If you look up the word Succot, you’ll probably read that the Festival of
Tabernacles has a dual significance – historical and agricultural –
commemorating both the 40-year period during which the Children of Israel
wandered in the desert, living in temporary shelters, and the harvest festival.
For me, it has assumed an added significance: A time to slow down.
we are still in the action-packed period of Jewish holidays, cramming every
emotion known to Man into one month of prayers, feasting, fasting, repentance
and celebration, but the pace, of necessity, is different.
I have seen
beautifully decorated tabernacle booths, booths equipped with mobile air
conditioners in Israel and heaters abroad; friends in London used to keep a
well-stocked cocktail cabinet in the temporary booth in their garden; friends in
Israel have a stereo system. But by its very nature, the succa, however
splendid, is a temporary abode. It might be homey but it’s not quite home. It
reminds us of a period when the rhythm of life was dictated by the desert, and
that suits me just fine – at least for seven days a year.
I was struck
last week by a news item that the government is seeking a company to partner
with Israel Electric Corporation to build a fiberoptic network that can provide
super-fast Internet and television service to compete with existing fixed-line
companies. The end result will be a network that will offer a service 10
times faster than the one currently being provided.
I’m not quite sure
what this means, but it must be considered good: No fewer than three ministers,
all of whom I respect, were present at the October 9 press conference announcing
the launch of the program – Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, National
Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau and Communications (and Welfare and Social
Services) Minister Moshe Kahlon. The fact that three members of the cabinet want
to be associated with the project indicates that this is considered a positive
measure. As they say: Success has many fathers.
That failure is an
orphan, we saw, ironically, the same day when not a single member of the
government turned up for the main memorial service at Tel Aviv’s Kiryat Shaul
military cemetery, commemorating the fallen soldiers of the Yom Kippur
An acknowledged technophobe, I hate upgrading the speed of my
Internet service and usually leave it so late that my provider stops begging me
and simply informs me that it can no longer maintain a line as slow as mine and
therefore it will be providing me a newer, faster service free of charge (or,
most recently, slightly cheaper).
I usually hear frustrated sales
personnel at the other end of the line, probably not even born in 1973,
struggling to be polite and patient (not the most salient characteristics of
Israelis, bless ’em) while they try to persuade me that by upgrading I can save
so many seconds every time I surf the Web. I’m sure they’re right. But just what
can I do with all these extra seconds? I doubt they will add up, at the end of
the month, to enough time to even boil the water for a cup of coffee, let alone
Friends – real ones – try to convince me that the time has come
to join Facebook. But even though I might have saved many seconds with my
new speedy Internet, I don’t think I want to spend them updating my profile or
page. In fact, at the risk of truly showing my stodgy age and nature, I
can’t even think of any part of my status I’d want to update at the
moment. Baruch Hashem
. It is a sign of satisfaction and stability that my
job, home and personal life have remained unchanging in a tumultuous
world. My prayers on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur were not for them to be
suddenly, divinely upgraded but that they should, God willing, stay the
I am, of course, familiar with the concept of carpe diem
. I have
even on occasion been moved to grab a passing opportunity and seize the day. I
don’t, however, favor seizing the day if I know I’m going to be dragged along by
Recently, I watched a rebroadcast of a program about
singers/songwriters Ahinoam Nini (known abroad as Noa) and Mira Awad in which
Nini noted that she comes up with her best creative ideas when she just stares
into the distance, sitting on a coastal cliff near her home.
of us solve problems better and come up with new ideas when we slow down enough
for our brains to think clearly. When was the last time you heard someone
say: “I came up with this brilliant idea as I was racing to get to an
appointment/catch the store before it closed/rushing to collect the kids from
Me? I do my clearest thinking in the shower, swimming in the Jerusalem
Pool (under threat by the fast pace of development), or, like Nini, just staring
A friend of mine has developed a theory that global warming
is a result of the world actually turning faster. Time certainly seems to be
passing more quickly than ever.
As we broke the Yom Kippur fast in shul,
an acquaintance sighed: “That’s it. It will soon be time for Pessah.” I
understood what she meant.
Whereas once there seemed to be a huge break
between the High Holy Days in the fall and Passover in the spring, there now
seems to be nothing between them. Just as urban sprawl automatically springs up
along a highway, erasing pastoral countryside, so the festivals seem to merge
into each other the faster we speed through life.
This is a generation
being brought up on a diet of instant gratification.
There are calls for
“Peace Now,” “Messiah now” and a social economic reform right this
Give me a break.
It took the country 63 years to get this
far, against the odds. As Succot reminds us, it took us as a nation a few
Nothing will happen if we stop the frenzied race, or at least
slow down a bit.
Even the world’s leaders, each eager for a place in the
history books, should realize, in the words of a song written by Nini and Gil
Dor, “We will drive slowly because history is in front of us/ What will get out
of overtaking it?”
What better time than Succot to get back to basics and adapt
to a more natural, healthier, pace? On the highway of life, how can you enjoy
the view if you’re always speeding?
The writer is editor of The International