Sh’mini Atzeret
the eighth day
after Sukkot[1]
that closes
the sacred season
of the seventh month.[2]

In ancient times
the annual cycle of
to Jerusalem
also concluded
on that day.

And so
the returning pilgrims
shut down
for the bare months
of winter
by concern
that the late harvest’s
might not last
until the spring
the month of beginnings[3]
when the full moon
would coax them
out of their homesteads
summon them
to lift their spirits
and ascend
to Jerusalem
bearing the blessings
of new life
young lambs
in remembrance
of their ancestors’
redemption from slavery.[4]
And still
after centuries
of change and upheaval
flight and fruitfulness
their descendants
across the world
as in the land
to recall
the rhythms
of long-gone days
in the search
for meaning
and renewal.

Elli Tikvah Sarah

  1. ‘Booths’ (Leviticus 23.34-43). Also known as Chag ha-Asif, ‘the Feast of Ingathering’ (Exodus 23.16), the festival that celebrates the last harvest of the agricultural year.

  2. Literally, the ‘Eighth day of Closure’ (Leviticus 23.36; Numbers 29.35).

  3. Exodus 12.2; 13.4. Later given the Babylonian name, Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year.

  4. Exodus 12.1-11.