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

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7