Tag: Torah portion

Sukkot the shelter of faith

In 2002, David Gottlieb, a secular Jew and practicing Zen Buddhist priest, began a correspondence with Rabbi Akiva Tatz, a well-known author and lecturer and internationally recognized medical ethicist. Gottlieb had a problem. His wife was a practicing Conservative Jew and he was becoming increasingly involved in Buddhism and distant from the Jewish tradition.

What followed after Gottlieb’s initial query to Rabbi Tatz was a correspondence that lasted more than a year and resulted, in 2004, in the publication of “Letters to a Buddhist Jew.” An intensely personal exploration of life and faith, the book presents an extended conversation between a rabbi rooted in traditional Judaism and a Jew searching for meaning within its boundaries. Following is an excerpt from the book that examines the relevance of Sukkot, and ancient practices generally in today’s world.


Shaking the lulav and etrog, dwelling in booths; the dedicated reading of Torah portions about brutal savagery in war, sacrifice, plagues and torment visited upon enemies; some aspects of Jewish life and observance, and the stories by which we guide ourselves, seem to modern sensibilities arrogant, bizarre, war-like. Although it is beyond argument that the Jewish people endowed the Western world with much, if not all, of its normal code, it is nonetheless strange that we adhere to the customs and tell the stories of an ancient agrarian conglomerate of nomadic tribes when the world has changed so much.