Bull-ions: Pinhas 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What is your favorite Jewish holiday? Why is it your favorite?

There are many people who love Sukkot more than any other Jewish festival — perhaps because it emphasizes time outdoors, perhaps because it is associated with joy, or perhaps because it is particularly meaningful right after the completion of Yom Kippur:

The Pitch: “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, you shall observe a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations. – Seven days you shall observe a festival of Adonai. – You shall present a burnt offering …” – Numbers 29:12-13a

Swing #1: “Just as the dove makes atonement for the pilgrims, so Israel makes atonement for the other nations, since the seventy bullocks that they offer on Tabernacles correspond to the seventy nations, and are brought in order that the earth may not be left desolate of them.” – Song of Songs Rabbah

Swing #2: “Seventy bullocks were sacrificed on the festival, for the seventy nations of the world.  One bullock and one ram on Atzeret, for Israel being the one nation in the land. Just as the bullocks decreased in number as the festival progressed, thus the Canaanites are diminished, but Israel is not diminished.” – Pesikta Zureta

Swing #3: “On the first Holy-day of the Festival of Tabernacles there were there thirteen bullocks and two rams and one he-goat. There still remained (there) fourteen he-lambs for the eight Watches. On the first day six offered two each, and the rest one each. On the second day five offered two each, and the remainder one each. On the third day four offered up two each, and the rest one each. On the fourth day three offered two each, and the others one each. On the fifth day two offered two each, and the remainder one each. On the sixth day one offered up two each, and the remainder one each. On the seventh day all were equal. On the eight day they reverted to the casting of lots as on all other Festivals. They said, the one that had offered bullocks on one day should not offer them on the next day but must take it in turns.” – Sukkah 5:6

Late-Inning Questions: What seems to be the significance of the decreasing number of bulls offered on each day of Sukkot? Is it, perhaps, a symbol of decreased joy as the holiday ebbs away? Is a diminishment in one aspect of our lives an opportunity for an increase in another?

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of favorite holidays, Major League Baseball seems keen on creating variations of team uniforms on Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, and other occasions as well. Shouldn’t a uniform actually be, um, uniform?

Shabbat Shalom!