Sunday, October 14, 2012

I'm not perfect; so shoot me

Hope you all had happy holidays. I got sick right after Yom Kippur so I couldn't celebrate everything the way I would have liked to, but Mrs. Yid and I did our best to power on through.

I have a bad habit of getting sick right around the holidays. In previous years it's kept me from fasting. This year I was able to fast and then the next day my immune system took a nose-dive. I blame the new germs from my new job.

Anyway, Mrs. Yid, bless her heart, decided that she was going to make Sukkot happen-- so she went to Home Depot, got some lumber, and built us a sukkah on our new balcony (we promised our building super that we would take it down within a week). And I have to say, it turned out really great.

The funny thing was that this year not only did I get sick, I totally lost my voice. Needless to say, I wasn't in a very ushpizin-y mood. But Mrs. Yid wanted to eat in the sukkah, so I wasn't going to tell her know. Not only did she make us several excellent dinners, she also managed to get through the Hebrew to invite the guests in on various nights! Though my vocal chords were dead, inside I was bursting with Yiddishe-Mama levels of pride.

The shul was hosting a Sukkot party and sleepover that we had both been looking forward to, but I knew there was no way I was going to make it. But I told Mrs. Yid there was no reason she shouldn't go if she wanted to, and again, she stepped up to the plate and went for it! I was happy she didn't let me rain on her parade, and also that she went off and did Jewish stuff without me. I'm glad at least one of us got to shake the lulav.

Now I know some of you may be wondering, what's with this new, positive Friar? Where's his dark heart hiding? Well I will admit I'm trying to do a little better with that. That said, I did notice a Sukkot column from Tzvi that seemed worth mentioning if only for a second:

An Etrog Tree Doesn’t Grow in Brooklyn
If it did it would die. Just the way the Diaspora is destined to die. The etrog tree doesn’t belong in Brooklyn. The climate isn’t right for it. It’s the same with the lulav, hadasim, and aravot.* The four species which we are commanded to take for ourselves on the Festival of Sukkot are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael, just as the Torah is indigenous to Eretz Yisrael, and the Jewish People are indigenous to Eretz Yisrael.  

Tzvi, you really need to get a fact-checker. The issue is not that the etrog is a particularly Zionist citrus but rather that it needs a climate both dry and sunny. There are commercial etrog farms in Arizona and California, as well as Italy and Morocco. Incidentally, up until Mubarak was toppled, the primary source of palm fronds for Sukkot-- both in the US and Israel-- was Egypt. Seems like the four species are sending us some mixed messages.

Apparently Tzvi's editor anticipated that nit-pickers like me exist because he added this to the bottom:

*Editor’s Note: The author’s point is metaphorical and is not intended to mean that factually none of the four minim (species) grow in Brooklyn or outside of Israel. 

Nice catch! Thanks for explaining that Tzvi's only being a metaphorical moron and not an actual one. Boy would my face have been red.

Anyway, Tzvi goes on for a while about how you can only really celebrate Sukkot authentically in Israel-- which I don't necessarily disagree with, except that as usual, his so-called proof is terrible. Namely, that Diaspora Jews are supposedly afraid or embarrassed to actually build their sukkahs in a public place.

This past week in Israel, in whatever direction you looked, chances are you saw a succah booth. On front lawns, in driveways, in parking lots, on restaurant sidewalks, on the terraces of buildings, and on rooftops. In the Diaspora, the opposite is true. Unless you happen to be in one of the 5 or 6 Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods scattered around the globe, chances are you won’t see a succah booth at all. Take a walk from one end of Los Angeles to the other and there won’t be a succah in sight. In Paris and London, you would never know that there is a Jewish Festival about to begin. Diaspora succahs, if they exist, are hidden away on back lawns, or in back alleyways, so that the goyim won’t shoot flaming arrows at them and ignite them in a blaze of smoke. In the villas of wealthy Jews, you might discover a succah inside the house under a pull-back roof, so that the neighbors don’t have to know that Orthodox Jews live inside. That’s the sad state of affairs when you are a secret Jew living amongst the goyim.
Yes, we have many problems in Israel, but we don’t have to hide our succot in the back of our homes. We can proudly construct them in our driveways and front lawns without worrying about vandals or burglars or gentile police. In the Diaspora, a front lawn succah sticks out like the gaudy statues that rich, Beverly-Hills Arabs like to put on their lawns. In Israel, no one takes a second look. Succahs are natural in Israel. They are a part of the landscape. People can dine in them in peace, and sleep comfortably in them all night without the slightest disturbance.

I'm not sure that the primary factor in determining whether people feel proud and secure in their Jewishness is putting crap in their front yard, Tzvi. I knew you're a Hasid, but do we all really have to go the Chabad Menorah route with this? What's wrong with a back yard? I don't have a front or a back yard, but I'd much prefer to do things in the back-- not because I'm afraid, but because I enjoy my privacy. Also, I'm pretty sure that Los Angeles, having its share of Orthodox Jews, also has its share of sukkahs. Just a guess.

In any event, here are some pictures of our shameful sukkah. As you can tell, being Diaspora Jews, we made it extra tiny and camouflaged lest some antisemitic neighbors try to shoot it with flaming arrows (because apparently we moved to ancient Rome when I wasn't paying attention).

We were going for an "American Beauty" theme this year.
Hooray for Chinatown schach!
City Hall can't see us from here, right?
I sure hope this blends in...

If anyone asks, we're just a lot of laundry left out to dry. Also wood.

Good thing everyone in our building is blind, right, Tzvi?
                             Happy Sukkot!


Anonymous said...

Hey Friar Yid, I know Sukkos is long over, and it's great that you nd the Mrs. did so much to celebrate the holiday, but I hate to rain on your parade, because the construction you've shown in the photos is not a sukkah. Or at least not a ritually correct sukkah. (And while I'm all for halachic flexibility, I'm of the opinion that ritual objects should comply with the official ritual requirements. Otherwise, why bother?

The whole point of a sukkah is that the schach (i.e., the leafy stuff or reed mat the forms the roof) needs to be under the open sky. Hell, our rabbi moved the shul sukkah over a few feet right before kiddush because part of the rook was covered by the overhanging branch of a nearby tree. People in our neighborhood who have apartments with balconies like the ones you've displayed build their sukkot on the grass in front of the building. It appears you live in a neighborhood where that's not possible, but maybe next year you can get the super to allow you to build the sukkah on the roof.


Friar Yid said...

CA- Yes, we're aware that it's not technically a kosher sukkah. The hope is that every year we can do a little more and get a little better. Considering last year our sukkah consisted of plastic-covered rebar & curtains that only had one corner covered by some ragweed, I consider this one a step up. Next year we might try the roof option.

Feel free to rain on our parade anytime :)

Enjoy a month without any chags.