Thursday, October 05, 2006

The One Thing I Miss About America

Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles/Booths) is the one holiday in the Jewish calendar that is very different for me living in Israel versus how it was in America.

We have to build a small hut, according to religious specifications, and spend most of our time for a week in it. Since this holiday always comes out at the end of September/start of October, the differences in climate are very pronounced.

Sukkot for me in America meant heavy wooden walls, and pine branches complete with sticky sap as materials for the schach (thatch-like natural roofing for the hut). It meant sharply cold evenings - I more than once had to sit at the holiday meal in my winter coat. It meant the heavenly smell of wood smoke if a neighbor had a fire going in their fireplace. And most of all, it meant the glorious view of the changing leaves all around. I grew up in Upstate New York, and the beginning of October was my favorite time of year. For those of you who have never seen it, the colors of the trees in the northeast of America in the fall are spectacular. It is honestly the only thing I dearly miss about not living in America (except for a few dear friends, of course). In short, Sukkot meant autumn for me in America.

Sukkot here in Israel means cloth walls, bamboo schach, and the heat. Occasionally we get rain on Sukkot here, but more often we get the sharav winds (hot, eastern winds with the dust of the desert). Sometimes the evenings are beautifully cool, with the need of just a light sweater. But the overall feeling is still of summer. There really is no autumn in Israel. There is spring with wildflowers, summer, and then bam! the winter rains come.

Despite my nostalgia for the "old country" I do enjoy the time with my family during this week. I wish everyone a great holiday!

14 Comments:

Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I just finished building my sukka out of wooden "platot". (This being the first year I did away with cloth walls).

And you can get palm fronds if you wish...

Chag sameach!

3:25 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

My folks were from California and I've spent most of my life there---so I'm quite used to the Israeli seasons since they are so much like California's: wet/cold and hot/dry. However, I understand your nostalgia because when I was young we lived in New England---and I have never forgotten the seasons, and the glorious colors and chill snap of autumn.

We all miss something--I miss the SF fog and the Sierra Nevada mountains....I'm sure my greatgrandparents left landscapes and seasons behind that they traded for the sidewalks of the Lower East Side, and they must have, at times, missed those landscapes....

But here (we JUST got here) I'm still awed by the sight of sukkot everywhere, clinging to balconies and popping up from rooftops; the sales of arbaa minim in the souk; the sukkah deocorations for sale in the little makolets---forgive me, it's our first year in Israel and having lived on the edge of Exile for so long, all this Succot-ness, this total countrywide celebration of our chaggim, is still wonderful to me. ((-:

Chag Sameach!

8:46 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger bec said...

ironically, today when i realized that our temps up here in orange county, ny are dropping to the high 40s and 50s for the next several days, i thought about how next year we won't have to freeze over sukkot. of course, i've been lamenting the loss of the fall foliage (right now, it looks like the mountains are on fire)and since fall is my favorite season, it certainly won't go unnoticed.
you write that there is "no autumn" in israel. not even up north?
like you, that is the one thing i know i'll be crying for every october. however, if you want me to send you some of those silk fall leaf garlands from walmart, let me know! (i think i may have to stock up now.)

3:17 AM, October 06, 2006  
Anonymous Shmilda said...

Look to the bright side: you don't have the threat of rain in your succot forecast.

(dang that blogger beta)

12:57 AM, October 10, 2006  
Blogger RR said...

I hear ya. The change of seasons, and especially the lack of a real fall, with its cool temps and gorgeous foliage, are something I really miss, too. Even during the coldest days of winter here, there will be a really hot couple of days here and there. Not my cup of tea.

2:36 PM, October 10, 2006  
Blogger The Tzionisher Rebbe said...

The use of cloth walls is problematic. I'm sure that you can find Rabbis who will say that they are fine, but most will tell you not to use cloth walls. The gemorah in Tractate Succos says that a wall that flaps in the wind is not a wall. But, of course, the question is how you define flapping in the wind.

You may have noticed that many pre-fab metal Succas have additional cross poles at the bottom. They are there to create a wall that is kosher for the Succah, and then the cloth becomes merely a decoration. These polls, using a law called 'lavud', creates a wall,
that in spite of the spaces, is considered a solid wall, halachikly.

It would be best to consult your Rav to find out if your Succah is acceptable. If it isn't, you can ask how you can put up a few pieces of wood to take care of the problem.

The Rebbe

1:35 PM, October 15, 2006  
Blogger westbankmama said...

Tzionisher Rebbe - thank you for your concern. We have special metal bars in addition to the regular frame, so that we can tighten the walls on the bottom so that they do not flap around. Hopefully we will buy a wooden sukkah next year, G-d willing.

10:22 AM, October 16, 2006  
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