Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sukka 53 a, b

We learn more about the Celebration at the Place of the Drawing of the Water for the Sukkot libations.  This was a party.  The light was so bright that women could do their field work in the nighttime.  Hillel the Elder was said to tell people that he was at that party If I am here, everyone is here; if I am not here, who is here?  This is said to mean that we are solely responsible for our actions. 

Further, the rabbis note that Hillel said, "to the place that I love; there my feet take me" and "If you come to My house, I will come to your house; if you do not come to My house, I will not come to your house".  The first statement refers to our own agency.  The second regards Hillel's love for the Temple. G-d will meet us when we look to G-d both in a communal setting and in private settings.

The Drawing of the Water was a time to celebrate.  We are told about some of the levity of our Sages.  The rabbis juggled with knives and fire and wine and eggs before King Shapur 2nd of Persia, who is noted to have had an appreciation of Jewish customs.  We learn that people were encouraged to break oaths immediately and face the punishment (flogging) if those oaths were made in vain.

We are told a story about David as he dug the drainpipe system.  The waters rose from the depths and the people feared drowning.  David asked if anyone knew whether or not it would be allowed to write the sacred name on a shard of earthenware and throw it into the depths, thus stopping the water.  When no one spoke, David threatened them with strangulation. Someone stepped forward and suggested that a similar process was allowed for a suspected sota, and thus it should be permitted in this situation.  The shard was thrown and the water ceased rising.  

In response, David attempted to understand measurements of water and land; he attempted to rebuild the stairs of the Temple.  This brings the rabbis to another story regarding musicians standing on these stairs.  They wonder how to count the stairs: from the bottom to the top or from the top to the bottom?  In addition, they debate whether people face the east or whether their backs face the east - what would be the implications of these interpretations?

A new Mishna teaches us about a communal "clock".  We learn that the shofar was sounded between 21 and 48 times each day.  A certain number of blasts would sound in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening.  Different blasts would tell people that it was time to ready for Shabbat; that it was time to begin havdala.  The rabbis argue about how many blasts are sounded at different times.  They wonder how many blasts are counted when sounding tekia and terua.  They also wonder about the pauses between blasts; how do we measure these blasts?

I find it almost painful to watch the rabbis debate things like the count of shofar blasts and numbers of stairs.  Does it really matter where each musician stood on the Temple stairs?  Do we truly believe that G-d wants us to replicate these interpretations in order to hasten the coming of Moshiach?  These calculations seem all too human to me.  From what I glean of G-d, which of course is not much, I cannot imagine that G-d would be interested in such petty, meaningless minutiae.  The only important component of this struggle is the notion that we do struggle to know what is wanted by G-d.  In my mind, however, we are destined to get that wrong.  The G-d that I know does not care about minutiae; instead, G-d resonates with peoples' striving for goodness.

No comments:

Post a Comment