There are Standards for Unity

The Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles) is one that emphasizes unity more than any other Jewish holiday.

In addition to the commandment to stay in huts (sukkahs) over the holiday, Jews are commanded to gather four species and hold them together in commemorating the holiday. The four species are the lulav, the aravot, the hadasim and the etrog. The four different natural items are said to represent four different types of people. Just as the four species have different characteristics – smell & taste / no smell & taste / smell and no taste / no smell & no taste – similarly these items represent people with a different mix of good deeds and Torah learning. Just as it is necessary to hold all four of these species together to execute the biblical command, so it is with welcoming all kinds of people into our communal tent.

As such, the holiday of Sukkot is a demonstration of unity.

Many progressive rabbis emphasize the nature of unity during the holiday but overlook a critical component of the laws surrounding the lulav: minimum standards.

Each of the four species cannot be contaminated in any way. For example, the tip of the etrog must be intact; the hadasim cannot be dried out. If any one of the four species is damaged, the mitzvah cannot be performed.

So too there are limits to unity.

In theory, all types of people should be allowed in the communal tent. However, there are thresholds at which actions or statements render people unfit and unwelcome into the collective.

Hillary Clinton made a point of describing racists and misogynists as “deplorable,” during her presidential campaign. While she was right in stating that there are some people that are deplorable, she chose that label for 25% of the US population. That is and was an absurd libel.

Liberals have held on to Clinton’s claim post the election of Donald Trump. They continue to state that one in four Americans is a pariah. A disgrace. Unfit to wield a vote.

As such, liberals concluded that the 2016 election was flawed. Like a lulav with dried out hadasim, the process itself was compromised. They held placards that “He’s not my president,” and blamed the loss on a variety of issues like Russian meddling and late breaking revelations about her emails.

But at the core, it was really about their perception of the American deplorables.

Protesters hold signs during a protest against the election of President-elect Donald Trump, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Similarly, for many pro-Israel Americans, there is a divide over acceptable approaches to Israel. Some left-wing extremist groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, the New Israel Fund and J Street are viewed as beyond the pale for many in the pro-Israel community due to the groups’ approaches of punishing Israel economically and politically. They are the Jewish “deplorables.”

Does one in four pro-Israel Americans really support such left-wing extremist groups? Unlikely. Just as the number of racists in America is much lower than 25%.

America and the pro-Israel community are strong enough to manage a handful of “deplorables.” But it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that our society does not reach a tipping point where one in four people have such hateful views.

The fabric of decency and unity has limits.


Related First.One.Through articles:

A Disservice to Jewish Community

The Fault in Our Tent: The Limit of Acceptable Speech

Selective Speech

Students for Justice in Palestine’s Dick Pics

A Deplorable Definition

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“Cast thy bread upon the waters”

שַׁלַּח לַחְמְךָ, עַל-פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם

On the holiday of Sukkot, Jews are reminded of the fragile nature of life. They live in temporary huts for a week and read Ecclesiastes, a philosophical book from the Old Testament. The book reviews the concept of a delicate life, and underscores the need to extend beyond one’s physical boundaries: to establish a good name that survives past death; and to learn about God who is not confined to the physical world.

King Solomon, the author of the book, mostly expounds upon the frivolousness of daily physical activities through the opening chapters. Towards the end of the book in chapter 11, he explores the nature of uncertainty in the world:

  • Ecclesiastes 11:1 begins with “casting bread upon the waters.”
  • To verse 5 “thou knowest not what is the way of the wind
  • and verse 6 “for thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good

We do not know what will happen in life. We do not know which piece of bread will catch a fish, what kind of fish it will be, or whether it will be worthwhile to eat. As such, one could conclude that we should use our best efforts to put several pieces out there in the right environment and hope that a “favorable wind” will yield an amazing catch.

With that idea in mind, “First One Through” began.

Knowledge surpasses the physical world, and in a digital world, is easy to “cast many pieces of bread upon the waters.”

The articles and posts of FirstOneThrough were made to educate and entertain people about Israel and Judaism. The posts have been shared directly with family and friends of Israel, who in turn, passed them along. Due to Facebook, Twitter, email and other sources, the posts circled the globe to 110 countries and have been read 25,000 times since the launch six months ago in May 2014:

  • The main readers have been the US (55%) and Israel (15%)
  • Significant readers come from: Australia; UK; and Canada, which together account for 16% of views
  • Modest readership came from: South Africa; Netherlands; Germany; Brazil; France; Denmark and Sweden which totaled 6%
  • 98 other countries accounted for 8% of views

The Arab and Muslim countries read the posts as well, including: Turkey; UAE; Malaysia; Indonesia; Pakistan; Egypt; Saudi Arabia; Morocco and Lebanon. There were a handful of readers from: Kuwait; Iraq; Tunisia; West Bank; Jordan; Qatar; and Yemen.


Ecclesiastes does not end with the discussion on uncertainty in chapter 11. The book concludes that anything in the physical word – even spreading knowledge – is subject to uncertainties and frailties due to the physical limits of people. However, reason and intent are the “hidden thing” behind “every work“.  Hopefully sharing the posts on the merits of Israel and Judaism covers the good intent of the sender, and enables the recipient to gain knowledge, and have the good judgment to pass it along as well.

“The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man. For God shall bring every work into the judgment concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil.”

סוֹף דָּבָר, הַכֹּל נִשְׁמָע:  אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים יְרָא וְאֶת-מִצְו‍ֹתָיו שְׁמוֹר, כִּי-זֶה כָּל-הָאָדָם

Having the Boss in the Sukkah

Have you thought about having your non-Jewish boss over to your sukkah?  What could go wrong?  Enjoy the FirstOneThrough comedy sketch:


Other FirstOneThrough comedy shorts on Sukkot:

Sukkot in the Office: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/anyone-working-in-october/

Occupy Sukkahs- end the 2nd day of Yom Tov: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/occupy-sukkahs-end-the-2nd-day-of-yom-tov/

Sukkot package deliveries: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDCkTqiWMfQ

Sukkot Package Deliveries

Does anyone miss the old horsehair for wrapping etrogim? Someone is bringing back a few tons of the stuff from Israel. Enjoy the FirstOneThrough comedy sketch.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDCkTqiWMfQ


Other FirstOneThrough comedy shorts on Sukkot:

Sukkot in the Office: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/anyone-working-in-october/

Occupy Sukkahs- end the 2nd day of Yom Tov: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/occupy-sukkahs-end-the-2nd-day-of-yom-tov/

Occupy Sukkahs- End the 2nd Day of Yom Tov

Diaspora Jews have been forced to celebrate a second day of yontif for thousands of years. The frustration has been magnified as society moves to an “always-on” environment. Try to explain to your boss how you hate taking off for extra holidays.

Enjoy the comedy sketch by FirstOneThrough below:


Other FirstOneThrough comedy shorts on Sukkot:

Sukkot in the Office: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/anyone-working-in-october/

Sukkot package deliveries: https://firstonethrough.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/sukkot-package-deliveries/

Anyone Working in October?

The Jewish holiday season is here. Jews who celebrate the holidays outside of Israel will have two days of synagogue in a row – for back-to-back weeks! The stress over missed work days will undoubtedly result in one’s mind wandering about work while fasting on Yom Kippur. They really should add another al chet just for that.

Enjoy the FirstOneThrough animated comedy short “Sukkot in the Office” on explaining to one’s boss about missing a month of work – for holidays no one has ever heard of!


Other FirstOneThrough comedy shorts on Sukkot:

Occupy Sukkahs- End the 2nd day of Yom Tov:

Sukkot package deliveries