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

Sept. 30 2015

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.

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Read more at Tablet

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

The UN’s New Blacklist of Israeli Businesses Threatens Palestinians Most of All

Feb. 18 2020

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council publicized a database of 112 companies—94 of which are based in Israel—that do business in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [sic], including East Jerusalem.” This list, three years in the making, evidently serves as a guide for those wishing, or promoting, a boycott of the Jewish state. As Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik explain in a detailed report, such a boycott would above all hurt Palestinians:

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Read more at Palestinian Media Watch

More about: BDS, Palestinian economy, UNHRC