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I spent much of Saturday evening sadly dismantling our succa and carefully packing away the various pieces for next year. Sadly, because this ritual marks the end of the long holiday season beginning with Rosh Hashana and ending with Simhat Torah.
You kind of get used to the new rhythm of the week - work a few days, check your calendar, take off a few days, go to shul if you are so inclined, eat a lot, get reacquainted with your wife and children - eat some more, go to local over-priced festivals, and sleep whenever you can.
Succot took on special meaning for me this year.
I noticed that at least in our quiet Rehovot neighborhood, Succot is becoming a popular holiday. Neighbors who sat on the curb munching Bamba as we came home from prayers during Yom Kippur really immersed themselves in the whole succa concept. I think there are two principal reasons for the increasing popularity of Succot in Israel:
First, Israelis love to do small home renovations, and second, they love one-upping their neighbors.
No wonder that succa decorations have improved dramatically over the past few years. We still have our basic Ace-purchased structure - white metal poles which connect to each other, covered in fabric. I had thought about upgrading this year when I saw that Ace offered a new line of spiffy "Signature Succot" to add some class to the basic structure. In the end, I didn't, but I was intrigued by the new models:
the Moshe Katsav - includes shag carpeting, wood paneling, and a real jacuzzi;
the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Team - easily folds away at the end of the season;
the Bibi Netanyahu - expensively furnished, but lacks dimension;
the Shimon Peres - a perfect replica of the original succa Shimon himself used when he left Egypt (after having negotiated the whole Exodus behind the scenes). Includes a guest room for visiting celebrities, and a working nuclear reactor;
the George Bush - traditional sturdy design, but without any exits.
THIS YEAR we found - besides the usual foil and plastic decorations which last, if you handle them carefully, up to 12 minutes - strings of flashing lights in the shape of fruit. I was a bit skeptical of the flashing fruit that cost only NIS 30 - but the pack we bought really worked and brought a certain Las Vegas ambiance to our succa. As a matter of fact, the colored lights on our succa roof reminded me ofâ€¦ dare I say it, Christmas.
I actually got to climb the ladder (albeit only 5 feet high) and string colored lights! The flickering grapes and apples gave me a guilty thrill, like eating bacon made of soy protein or humming catchy Christmas carols.
This was also the first year I put up our succa correctly. Normally I put the whole structure together, then try to put the fabric on it - which is like putting on your socks after your shoes. And every year my kids would eye me sympathetically and say slowly (so I could understand), "No Dad, it's just like last year - first you thread the poles through the fabric, then attach them."
This year, I had a succa epiphany, and we had the whole shebang up in less than an hour. Our dog, Willie, understood this to mean that we had at long last built him his own room and moved in, gesturing frequently with his head to show where his water dish and bed should be.
The other succot in our neighborhood were impressive and varied - each more splendorous than the next. Our neighbors to the left installed what looked like a chandelier in theirs, causing their straw roof to sag threateningly in the middle. At one point when I was talking to the father, I distinctly heard water running inside their succa, and he explained that he had installed a sink for quick clean-ups.
The neighbor upstairs, celebrating Succot for the first time, painted the entrance of his succa with lamb's blood - not only fending off the Angel of Death (he may have got the holidays mixed up) but also attracting the Cats of Hunger. And the neighbors to the right of us must have got the Shimon Peres model, because at one point the whole family came running out yelling, "Meltdown, meltdown!"
Or maybe it was just one of the plastic pomegranates lights overheating.
The writer is a marketing communications professional and director of the Madonna Center for Kabala and Suggestive Dancing.