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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Learned response to the Annual Sukkois Drasha


The following is an actual response from a member of "The Yeshiva" who also happens to be an ordained and practicing Reform congregational Rabbi:

"I understand the Reform decorate their Sukkahs with shrimp" (from the annual Yeshivas Chipass Emmess Sukkois Drasha)

Dear Rebbe,

From my vantage point as a yoreh yoreh yadin yadin of Reformic Judaism, I wanted to let you know that this is indeed correct, that we do in fact decorate our booths or Tabernacles with shrimp.

The authority for this custom is based on the g’matria of שרץ from Parshat Bereshit, which is 590, and equivalent to ציצת of Parshat Shelah. There in Parshat Tzitzit they are told to install fringes upon their garments and wear them so they won’t follow their lustful urges.

The origin of the custom is that apparently some years back one Reform Temple Youth Group held a Sukkot event where the high school aged boys and girls spent the night lay-shaving in the sukkah. It – so goes the legend – turned in to a group grope (mind you these were kids aged 15-17). Thus, to prevent future such orgiastic behavior, it was decided that shrimp should decorate the sukkah so they would be reminded not to be lustful. This was needed because:

1) They didn’t know Parshat tzitzis, because it was absent from the Reform liturgy from 1894-2008 (and only in ’08 as an option if you turn the page);

2) They didn’t have talitot, or as you might say, taleisim, in their houses of worship; and

3) They figured the smell of rotting shrimp would deter lustful thoughts. (What they determined in later years was actually that the smell of stale shrimp covered up the smell of lust, if you know what I mean).

As an outgrowth of this, it became customary in certain Reform Sunday Schools to string together crab leg shells as decorations for their sukkahs and/or Hanukkah bushes.

I am pleased that I can provide this background to you, lichvod he-chag.

May your festive waving of the long thing next to the shrived up thing bring the Divine Wetness in its season.

מועדים לשמחה

Rabbi Daniel C.


Tizku LeMitzvois


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