Sukot 2

Why is it so hard to teach our people that 

this holiday, 


is called 

zman simchatenu, 

the season of our rejoicing? 

Why except for the party after a bar or bat 

mitzvah, do so many Jews see so little in 

being Jewish?

One Sunday morning, many years ago, as 

parents came to pick up their kids from 

the Hebrew school the following 

conversation was overheard.

"How was class?" 

A father asked his son. 

The child began to cry ,

"I hate Hebrew school. 

It's boring and stupid, the teachers are 

mean and the kids aren't nice. 

I don't want to go anymore."

The father stopped, turned to the kid and 


"Listen, when I was your age I went to 

Hebrew school and I hated it. 

It was boring, the teachers were mean,  

the kids weren’t nice, but they made me

go, and now, you're going to go to!"  


What a tragedy. 

What a catastrophe. 

To have raised a generation of children 

who associate Judaism with coercion, 

boredom, and emptiness.

When my parents’ generation 

described the painful condition of the 

Jewish people, they would shake their 

heads and say:

"Shver tsu zein a yid” 

 it's hard to be a Jew.

For anything to be authentically Jewish,

so many seem to feel it must be hard, 

painful, difficult!

There was this Jewish person who was 

invited to address a community 

commission researching outreach to 


After her statement, a prominent 

community leader questioned her,

"You say that you keep a kosher home. 

Don't you find that very difficult these 


No," she replied, 

"with new labeling of packages, it’s 

actually getting 


Well certainly, you find it very expensive."

"No, not really, you just shop wisely."

"Well, doesn't it severely restrict what you 

can eat?"

Catching his direction, she explained pointedly,

"Kashrut brings to my kitchen and to my

home a level of sanctity and godliness

that is precious to me and to my family."

"Well, obviously," the chairman said to the

 questioner, "you don't keep kosher!"

Shver tsu Zein a Yid! 

It's hard to be a Jew!

If it doesn't hurt, it's not really Jewish.

Someone came to a Rabbi and said about 

the sermon he had given in synagogue 

that Shabbat morning,

" Rabbi, I enjoyed your talk so much, 

I had such a good time, 

I forgot I was in Shul ."

"Once Jews accepted Judaism as a

privilege, now they regard it as a


This is a twisted, tortured, form of 


After all, if Judaism is only a painful 

burden who needs it? 

Some kids can tell you everything about 

the holocaust, but can’t name all the 

Jewish festivals.

You know the line, 

“Jewish history is they tried to kill us, they 

failed, let’s eat!” 

It is truly time that we recover Jewish joy. 

This holiday of Sukkot, 

which as I said before, 

the tradition calls 

zman simchatenu, our season of joy,

is really a good place to begin.

It is a mitzvah, 

a divine imperative to know Jewish joy.

It is a sin to have twisted Judaism into a 

dry joyless, 

morbid, burden.

We must learn to say to children and grandchildren in the most unequivocal of terms,

"I do Judaism because it brings my life 

purpose, direction and depth. I do 

Judaism because it makes me happy".

As the Torah reading for Shmini Atzeret 

says, (Deuteronomy 16:14),

"You shall rejoice in your festival, with 

your son and daughter.....You shall have 

nothing but joy.

Don’t worry, be happy!”

One day, still being a kid, I saw the biggest smile on my father's face when a little kid came up to him and whispered in his ear 

Rabbi, I feel very sorry for my 


"You feel sorry for your neighbors? Why?"

 he asked him. 

"Look what we get to do today, Rabbi," 

he declared.

"We get to eat in the Sukkah , sing the 

prayers and march with the Lulav and 


We're together as a family and with all our 


Rabbi for us today is Yontif, but for them 

it's just Thursday!"

If we could just get a lot more Jewish 

children to feel that joy, we’d be in really 

good shape. 


Best Regards

Jean-Pierre FETTMANN

+65 94604420