Of Mice and Sukkot by Rabbi David Hartley Mark


D'var -Sukkot Chol Moed

Sukkot Shabbat Chol ha-Moed (סוכות שבת חול המועד)
Torah Portion: Exodus 33:12 – 34:26 & Numbers 29
Haftarah: Ezekiel 38:18 – 39:16

(Scene: A temple courtyard. Sara, a fifth-grade Hebrew School teacher, is working with her students to decorate their congregation’s Sukkah. She directs them to string popcorn on nylon thread, cut paper chains from construction paper, and use this year’s Rosh Hashanah cards to tape in the sukkah. A bag of fall apples sprawls in a corner, and the children alternate between munching and hanging the fruits from the sukkah’s roof.)


Sara: All right, people. Looks like that corner over there (pointing) is a little bare. Rachel and Chaim—can you take some of the paper chains and fill it in?


Rachel and Chaim: Sure, Morah (Teacher) Sara.


Sara (smiling): After we finish hanging the apples and the Indian Corn, we’ll take a break and have a snack. We can practice the brachote (blessings) for different kinds of fruits.


(Enter George and Lennie: two wandering laborers from John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men. George’s eyes dart back-and-forth, taking in the scene, and looking pointedly at the bag of apples, while Lennie shambles along, totally unaware, only following George. The two are opposites: George is all bones and angles—sharp nose, small, strong hands, giving the impression that he is small and quick. Lennie, on the other hand, drags his feet, resembling a big grizzly, his hands hanging straight down. From time to time, Lennie stealthily puts his right hand in his coat pocket.)


George (to Sara): ‘Scuse me, Miss (touching his dusty hatbrim). I and my friend Lennie have just come to your town, and we are looking for work. I saw in the front window of your church that you need a caretaker, mebbe. I and my friend would be perfect for this job.


Lennie (to a little girl, Chava): ‘Cause we are going to work hard, and then, buy us a farm. We’ll have all kinds of animals, and we will live off the fatta the lan’.


Chava: Oh! I love animals. I can’t have a pet, though; we live in an apartment.


Lennie: Well, then, Missy, when you come to visit us on the farm, I will let you play with my rabbits.


George: Lennie, what did I tell you about talking to the children? I’m doing business, here. If we can’t get a job, there won’t be no farm, nor no rabbits.


Lennie: Oh! I’m sorry, George (whispering to Chava): Want to see my pet mouse?


Chava: Sure.


Lennie (taking it out): You can pet it, if you want.


Chava (recoiling): But it’s dead! You killed it!


George: Sh, sh, Missy—Lennie, what problem have you got us into now?


Sara (heading off a crisis, as teachers usually do): Children, come into the sukkah (To George and Lennie) and would you gentlemen care to join us? (They all enter.)


Lennie: I like this little shack. Are we going to sleep here, George? Is this the ranch bunkhouse?


George: Will you just pipe down for a second?


Sara: That is a good comment, Mr. Lennie. (To the children) It is customary for some people to sleep in the sukkah—some for one or two nights, some for the entire holiday. And they eat there, too.


Lennie: We eat canned beans, mostly. I like beans with ketchup.


George: Well, we ain’t got no ketchup. Just be happy and thank the Good Lord for what we do have.


Sara: That’s right, Mr. George. (To the children) This is the harvest time, and we must thank God for all He gives us.


Lennie (whispering to George): I like Miss Sara. She has such pretty hair! Do you think that she’ll let me pet it?


George: Just keep your hands to yourself. Remember what happened last time


(Enter the Rabbi-Education Director, Rabbi Gold).


Rabbi Gold: Are these the two gentlemen interested in the caretaker’s position?


George: Yes, Ma’am, Rabbi Ma’am.


Rabbi: That will be fine. Just come into my office, and we can discuss this further. Do you have references?


George: Well, not from our last job, but we sure can come up with something.


Rabbi: Come along! I’ll tell you what we need, and we can talk salary.


Lennie: Will we be able to get together with Miss Sara’s class afterward? Chava wanted to pet my mouse.


George: Will you give me that thing? It’s dead.


Sara: Mr. Lennie, Mr. George, you are certainly welcome to join us. Sukkot is the holiday where we must remember to help those who are less fortunate. And we will be shaking the lulav, the palm branch….


Lennie: Maybe we can use that lulav to make a fire, and cook the beans. I like beans with ketchup.


Rabbi: I think we can find you some in the Temple Food Pantry. Chag Same’ach—Happy Sukkot!

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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