17 October 2019

Dear All,

The weather has been E-mazing the past few months and it looks like we could get some rain over Succoth in the ‘Ou Transvaal’….. after last week’s STORM warning, which just did not happen…. there was a terrible wind, which blew the rain away Methinks…. ‘OUR’ local climatologists are not with it, and are suggesting we could have a wet summer, BUT…..International forecasters are saying a very dry season….?? Quite E-mazing how they were spot-on in Japan with the Typhoon warning…….. As predicted we got 1,000 drops of rain Erev Sukkot…. And nothing else…and today they reckon we in for a Heatwave...?? no rain on Sukkot could be a bad omen…..

The Typhoon in Japan put a damper on the final Pool round, with 2 games being cancelled during the week….Quite E-mazing that Sundays games carried on…

Gatiep is selling fruit on Mitchells Plain. He walks up to the car and says: “Peske, Peske. Lekke peskes. Net vyf rand virrie laanie.” 

The guy in the car says: “Is hulle soet?” 

Gatiep replies: “Dja menee, kyk hoe stil sit hulle!!”

Gatiep, selling snoek on the corner shouts: “Hier’s djou snoek” 

The guy in the car says: “Wat vra jy vir daai snoek?” 

Gatiep replies: “Ons vra hulle niks. Wil djy hulle iets vra?”

Australia really battled to beat Georgia 27-8, and again the backs ran well, BUT….the forwards were not up to scratch and toooo many errors all round…..

Ireland were really something against Samoa, playing with 14 men after an early red card….and managed to beat Samoa 47-5, which was a very good performance …..Who knows, maybe it will be better to face Japan rather than Ireland which I predicted would happen…..

Tonga beat the USofA 31-19, BUT both teams are going home…..

Wales did not have it all their way against a plucky Uruguay, and eventually beat them 35-13, BUT….it was a tough match for Wales, who had just come out of that mammoth game with Fiji …Looking a bit jaded, BUT are in the quarters…..

Japan came out playing like demons and soon had the Scots against the ropes in the first half with 3 tries, and straight after the break, they scored their 4th, and then Scotland took control, BUT….could not beat the Japanese in the end, and the Japanese go through to the quarters with Scotland going home….


 A man with a winking problem is applying for a position as a sales representative for a large firm. 

 The interviewer looks over his papers and says, "This is phenomenal. 

You've graduated from the best schools; your recommendations are wonderful, and your experience is unparalleled.  

 "Normally, we'd hire you without a second thought. However, a sales representative has a highly visible position, and ...we're afraid that your constant winking will scare off potential customers. I'm sorry....we can't hire you."

"But wait," he said. "If I take two aspirin, I'll stop winking!"

"Really? Great! Show me!"

So the applicant reaches into his jacket pocket and begins pulling out all sorts of condoms: red condoms, blue condoms, ribbed condoms, flavoured condoms; 

finally, at the bottom, he finds a packet of aspirin. 

He tears it open, swallows the pills, and stops winking.

"Well," said the interviewer, "that's all well and good, but this is a respectable company, and we will not have our employees womanizing all over, the country!"

"Womanizing? What do you mean? I'm a happily married man!"

 "Well then, how do you explain all these condoms?"

"Oh, that," he sighed. "Have you ever walked into a pharmacy, winking, and asked for aspirin? (OY…)

Quarter finals …

England play Australia, and should be able to beat the Aussies, who have not been performing so far, BUT……. watch the ‘Wallies’ backline….???

The All Blacks play Ireland and should be able to beat them quite well…..with OR without the Refs help…..Ireland have had a few good displays at the 2019 WC, and have beaten the All Blacks recently, BUT…..Methinks the AB’s will take them down..

Wales play France and I think it is anyone’s game….Both teams have not played well thus far, and they will slog it out, BUT….in the end I think that Wales will go through. France has the potential, BUT….are just lacking in their finishing

The Boks –Japan is a one way street, as far as I am concerned….I believe the Boks won’t give them a chance to run on and start playing their electric type of Rugger, and with a good pack, should be able to keep the ball tight, and not allow Japan all the running freedom in the world….. Methinks the Boks will not be troubled by Japan and should advance to the semi’s….. 

Sidney and Abe were describing their fishing expeditions with great relish.

"Once in Durban," said Sid, "I caught a fish so huge, it took three men to shlep it in!”

"That's nothing," scoffed Abe. "I once caught a lamp, with a date engraved on it -- 1492, when Columbus discovered America!”

“Big deal,” said Sid rising from his chair. “My fish weighed 150 pounds.”

“Yeah? Well, the lamp I caught was still lit!”

Nose to nose, they stared each other down ... until finally...

“Listen Abe,” said Sid. “How about ........

 We make my fish five pounds and you put your light out!” ( Mmmmmmmm…)

The Second Test against India started off as shocking as the first Test, with India scoring 600-5 declared, and our hero’s reeling at 63-3….Only an eighth wicket partnership, managed to save face a bit …….The follow on was again disastrous with the top 5 not really making any effort and it was again left to the bowlers to try and hang on…..This was a ‘Moerse’ Klap…..by an innings……Not sure what they can do with these Kaylikka’s in the last Test….?????

Those in the USofA can get their supply of Biltong, Droe Wors and other Souff Effrikken 'Gerichten' from Joburg Kosher Foods www.joburgkosher.com   details at http://www.stantgsm.com/category/info/15 

“There is no question that climate change is happening; the only arguable point is what part humans are playing in it.” – David Attenborough

“There is no such thing as ‘away’. So, when we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” – Annie Leonard

“If we pollute the air, water and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.” – David Suzuki

“If you really think that the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.” — Guy McPherson

“We are living on this planet as if we had another one to go to.” — Terri Swearingen

If we don’t take charge of our actions and continue destroying our environment, nature will surely hit back. That’s not a secret anymore : Climate Change

To find yourself, think for yourself.  Socrates

The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance - it is the illusion of knowledge. Daniel J. Boorstin 

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. Mark Twain

If you don't know where you're going any road will do  Lewis Carroll 

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Oscar Wilde 

I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.  Plato

One man with courage is a majority. ―  Andrew Jackson

Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortunes; but great minds rise above them. Washington Irving 

It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.  Marcus Annaeus Seneca  

All problems become smaller if you don’t dodge them, but confront them.  William F. Halsey   

We must never be afraid to go too far, for success lies just beyond.   Marcel Proust  

Smoke Signals in the Next Middle East War …Not looking good https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/292246/next-middle-east-war 

Where once there was darkness, a light shines at JCC Krakow …


The Lay of the Land of Milk & Honey….weekly round up………


The weekly look at Politics’ in the Beloved Country …The DA is discussed…????


If these figures are true, quite interesting…..



The 'Koppie' & Mountain climbers, Jeff & Jenni are still climbing every .. 'Koppie' & Mountain... http://lazarowhike.blogspot.com/     'Gib A Kuk’

Still climbing every “Koppie” and posting the most E-mazing Pichaaaaaa’s on their website …..…..  Bulgaria, Bansko: Vihren Peak, an experience worth flying across the world for…. Pirin National Park, in Bulgaria, is a knock-out. It’s a place filled with beauty, spectacular mountains, lakes, fauna and flora, challenges and more, which combine to make it a truly incredible treasure

Succoth in the ‘Beloved Country’ was Humungous, with ‘Zillions’ of Sukkah’s all over the place……. The Sukkah Mart shop in the Shtetl has been pumping, with Yidden buying Sukkah’s and all the Tzatzka’s that go with it ….Popped in and saw my old Chaver Rabbi Levy (Ex Germiston) who runs the Shop….. Picture; http://www.stantgsm.com/category/pictures/4   and next door at Fresh Fellows they have been selling Lulav’s & Etrog’s …. Today I popped into the Chabad Seniors Sukkah and Ronnie & Alan Kaplan’s Sukkah, which has been going for over 40 years…… 


 ( Tukka the only 'PURE' Succoth joke I know...)

 An  observant Jew who lived on Park Avenue,  built  a  Sukkah on his balcony   

 Some  of his 'high society' non-Jewish neighbours brought him to court.

 They claimed that the Sukkah on his balcony was an  eyesore and was having a negative impact on the  value of their homes in this posh neighbourhood.

In  court, the man was very worried about the outcome.  It  was the eve of the eight-day holiday, leaving him  no  time to make alternative arrangements, in case  the judge ordered him to take down the Sukkah.

He prayed for help. And Hashem listened.

 Judge   Ginsburg, who was Jewish himself, had a reputation  of being a very wise  man. 

After hearing both sides,  he turned around to the  observant Jew and scolded  him: 

"Don't you realize that you live on Park Avenue, and not in Brooklyn? 

There is  a  certain decorum which is expected on Park  Avenue.  

You have no right to be putting up an ugly hut on  this lovely  street without a building permit  authorizing  it. 

I hereby rule that either you remove  the hut, or I  will fine you one thousand  dollars.

You  have exactly eight days to  do so! Next  case!" (Otazay..............)

The news has been full of the USofA , putting the brakes on the Gupta family, and freezing their assets etc, BUT…..I am sure they have enough stashed away in Dubai and elsewhere, and it still has to be seen that Dubai will extradite them…(Not in my life time) and even if they did, I am sure they would get away Scott free…..If the USofA has put the skids on the ‘Zupta’s’ and their close Chaver Salim Esser, what are the Manne in the ‘Beloved Country’ waiting for…???? The Gupta family leveraged its political connections to engage in widespread corruption and bribery, capture government contracts, and misappropriate state assets. Treasury’s designation targets the Guptas’ pay-to-play political patronage, which was orchestrated at the expense of the Souff Effrikken people…… Uncle Sam is woes and clamping down…. And in the same week, their best ‘Tjommie’ , Jacob Zuma lost his appeal to have his case thrown out, and he will now have his ‘Day in court’ which he keeps preaching, and when it comes near, he fights it off….His main complaint is that it has taken 15 years, and he says it has been delayed toooo many times…. Methinks he must be a bit ‘Mishuga’, as he and nobody else has been using delaying tactics….I again say that he will never get Cheder…… https://www.biznews.com/undictated/2019/10/14/thieves-south-africa-sleep-state-capture?utm_term=  

Minsker the Shlepper”… He does ‘Shlepping’ ….Besides Airport runs, Sun City etc., he also does ‘Shlepping’ of confidential documents…… 083-5426480 see http://www.stantgsm.com/view-post/businees%20card---paul%20minsker/5860

I couldn't find my luggage at the airport baggage area. 

So I went to the lost luggage office and told the woman there that my bags never showed up.  She smiled and told me not to worry because she was a trained professional and I was in good hands. 

"Now," she asked me, "has your plane arrived yet?"... ( Oy,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,)

The E-mazing Coffee Table book, ‘The Road through the Grove’, which calls back the past, of the history from the Johannesburg Drive In along the BIG LB (Louis Botha Avenue) to Hillbrow, and anything on either side from Highlands North High to KES, very few copies left, and I am selling them at R500 in the Johannesburg area and will get them delivered to you….. Don’t miss this E-mazing book…. What a gift !!!!!!!!! Drop me an E-mail at smookler@netactive.co.za

I see that after a few months break, the Mobile Phone ‘Mumzers’ are at it again, trying to sell Drek to unsuspecting subscribers, and once they ‘Gup’ you it is very difficult to reverse the Charges……The easiest is to send SMS’s to subscribers offering a service, and once you click Yes, you start getting billed for Drek, which you never use….and the latest challenges to companies has revealed that the Company is not obliged to give a copy of telesales or any other proof…. The consumer gets a call out of the blue from someone reading from a carefully crafted sales pitch, someone, let’s not forget, who is incentivised by a commission system to close the deal…..The script is big on benefits, but usually skates over the financial realities, and if the person agrees to the deal, unless they’ve recorded it via an app on their smartphone, they have no record of what was said and what they agreed to.

Sometimes sales agents take it upon themselves –( I’m being generous here) – to sweeten the deal in some way; understating the cost, overstating the hardware that comes with it, leaving out a key detail or failing to correct an obvious misunderstanding on the subscriber’s part.. I have just got a refund for a daily charge of R9 a day added to the Mobile phone….. Pasop……

There was once a young man who, in his youth, professed his desire to become a great writer. When asked to define "great," he said, 

"I want to write stuff that the whole world will read, stuff that people will react to on a truly emotional level, stuff that will make them scream in disbelief, cry in despair, howl in pain, and vent their anger in ways they've never dreamed of!" 

He now works for Microsoft, writing error messages. ( Eishhhhhhhhhhh…)

The Jewish Women’s Benevolent Society have their hilarious play “ Fawlty Flowers” on the 19th October, at The theatre on the Square, Sandton   …. Promises to be an E-mazing show and a good ‘Lag’….. http://www.stantgsm.com/category/info/15 

A blonde city girl named Amy marries a Colorado rancher. 

One morning, on his way out to check on the cows, the rancher says to Amy, 

"The insemination man is coming over to impregnate one of our cows, so I drove a nail into the 2x4 just above where the cow's stall is in the barn. 

Please show him where the cow is when he gets here, OK?

"Then the rancher leaves for town.

Later, the artificial insemination man knocks on the front door.

I came to inseminate the cow, he says.

Amy takes him down to the barn, walk along the row of cows and, when Amy sees the nail, she?? says, "This is the one, right here."

Assuming he is dealing with an airhead blonde, the man asks, 

"Tell me, young lady, 'cause I'm dying to know, how would YOU know that this is the right cow to be bred?"

"That's simple by the nail that's over its stall," she explains with confidence.

Laughing rudely at her, the man says, "And. WHAT, pray tell, is the nail for?"

As she turns to walk away, she says sweetly over her shoulder, 

I guess it's to hang your pants on ??. (Once in a while, it's nice to see a blonde win …)

Out of the Blue, yesterday Eskom sent a twitter saying ‘Loading shedding’ is back….what a bunch of Schmucks….. They will cause the  Beloved Country to self destruct very soon….. Eishhhhhhhhhhhhkom has no idea what to do anymore…. Get some qualified guys in, and turn it around….. Traffic chaos like U can’t believe….

My old Chaver Farrel Savitz is coming from Melbourne to consult on Migration to Australia and will be offering advice… Farrel is an experienced registered migration consultant (MARN 0211550) who will be visiting South Africa from Fri 25 Oct to Fri 01 Nov 2019 to conduct one-on-one consultations with anyone seeking advice on Australian migration. Available dates and locations are as follows:

CAPE TOWN Fri 25 Oct  & Sun 27 Oct 2019 ….The Library, The Cape Grace Hotel 

West Quay Road, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

JOHANNESBURG …Tues 29 Oct to Fri 1 Nov 2019 …Library Bar, African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel ,1 Melrose Square, Melrose Arch

If you would like to make an appointment with Farrel whilst he is in South Africa, please contact his local booking agent: Renata Vorster 084 8647488

Email: renatavorster@yahoo.com See http://www.stantgsm.com/category/info/15  

Eli is a Genealogist of note……….. Eli Rabinowitz – 'Gib A Kuk' at his blog…E-mazing news from 'Der Heim’s' & The 'Beloved Country'…Eli has some E-mazing information on his late father in Law Leonard Reitstein –Fondly known as

“ Mr Chess”….some very interesting info https://elirab.me/leonard-reitstein-mr-chess/ 

Had a surprise visit from my ‘Cuzzie’ Mike Kerem, who flew in for his Nephew’s Barmy from Atlanta for the weekend….. Always good to catch up…… Mike and his wife Michelle (Weitzman) met while working at Stan & Pete nearly 30 years ago, and have 3 Kinderlach now….. Michelle’s Dad was my Late Partner & ‘Cuzzie’ Norman (Sarge) Weitzman…….Picture; http://www.stantgsm.com/category/pictures/4 

Anyone, Emigrating and wanting to sell their Cars, contact Ashley 011 728-6366 and maccabi@iburst.co.za ….

Few Perky one liners……………………

The difference between the Pope and your boss … ????

The Pope only expects you to kiss his ring. 

My mind works like lightning: One brilliant flash and it's gone.  

It used to be only death and taxes.  Now, of course, there's shipping and handling, too.  

A  husband is someone who, after taking the trash out, gives the impression that he just cleaned the whole house. 

My next  house will have no kitchen -  just vending machines and a large trash can. 

A blonde said, "I was worried that  my mechanic might try to rip me off.  

I was relieved when he told me all my car needed was indicator fluid."  

Definition of a teenager?  Your punishment..... For enjoying sex.      

As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point the wrong way!

With Year end in sight already, time to book your year-end Parties and accessories JK Productions offer a variety of Sound Equipment/Stages/Disco’s and of course all the Exotic Jumping castles etc…. Contact ; Justin at JK Productions today.

He will personally assist with some incredible deals justin@jkproductions.co.za see the wide range of their services @  www.jkproductions.co.za and trust me the Mini Fire engine is a winner with the Kinderlach for parties…..

Gerald David’s Taxi Service is available for reliable and friendly airport shuttles and more. Contact Gerald on either 082 907 5507 

(The ‘Yiddisher Shlepper’) ……….   geralddavids21@gmail.com

Anne Sclar's saying for the week….. Travelworx ; travelworx@telkomsa.net

I don’t believe in failure – failure is just information and an opportunity to change course …………….

The Zuma’s are Tukka are GR8888888888 bunch…. And Former public protector Thuli Madonsela says former President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane is lying about her failure to give him an opportunity to respond to the damaging state capture claims against him. ….Her investigators even offered to travel to Dubai to speak to him, she said on Monday, in response to testimony before Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. ….Duduzane hit out at Madonsela for releasing her State of Capture report, which led to the formation of the Zondo inquiry, without interviewing him. …He had been asked by the commission’s evidence leader, advocate Phillip Mokoena, why former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas would lie about the Gupta family allegedly trying to bribe and threaten him into taking over the finance minister post. …“I have no idea. I do not want to jump into speculation ... but I think the main question that should be posed is why anyone didn’t ask for my version?” he said. ….“What I’m saying is: it’s the first time I’m being asked these questions ... I was not given an opportunity by the public protector.”  Madonsela has given a few examples of when he was approached, and his excuses, etc, etc…. and after all this he has the Chutzpa to claim that they should have discussed it with him first…… Eishhhhhhhhhhhh, another ‘Ducker & Diver”…..

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend, if you have one." -George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill 

"Cannot possibly attend first night, will attend second... if there is one." -Winston Churchill, in response

I dreamed I was forced to eat a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone.

A girl phoned me the other day and said, "Come on over; nobody's home." 

I went over. Nobody was home.

What's an auditor? ….Someone who arrives after the battle and bayonets all the wounded.

What's an actuary? ….. An accountant without the sense of humour.

Chappies.. Did U know ……….

http://stantgsm.com/view-post/chappies%20 %20fascinating%20story/5408

The Statue of Liberty weighs over 225 tons

Blonde beards grow faster than darker beards

Quite E-mazing that Zim-BOB-We , on the bones of its ‘Touches’ can still worry about changing THE NAME OF THE Victoria Falls to Robert Mugabe Falls…..after all the Tzorris he has left behind, hunger, jobless and everything else…… Will the ‘Zimbo’s’ never get any betterment, instead of nonsense like name changes….Must say its starting to happen in the ‘Beloved Country’ also ….. Not to sure on the news on this website…??? https://zimbabwe-today.com/zimbabwe-rename-victoria-falls-robert-mugabe-falls/?fbclid=IwAR0qNdrbc08NSTyWGhBt3mau3yILDFLzvxenvuxg9UT_RqSqyczZdzFNl7I …. Funny enough, when he ousted, there was a Joke going around that they should rename the Victoria Falls “ Mugabe Falls”…….

Bumped my OLD Chaver, Late Zummy Saitowitz’s Zunnelle Warren the other day…..Warren was actually a Sumo Wrestler in Japan ‘Amolikke Yoren’, and his Late Dad Zummy used to do the strings of coloured lights for us in Marquees ‘Tukka Amolikke Yoren’, when he did all the electric’s for Gordin & Furman , who had those Blue & White striped Tents for Simcha’s…. Zummy & his wife Sheila were originally from Mayfair…… Warren arranges electrical surveillance security and has been a Police reservist for many years… http://www.stantgsm.com/category/pictures/4

FOR the MOST 'Jacked up' 'Yiddisher' Wedding registry, 'Gib A Kuk'   at; www.binuns.co.za     …… Online Helpdesk … 0861 772 665 … see http://www.stantgsm.com/category/simcha-extras/33 for details.....

Happy 69th Birthday to my Boetie, who turned 69 yesterday …. Been a long ,hard road, BUT…..you have made it ….Many more in better health ……how the years have flown…….. Mazzies…..

Happy 80th. birthday to Aubrey Girnun (Aka Steve Mc Queen)….. Many more ‘young’ man…..Aubrey is of course a Boer from the ‘Plaas tussen Ogies & Delmas’, and know’ s his Rugger…..and I always have a very aggressive chat with him about Rugger ….Aubrey’s Late Brother in Law was Sid Nomis…..

Sincere condolences to the Barnett family on the loss of their Beloved Bella…..when in Souff Effrikka she was one of the Taiglach makers, and made many Taiglach for the customers….. She lived in Yerushalayim with her Zunnelle Rafi and family…. Rafi (Ralph) can be contacted at 972-523-847-440 and email: rafibarnett@gmail.com Sincere condolences to the whole family…….

NATHAN, TONY AND LEN ARE NOW BACK IN THE ORIGINAL PREMISES AT MIDWAYS MALL 280 CORLETT DRIVE BRAMLEY GARDENS. The new phone number is 011 887-5456. CONTACT THEM FOR THE BEST DEAL ON FURNITURE BEDDING AND APPLIANCES. See http://www.stantgsm.com/view-post/the%20%20manne%20are%20back%20in%20town/2201

MANTIS SECURITY TIP (Call 011- 487-1000 for any assistance) of the week
  • Various warnings on various ‘Gunavis’ setup’s…….
  • If you get in your car and see a sticker on the back or front window…do not get out again as they may be waiting to attack you……
  • When coming home, and your gates do not open with the control, try and see if they have tied the gates with tie backs…….Do not get out, unless you can see it is safe. They use black plastic thread to tie gates……
  • When getting in your Car , you see dirty blotches, drive away and do not put on wipers , as this just spreads the ‘Goooo’ and when you get out, guess who is waiting for you……..????
  • When drawing money from an ATM, and you see any tampering, do not use it…try not to use machines in isolated area’s…………
  • When putting in Petrol, do not leave car by itself with keys in…..
  • Getting to the stage, where people have to alter their daily routine a bit…
  • The Gunovim watch the house/business and see if there is a pattern/time of arrival etc.

Be ‘Wakker’ & ‘StreetwiZe’ all the time…………

Call; MANTIS @ (011- 487-1000) for advice and sign up and discuss it with their experienced staff. ………………..

Have a peaceful, restful Shabbos...From Stan and the Clan
Eerbare Makelaaaaaar van Suid Afrika ………
Cell- 082-4547860

Parsha of The Week 

Rabbi Yossy Goldman,’                                                                                BH    
Sydenham Shul,
C/O ‘Beloved Country’   


In Memory of Rabbi Eitam & Naama Henkin

               Guest writer ……Britain's Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

                           A Dvar Torah for Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot


The brutal murder of Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin in the presence of their four young children has shocked us all. It is hard to enter the spirit of zeman simchatenu, our festival of joy, in the midst of such lacerating grief. Our thoughts are with their children, and with their parents, Chanan and Hila Armony and Rabbi Yehudah and Rebbanit Chana Henkin, two of the great Jewish role models of our time. We ask, Zu Torah vezu sechorah, is this the Torah and this its reward? But we know better than to wait for an answer. In the end all we can do is to join the bereaved in our prayers. These words are dedicated to the memory of those who were killed.

At the end of his life Moses set out the great choice faced not just by Jews but by humanity as a whole: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life so that you and your children may live.”

Why did Moses need to say such a thing? Did we not know, without his telling us, to choose life? Is it not obvious that, given the choice, we would choose the blessing, not the curse? The answer is given in the book we will read tomorrow, Kohelet, one of the most profound of all reflections on the nature of life and death.

The keyword of Kohelet is hevel. It appears no less than thirty-eight times, five times in a single sentence: “Vanity of vanities, says Kohelet, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Hevel has been variously translated as “meaningless, pointless, futile,” as well as “vanity” in the seventeenth century sense, when it meant, not excessive self-regard but rather, “worthless.” Yet none of these is the primary meaning of the word.

Hevel means “a shallow breath.” The Hebrew words for soul – nefesh, ruach, neshamah – all have to do with the act of breathing. Hevel is a short, fleeting breath. What obsessed Kohelet was how fragile and vulnerable life is. We are biological beings of bewildering complexity, yet what separates being from non-being, life from death, is not complex at all. It is mere breath. When I read Kohelet I think of King Lear at the end of Shakespeare’s play, holding in his arms the lifeless body of his daughter Cordelia, weeping and saying, “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life / and thou no breath at all.”

Kohelet is, among other things, a midrash on the first two human children, whose story has become terribly relevant in our time. It is no accident that the victim of the first murder in the Torah was called Hevel (Abel). Hevel represents the fragility of life.  All that separates us from the grave is the breath God breathed into us: “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” That is all we are: hevel, mere breath. But it is God’s breath.

What eventually killed Hevel was Kayin (Cain). The Torah says explicitly why he was given this name. Chavah said, “I have acquired [kaniti] a man with God.” Kayin means “to acquire, to possess, to own.” In the end, unavoidably, this leads to conflict. Ownership is, in the short term, a zero sum game. The more you have, the less I have. Since we all want more, not less, the result will inevitably be violence, what Hobbes called “the war of every man against every man” in which life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” It is this scenario that is currently being played out in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Somalia, Libya, and other bloodstained arenas throughout the world. It was just such a state that led God, before the flood, to “regret He had created man on earth, and He was pained to His very core.”

That is why, fundamental to the vision set forth in the Torah, is the principle that we own nothing. Everything – the land, its produce, power, sovereignty, children, life itself – belongs to God. We are mere trustees, guardians, on His behalf. We possess but we do not own. That is the basis of the infrastructure of social justice that made the Torah unique in its time and still transformative today.

Kayin means: I am what I own, and what I own gives me power. Cain was the first Nietzschean. His religion was the will to power. That is why God rejected his offering. The sacrifice God accepts, that of Abel/Hevel, is one that comes from the humility of mortality. “Ribono shel Olam, I am mere breath. But it is Your breath I breathe, not mine.” When religion becomes the pursuit of power, the result is bloodshed. To this, God says, “Your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.”

Even the great Kohelet – Shlomo, whose name means peace – at first sought happiness in what he owned: palaces, gardens, servants, wealth. None of these brought what he hoped for, since none makes us immortal, none defeats death. We remain mere breath. That is why Kohelet in the end finds meaning in the very fact of life itself. He finds joy in simple things: eating, drinking, work, and “seeing life with the woman you love.”

Joy comes not from what we own but from what we are. It comes from the fact that we are alive at all. We serve God by celebrating life, sanctifying life, choosing life. That is why Sukkot follows immediately from the days in which we pray to be written in the book of life. The Sukkah, exposed to the elements, the rain, the wind, the cold, the storm, is the symbol of the vulnerability of life. Yet even so, it is where we celebrate the festival of joy.

The great choice faced by humanity in every age is between the will to power and the will to life. No country in the world today is more eloquent testimony to the will to life than the State of Israel. It represents the collective affirmation of the Jewish people after the Holocaust, “I will not die, but live,” and thus give testimony to the God of life. Almost everything in which Israel has excelled, from agriculture to medicine to life-saving technologies, has been dedicated to enhancing, protecting or defending life.

Surrounding Israel, however, have been countries and cultures willing to sacrifice life to the pursuit of power. The result has been nothing short of devastation for all those caught in its vortex be they Jews, Christians, Muslims, Yazidis, Kurds, or other innocent human beings. The end result will be, as described by Shakespeare:

Then every thing includes itself in power

Power into will, will into appetite,

And appetite, an universal wolf,

So doubly seconded with will and power,

Must make perforce an universal prey,

And last eat up himself.

Those who worship at the altar of power, in the end destroy themselves.

Sukkot tells us that life is vulnerable, yet it is all we have. We may be mere breath but it is God’s breath and it is sacred. The day will come when the world will see that the will to life must defeat the will to power if we are to survive at all, our humanity intact. Only when this happens will there be peace in the Middle East. Only when this happens will the children of the world have a future of hope.

Until then, we cherish the memory of two beautiful human beings who lived and taught the sanctity of life. May their example live in all our hearts.

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