S. Y. Agnon’s Sukkot Tale of a Rabbi and a Citron

Traditionally, Jews use citrons (etrogim), palm fronds, and myrtle and willow branches in the rituals of the holiday of Sukkot, which began Sunday night and continues for seven days. These items are the subject of a 1947 short story by the Nobel prize-winning Hebrew author S. Y. Agnon. The story, newly rendered in English by Jeffrey Saks, begins with a description of Jews shopping for the ritual objects in an Orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem:

To witness how precious the mitzvah of etrog is to the Jewish people one need only visit Meah Shearim between [the preceding month of] Elul and Sukkot. That neighborhood, which is like a withered plant all year long, becomes a verdant pleasure garden in that season, with stores full of etrogim, lulavim [palm fronds], and hadasim [myrtle branches]. Jews from all over Jerusalem crowd into those stores, inspecting the etrogim, lulavim, and hadasim, or sharing learned insights about them.

Even the elderly, who never exit their own doorposts all year long, either due to weakness or fear of wasting moments from Torah study, come to purchase an etrog. Because of the importance of this mitzvah, they go to the trouble to select their own etrog—after all, an etrog selected by someone else cannot be compared to one chosen by one’s own hand. These elderly jump from courtyard to courtyard and from shop to shop, with renewed youth and vigor as the shopkeepers run to and fro with boxes full of etrogim, each according to the stature of the customer and the budget he has to spend. In between push young boys with little baskets . . . used to bind the Sukkot species together, beautifying the mitzvah, and beautiful in and of themselves on account of their lovely shape.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew literature, Jewish holidays, Jewish literature, S. Y. Agnon, Sukkot

Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University