We’re in a holy space. We’ve been granted at least a temporary reprieve for our wrong doings. Young Kippur is behind us. A time of thanksgiving, a time of communing with seven of our important forefathers, a times of family and friends, a time of harvest and of joy, a time of not just Hagim, but also of Mo’ed, a time of snuggling with our Tatty, once more, before the gap between us is extraordinarily perceptible, i.e. Sukkot, is before us.
Gratitude remains the proper adornment for our neshemot during this awe-inspiring period, during this span when we wander, with cleansed souls, through abundant celebration. Rare are the occasions during which our capacity to absorb goodness and the cornucopia of available goodness both overflow.
Now is when we are commanded to by joyous. This stricture does not mean we are to submerge other natural, less exuberant, emotions or that we are to deny other normal reactions to life’s challenges. Rather, this directive means we are to emphasize the positive.
Accordingly, I was thinking, with appreciation, about some of my experiences of Judaism in Israel, about some of my experiences of Israelis in Israel, and about some of my experiences of my family in Israel. What follows, thus, are bits and pieces of what were my smile-inducing thoughts. Whether or not my jottings also cause your face to break into an arc, I wish you a very easy time in fulfilling this holiday’s charge to be merry.
First, for me, there is the matter of being Jewish in Israel. Consider that performing tashlich in our realm, in a desert, for example, is a special experience. Up until this year, the Beit Knesset, to which my family belongs, did not point toward a water tower, or toward a bucket for this rite, but elected to pray in the direction of a fish tank. Yet, this year, surprisingly, there was no fish tank in the building from which our minyon rents. So, Computer Cowboy and I, on our own, after Rosh Hashanah, prayed at a fountain in a Jerusalem square. Only in Israel!
At least, the happy making in our neighborhood promises to continue on, per local tradition. During Mo’ed nights, our community sponsors dance fests, that is, miniature galas during which men of all different head coverings comingled with men of no head coverings sway, bend, sing, and cry with enthusiasm. Those dads and sons, those students and teachers, those citizens and strangers, are not figments of an outside observer’s interpretation of Sukkot and are not cartoonish figures from children’s books meant to represent holiday ideals, but are breathing, sweating, rejoicing friends and neighbors. We have mazel when we are able to live as Jews in our Homeland.
Second, we live, BH, among other Jews, who have been fortunate enough to have resided in Israel for generations. Acculturation is a process. My ears perk up when people mention used bookstores that stock "English." I remain challenged when navigating Israeli roads (given regional driving behaviors, I am reminded, over and again, that I am not driving in Mumbai, in New York City, in Oz, or even in Shangri La).
In balance, the roughness of traditional Israelis’ “understanding” of road rules is more than compensated by the softness of traditional Israelis’ interpersonal communication. A kiss on one cheek is generally followed by a kiss on the other cheek. Small children look expectantly and trustingly to me and to other adults, with whom they’ve never before made contact, for help crossing streets. Seemingly standoffish guards remain great protectors. An unfamiliar person even gave my family hizach by warmly asking, a few years ago, concerning our aliyah, “why did you wait so long?” The Jewish People populate our home in splendid comportment. We’re fortunate to dwell among them.
Third, counted among Israel’s residents is, Baruch Hashem, my family. This year, thank-you Hashem, after communal holidays get tucked away, our personal parties will continue. Specifically, we have been invited to multiple weddings and to their related sma’achot, during the weeks following the Hagim. We are happily busy and busily happy.
Even after our friends’ wedding-related festivities come to an end, that is, even after my family transitions from music, from Dvrai Torah, from friends, and from feasting, to alarm clocks, to chore schedules, and to the confused collections of leftovers in our refrigerator, fortunately, we will do so in Eretz Yisrael. What’s more, my sons, my daughters, my husband, and myself will continue, “yom yom” to be able to work to separate life’s good episodes from life’s strength-evoking episodes.
Consider that no matter how tall or how mature our kids grow, they continue on as persons seemingly designated to avoid “unnecessary” tasks. They offer their parents wisdoms such as "homework, Mother Dear, is not meant to be worried over” and such as “urban archeology is overrated, especially in the form of cleaning our bedrooms.” Sure, our offspring help Computer Cowboy and Your Truly with government forms (while “neglecting” to translate teachers’ notes) and they do remind us parents that whenever we choose to provide hospitality for neighborhood dumpster cats that we ought to inquire if those small mammals preferred cappuccino or straight shots. Yet, they gift us with a surfeit of dirty shirts, of kugel-stained aprons, and of bed sheets. It’s wonderful! As a family, we’re living as Jews in the Holy Land, b’ayin tova. We love all that is elevated about our circumstances and all that is mundane.
Whether or not, like me, you smile at your religious practices, at your neighbors, and at your families, I wish all of you the blessing that you readily find delight in Sukkot. May your moments be filled with all manners of wonder and charm, elation and happiness!