Saturday, October 29, 2011

My love-hate relationship with Sukkot

The author of the Kosher on a Budget blog wrote last Wednesday, "Much as I love Sukkot, I would be lying if I said that I wished another three-day yomtov was starting tonight."

I love Sukkot, too. And I live in a climate where it's hard to love Sukkot, because the weather is consistently lousy. This year it rained almost all the time, and it's usually quite cold during Sukkot. On the other hand, a rabbi from Winnipeg once told me about how they sat in the sukkah in their parkas. It's not as cold as that.

Most of my community doesn't love Sukkot. I can count the number of sukkot built at homes on my fingers. When I invite guests to mine, I keep a stack of jackets and sweatshirts handy, because most of the guests, no matter how clearly I tell them, don't really believe that we're going to sit outdoors for at least a couple of hours.

I'd say that people see the sukkah at the shul as more symbolic than functional.It's hexagonal, and no matter how much you think that this makes it like a Star of David, that's not as functional as rectangular for a sit-down meal. Sit-down meals don't figure in the congregation's plan; the shul sukkah is used for about 10 minutes for a kiddush after the morning services on the yom tov days and the chol ha-moed Shabbat, and that's it. This year I hosted a lunch meeting--of an interfaith group--in the sukkah at the shul, and that was the only time anyone sat down in it for any longer than the time needed to say leyshev ba-sukkah.

I started building a sukkah at home when I lived in a region where the weather, although tending to be just as rainy as here, was considerably warmer at this time of year. It's more attractive to build and use a sukkah where you expect better weather.

I've also lived in Los Angeles, where I worked for a shul whose sukkah would seat 100 people for lunch. I was about to say that people who have lived in Israel for any length of time are more likely to build a home sukkah, but in my current community, that's not true at all.

Ye and We

I was probably in high school before I learned that “Go Down, Moses” wasn’t originally a Jewish song. I had learned it in model seders in re...