Ahavas Sholom – an Historic Landmark and Sacred Space

Newark's Last Remaining Synagogue born of the Great European Migration at the turn of the 20th Century

145 Broadway, Newark, NJ 07104
Phone: 973-485-2609 | Email: cahavassholom@optimum.net


Simon Says, September 24, 2021

In Tractate Sukkah, the rabbis discuss whether a sukkah is fit.  Some examples are absurd.  For example, you can build a sukkah on top of a camel and the rabbis debated whether the sukkah is kosher.  The rabbis said that the sukkah must be used for seven days, and you can’t climb atop an animal halachically on the first day of the festival.

But the story of a sukkah atop of a camel pales in absurdity to the next story:  the use of an elephant to build one wall of the sukkah.

Rabbi Yehudah said that you can use an elephant for one of the sukkah’s walls, but Rabbi Meir said that you can’t, because the elephant might get up and walk away.  Rabbi Zeira attempted to obviate this difficulty:  he proposed a solution that the elephant be tied down. Everybody agreed that a tied-down elephant makes the sukkah kosher.  If the elephant dies during the holiday, the sukkah remains kosher, because the carcass of the elephant still has a height of ten handbreadths.

The image of an elephant being one wall of the sukkah conjures an image of the circus:  people cleaning up after the elephant.  The rabbis stretch the limits of imagination every where in the Talmud, but the image of an elephant being a wall of the sukkah is bizarre.