What God Has Twisted: Sukkot Addendum

“Who can straighten what God has twisted?”

The Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which many communities read during the Shabbat of Sukkot or at other points during the festival, tells us:

Consider God’s doing! Who can straighten what [God] has twisted?

So in a time of good fortune enjoy the good fortune; and in a time of misfortune, reflect: The one no less than the other was God’s doing; consequently, man may find no fault [with God or “find nothing after Him” in ArtScroll translation]

— Koh 7:13-14, slightly adapted from New JPS via Sefaria

(The image above provides Hebrew for Koh 7:13, because Hebrew as text gets flipped in copying)

The word for “twisted” here [ayin-vav-tav] is from yet another Hebrew root meaning “curved or crooked.” Rabbi Benay Lappe, Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Svara, has taught that most Hebrew roots, if one digs down to their origin, turn out to come from words meaning either “to take apart” or “to put together.” I am wondering how many have something to do with bending?

Commentary on these verses seems to range, from moralistic ideas about what can, or cannot be changed, in a person’s lifetime — what it would mean to “straighten up” — and what that might mean for potential reward in the world to come to “there’s no way for humans to tell what’s good or bad in the long run” (similar to what Job learns in the whirlwind). But I’m thinking more along the lines of Isaiah 42:4

“A bruised reed, he shall not be broken; A dim wick, he shall not be snuffed out.”

— alternative (footnote) translation at Sefaria

or the line from Confucious: “The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak which breaks in a storm.”

There is so much about the holiday of Sukkot, from the fragility of the structures in which we dwell, to the shaking of the lulav/etrog and our bodies, that suggests flexibility is necessary for survival.

This brief comment is further to “Haazinu: Crooked, Twisted, Bent, and Wet

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