37-From Yom Kippur to Sukkot

It’s Sukkot! The Festival of Booths! The Time of our Rejoicing! The Holiday of the Ingathering!


Sukkot is meant to be marked by outdoor living, by celebrating our ancestors’ sojourn in the wilderness and our [slightly less early but still early] ancestors’ agriculturally-bounded days, by appreciating the harvest.

Here in Philly, it’s 80 degrees, which makes it tough to even think of it being a harvest season, but the trees are slowly beginning to brighten into yellow at their tips and soon enough, the chill will come.

In Woodstock, the trees are already turning. Last week at this time, I was about to head  up there to mark Yom Kippur with my community. I had an incredible experience. I am, and will continue to be, I’m sure, immensely grateful for being a part of this community of vulnerable spiritual seekers. I don’t take such a place for granted.


The rabbi at Woodstock, the amazing Jonathan Kligler, picked some phrases from holy text that matched the gematria (Jewish numerology) of our new year of 5778. One was from Pirkei Avot: “ובמקום שאין אנשים, השתדל להיות איש–Uvmakom she’ayn anashim, hishtadel lihyot ish— In a place where there are no people, seek to be a person,” or, in more yiddishy terms, a mensch. Rabbi Jonathan encouraged our community to take on the mantle of menschiness, and the community was eager to comply.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past week, and yesterday a song found me. One of my goals for this year of 5778 (in addition to obvious ones, like “finish rabbinical school”) is to really push myself to create music. I don’t know what my style is yet or even if I’ll like everything I’m writing a week or a month down the line, but my goal is to create. So here I am creating.

I wrote the lyrics (which you can find below the movie). Not sure how I feel about myself as a (non-Hamilton parody) lyricist yet.

A lil background: Rabban Gamliel is an important sage. Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) is a book of early rabbinic literature studied by many Jews. The Hebrew chorus is the line about being a person quoted above. The other Hebrew bits are:”zeh asu”– do this, “shamanu” — we heard, and “aleinu”– it is upon us. Those aren’t in Pirkei Avot; I just liked them.

Gamliel said in Pirkei Avot:

“If there are no humans of note,

You know what you must do,

Be the best human you can be.”

Zeh Asu!


Uv’makom she’ein anashim, hishtadel lihyot ish.


We know the path we must tread,

Yes, there will be challenges ahead

In this world that cries with pain undo,

We’ll be a tribe of mensches.



Uv’makom she’ein anashim, hishtadel lihyot ish.


In God’s image each of us was made.

We will rise up; we are not afraid.

In this place there’s justice to pursue

We’ll be a tribe of mensches