Sukkot – Dwelling in a House of Dreams

Our holiday of Sukkot – part harvest festival, part historical reenactment – is the holiday of insecure dreams. We are commanded to build a shelter for ourselves, but only the most flimsy, temporary shelter, to remind us of our own fragility, the transitory nature of life, and what it was like to be refugees from Egypt, with only the good will of a great power to sustain us. But then we are commanded to dwell in it. We are to welcome guests: our neighbors, the poor, and even our wandering ancestors, to be with us. And then, ideally, we sleep in it, the star visible above us. And we sleep with  the promise God made us in the desert, the promise that a more permanent home awaits us in the future, a promised land. No longer landless, stateless, we sleep knowing we are headed toward a better future. We sleep with a dream in mind before we even lay our head upon our pillow.

And knowing that, we are commanded to rejoice. Sukkot is meant to be our happiest holiday – not joyous like Passover, or riotous, like Purim, but a holiday of contentment, knowing our harvest is secure with us for the coming winter.
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Sermon from Rosh Hashanah 5778

So today I thought I’d talk about the concept of the klutz kasheh. This is a Yiddish term which literally mean a ‘klutzy question,’ or a ‘silly conundrum.’ The great Jewish tradition of grappling with silly difficulties goes back to the Talmud, where the Sages liked to pose unlikely, seemingly ridiculous problems to each other. A classic is one where someone poses the question, “A person with two heads, does he put tefillin on one head, or both?”

A favorite from medieval Jewish tradition was the question of whether, being short a tenth person, could a golem be counted in a minyan for public worship. These are indeed silly questions, pointless questions, but there are surprisingly profound implications to them. In each of these, the underlying question is, what makes a person? Who is a Jew?

This year a colleague posted online this question. God forbids Jews to write or complete a task during Shabbat or a major holiday, yet on Rosh HaShanah, we say that God “Writes” in the Book of Life of RH and “Seals it” on YK. Is God bound by the rules God imposes on us?

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