Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Time for Everything? (Chol HaMoed Sukkot)

On the Shabbat that falls in the middle of the festival of Sukkot, in addition to our reading from the Torah, we also read from the book of Ecclesiastes.  It contains one of the most famous biblical passages: “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”  The great Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai wrote a poem that offers a kind of modern midrash on this section of Ecclesiastes called “A Man in His Life”.  Amichai argues that in our lives, most things don’t come separately, each in their own proper time; instead, we experience a wild, patchwork mix of emotions and experiences all at the same time.  As we move through our fall holy days, I’ll let you decide if you agree with the poet.  Meanwhile, Moadim l’Simchah—Seasons of Joy—to all.

A man doesn't have time in his life
to have time for everything.
He doesn't have seasons enough to have
a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes
Was wrong about that.

A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment,
to laugh and cry with the same eyes,
with the same hands to throw stones and to gather them,
to make love in war and war in love.
And to hate and forgive and remember and forget,
to arrange and confuse, to eat and to digest
what history
takes years and years to do.

A man doesn't have time.
When he loses he seeks, when he finds
he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves
he begins to forget.

And his soul is seasoned, his soul
is very professional.
Only his body remains forever
an amateur. It tries and it misses,
gets muddled, doesn't learn a thing,
drunk and blind in its pleasures
and its pains.

He will die as figs die in autumn,
Shriveled and full of himself and sweet,
the leaves growing dry on the ground,
the bare branches pointing to the place
where there's time for everything.

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