Jewish and Israelite Identity

Sukkot 5781: Sukkah

the sukkah i built
during sukkot
was a pictorial revelation of my soul’s purpose
as an israelite;

(so happy i was
to find this alternative usage
being used in my new morning prayer siddur
in the blessing prayer called
she’a’sani Yisrael:

“Blessed are You, Hashem
our Divine power,
royal Guide of the Universe,
who has made me an Israelite.”

where i was used to seeing it translated as:
‘who has made me a Jew’
Israelite danced in delight before me

more inclusive i found israelite;
more hopeful too
that the lost tribes will awaken
and return to the tents of Jacob

it makes more room for me
and my Benjaminite ancestors too.)

i must own though
that when in the translation into english
i find the word Hashem
i say, Adonai instead

as an african shaman in the inzuza lineage
hashem looks like ancestor worship
reminds me of shem
the son of noah

even though i know that in hebrew
it is a fence around the sacred name Y-H-V-H
and simply means “The Name”

however, upon hearing hashem
my mind immediately turns
to our ancestor shem
which is not what is intended…

since ancestor worship,
is forbidden in judaism
substituting hashem for adonai,
even as a form of respect,
becomes a form of idolatry for me

i therefore don’t use hashem in prayer.

just by the way,
i was never taught to worship
my ancestors of the inzuza lineage;

the creator,
though distant,
is known
and no substitute for him has been found

our ancestors are our guides
in the absence of him
who from our crudeness fled

our ancestors are part of our family
for the boundary between the living and the departed
exists only to the extent we are unaware of them


which is why it is important to know
our family trees –
who is who

and to use a reputable initiator
who knows how to protect their sacred space
from malevolent elements;

yet from my limited experience
the call itself
is heard within

and this inner guidance
is the true compass
to follow…

everything that is experienced through the process,
including abuse and exploitation
suffering of various kinds
are merely focused opportunities

to know myself
to correct myself
to purify my intentions
before the creator of all;

so that I may move ever closer to the promised land

with sincerity say,
as the siddur puts it:
I am ready to take upon myself
And actively fulfill the mandate:
“You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
(Leviticus 19:18)

ubuntu consciousness in action
unity consciousness being…

that was a lengthy digression
to arrive at what my soul wants to share today:

building my sukkah called that I sacrifice something;
in this case it my washing line…

from this I learnt that I had one washing line too many
and that the clothes horse i in addition use
is sufficient
for my clothes-drying-in-the-sun requirements

and that i am to go through my home
and with ease identify those things
i have no need of

and either donate them
or sell them;
given my path and purpose
greening the earth
and everything related to this i may sell

all else i am to pass on to someone else

i may do so calmly
no need to get into a frenzy
for it’s not about becoming ascetic
merely learning to live simply

nor is it necessarily an event

rather an ongoing awareness
to let go of what I no longer need;

including knowing
when some things belong on the compost heap

or turned into a washing rag
rather than dumping it at hospice?
(i am frugal with some things,
and in truth, have been known to do this…)

my jewish ancestors don’t like this contemptuous habit;

to the poor must be left corners unharvested
that they too may reap fresh grain;
fruit may be plucked by anyone
to eat there and then

never taken away
to consume later;

taking more than needed
to satiate immediate hunger is forbidden;
bankrupting a farmer
when like a locust i become
even more reprehensible

both are form of theft…

the former can be regarded
as partaking of the bounty of the creator
who provides for everyone,
and who owner of the earth is

the latter is a transgression,
by torah forbidden,
for the inclination to evil it feeds
regardless of how needy one considers oneself…

on the other end to give rags
to the already ragged
wins no kudos at all

for contempt
for the dignity
of the widow, the orphan and the stranger
is no blessing at all…

does this mean that wearing clothes till they are threadbare,
when new clothes you can afford,
fertilizes the evil inclination as well?

makes one miserly,
scarcity conscious,
leaves clothe weavers
and seamstresses penniless?

there are danger signs here too
for the talmud,
part of the oral Torah,
values nuance
and complexity in creative tension holding –

or more Jewishly expressed:
Judaism values the wisdom of giving
and receiving
in the right measure

all the while keeping in mind that

it is better to give
than not to give
even if someone else considers my offering
a rag

for to me it might actually be a treasure difficult to part with…

the positive mitzvot
are ways of consciousness raising
by kindness
into actions transforming

of this I became aware in the week of sukkot.

if i remember correctly
i had to ‘build’ the ‘walls’ first;
the wall onto which the washing line was affixed
served as the first of at least
two-and-a-half mandatory walls

the other two
at opposite ends i ‘built’ of clothe
secured with clothes pegs at the top
and bricks to weigh them down at the bottom

for allowed to flap in windy weather
they must not.

after these were set up
i realized they represented my indian ancestors
for saris they once had been;

how can that be?
hindus holding up
both the south ‘wall’
and the north ‘wall’?

(©Archaela 5781 Cheshvan 22-25)


Beloved of the Soul Siddur: Soulful Prayers by Sarah Evian

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