such things are wearisome: No man can ever state them;
The eye never has enough of seeing, Nor the ear enough of hearing.
Only that shall happen / Which has happened,
Only that occur / Which has occurred;
There is nothing new / Beneath the sun!

Qohelet / Ecclesiastes 1:2-9

***

What’s the problem with Qohelet?

First, while some might point to this passage and see nihilism, that is, the idea that everything is meaningless, that our actions do not matter, that there are no objective truths or morality or values, that is actually not Qohelet’s philosophy. 

Others have suggested that Qohelet is the original existentialist, meaning that our individual choices are solely ours, the responsibility and consequences thereof are solely ours, and the universe is more or less indifferent to them. This is also not an accurate description of Qohelet’s world view.

When Qohelet says, “Havel havalim, hakol havel,” Utter futility! All is futility, he is not saying that everything is meaningless. What he is saying, rather, is that our actions matter, but not in a way that we could possibly understand. And for sure, we will be called to account for our actions, but we may not ever know why, so we should be grateful for what we have and enjoy it, even as life continues to slip past unnoticed.

He is actually in good company with the anonymous author of the book of Iyyov / Job, who, when he finally challenges God, gets the most unsatisfying response ever. God’s retort to Job is effectively, “Be quiet! Who are you to tell Me what I can do or not do? Who are you to decide what is right and wrong?”

I have never been a “The-Lord-works-in-mysterious-ways” kind of rabbi, nor have I ever really sought any kind of consistent understanding of God. 

However, the approach of Qohelet and Iyyov, which further obscure the way that God works, is especially problematic. It flies in the face of the most prominent piece of practical theology in Jewish life: the framework of 613 mitzvot, the berit, the covenant we have with God, in which we keep those mitzvot, and God provides us with life and sustenance and joy and love and meaning. If our job, at least according to how we read the book of Deuteronomy, is to keep those mitzvot, then it cannot be that our actions are not at all related to our fates.

Right?

Didn’t we just get through Yom Kippur, pouring our hearts into our fervent prayer and pursuing teshuvah because, as Rambam tells us (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:4), we are supposed to see our lives in this period as hanging in the balance? That we have a number of merits, that is, mitzvot completed properly in their time and place, in the “black” column that is exactly equal to the number of transgressions indicated in the “red” column? That all we need to do is one more mitzvah than sin during the Aseret Yemei Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, to get a tiny nudge into the Book of Life?

That is why the ancient rabbis did not like Qohelet. There is actually a debate in the Talmud about whether or not Qohelet is actually a holy book (Mishnah Yadayim 3:5), compared to all the other books of the Tanakh.

But I am of the opinion that Qohelet is not only essential to Jewish life, it might actually be the most important work in the entire Tanakh.

Why? Because, while Qohelet might appear to contradict some other essential principles of Jewish life, he is also one voice out of many. And that is essential because we are not, and never have been, completely unified on any particular matter, including our understanding of how God functions. On the contrary: Qohelet provides a needed contrarian voice, one that subverts the “party line.” 

One of the traditions we have on Sukkot is that of Ushpizin, inviting ancient guests into our sukkah during our meals every evening. It is a kabbalistic tradition which draws on our understanding of the positive traits of our classical forebears, traits which we desire to emulate. Qohelet is not typically one of them. But consider this picture of some of those Biblical characters (although perhaps this is the wrong image, but I’m kind of picturing a Jewish version of da Vinci’s The Last Supper)*:

  • At the table we find Avraham, who is faithful enough to very nearly sacrifice his own son when God demands this. And yet he also challenges God, when God intends to destroy Sedom and ‘Amorah. 
  • And here is Sarah, who, though righteous and wise, laughs when she receives a divine message that she will have a child. 
  • Here is clever Rivkah, who carries out God’s word through deception. 
  • And here is hapless Isaac, who never takes the initiative and is always acted upon. 
  • And here is Moshe Rabbeinu, who receives the Torah on Mt. Sinai, has an anger management problem, and also argues with God not to destroy the Israelites following the Molten Calf episode. 
  • Here is Miriam, who finds water whenever the Israelites are wandering in the desert, and leads the women in song, but also engages in slander of her brother Moshe and is punished for it. 
  • Here is Devorah the Judge, who leads the troops in battle, 
  • And here is Yael, a brutal assassin masquerading as a gentle homemaker. 
  • Here is Yonah, who runs away from God but is given a second chance, and still doesn’t quite “get it.” 
  • And here is David Melekh Yisrael, who captures Jerusalem, but steals the wife of Uriah and then has him killed.

And over at the far end, Qohelet. Sitting there, wearing a beret and smoking a Gauloises while looking all smug, saying, Ein kol ḥadash taḥat hashemesh. There’s nothing new under the sun. We’ve seen this movie before. Don’t think you’re all so holy. Qohelet is really the only philosopher in the whole Tanakh. He does not care for dogma – he’s really all about the questions of why we do the things we do, a completely understandable Jewish activity.

And by the way, the JPS commentary tells me that Qohelet is likely not even a name, but rather a title, something like the town crier. The word is related to the Hebrew root q-h-l, meaning to gather or convoke, just like the titular word in Parashat Vayaqhel, in which Moshe convokes the Israelites for instruction on how to observe Shabbat. So this Qohelet, our Qohelet, is this figure that brings the Israelites together to discuss the transience of life and the futility of understanding God, as if in some ancient intellectual salon.

You see? Qohelet fits right in. He is as complicated as all the other human characters in the Jewish bookshelf. Why is he not in the regular list of Ushpizin invitees? Sure, so his philosophy is not necessarily what we want to hear, and contradicts in some sense the standard theology of the Torah. But when have you known the Jews to agree on anything, particularly God?

We need Qohelet because his voice is actually, sometimes, our voice. Maybe that is where we are today, with the sense of futility that occasionally marks our lives. No matter how good or bad our behavior, no matter our choices, we cannot deny that the sun will come up tomorrow, that some people will be born and some will die, that some of us will thrive and some will suffer. And no matter how pious or skeptical we are, we understand that we have no control.

I would like to think that just as there is a little Avraham, a little Moshe, a little Miriam and a little Yael in all of us, so too is there a generous portion of Qohelet. This town crier might just be crazy, but he might also be onto something: that as we go from holiday to holiday, from year to year, keeping mitzvot or missing the mark, expressing gratitude or asking for forgiveness or watching our children and grandchildren grow and learn and struggle and succeed, that we remember that this is how life goes, and we have to enjoy it if we can, while we can.

And I am grateful for his presence in my Tanakh.

~

Rabbi Seth Adelson

(Originally delivered at Congregation Beth Shalom, Pittsburgh, PA, Shabbat morning, 9/25/2021.)

* Not all of these characters appear in all Ushpizin lists (and I don’t think Yonah appears in any). Nonetheless, they might all be included as potential Sukkot invitees.