The last two days of the Yom Tov Marathon are officially over. Which means today is the fourth Hebrew anniversary of my father's funeral.
Friday night we had a dinner invitation by people I believe we can now consider friends. She's in the Tuesday night Tehillim (Psalms) circle I've been going to, and their youngest son leins in our shul on Shabbat mornings. The parents are smart, funny and knowelegable and the dinner was a pleasure.
We were supposed to eat in their sukkah - they make it a firm custom to eat in their sukkah on Shemini Atzeret, even though it's optional and there is no blessing to be made. However, it rained. We tried to eat there, anyway, and we made it through the kiddush and the hamotzi (the blessings over wine and bread) before being driven indoors because, well. No one wants rainwater on their plates. We ourselves have decided that we will not make it a custom to eat in the sukkah that day, unless our hosts do so, or we have our wheelchair bound friend come over.
Shemini Atzeret services are basically regular Shabbos/Yom Tov services, plus Yizkor, so we ended up slightly late. Shemini Atzeret is very strange for me because it's Yizkor and yet also the day before my dad's yarzheit. Yizkor, to remind people, is a special service held on certain holidays to pray for the souls of the dead. In our synagogue, we say a prayer for martyrs and the Israeli Army before those who still have both parents leave, and then those of us who remain say prayers for our parent(s) and other deceased members of our families, and then everyone else comes in and we say more prayers for the souls of Rav Kook and Rav Soleveichek.
After services, we went to more friends for lunch, eating indoors. As usual, the food was good and the company fun. Then we went home and took naps.
Jonathan was to lead the evening services, so he left at about 6:40. I had to wait until after 7:01, so that I could light the yom tov candles, plus the yarzheit candle for Daddy, and so I could slide the chicken paprikash into the oven.
I got there just as the special Simchat Torah stuff was starting. Since I normally don't say the evening service, I didn't bother catching up. Simchat Torah services celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah, the Pentateuch. The synagogue scrolls are taken out, and are danced around the bimah, the reading desk, to joyous songs - seven circuits with specific prayers for each one. It can be wonderful - full of joy and celebration and spirit (ruach).
And this year, that's what happened in my synagogue. The first year, it wasn't like that, but then, that was in October 2001, and no one was really feeling joyous that year. It also wasn't that way last year.
But this year, we're in a new space - one more pleasant in general, and much more conducive to the singing and dancing. There was our rabbi, dancing with his baby granddaughters, and his sons and sons-in-law leading the songs, and the members of our synagogue being silly and happy and playful and dancing with the sefrei torah, the Torah Scrolls. And, with all of that, we managed to finish at a reasonable hour. And that's with an extra bit - one of our members, divorced for about a year, is newly engaged. So, when he got to carry a Torah for a circuit, they sang congratulatory and wedding songs, and stretched a tallis over his head as a "chuppah". There was even a cute interchange - rabbi's son-in-law asked our gabbai (deacon) why this song (I couldn't hear, but I could tell). He was told why, and his face lit up and he started singing as loudly as anyone else. It was cute.
Jonathan, since he was leading, got to do his own little dance as he put the Torah Scroll used for the reading (unusually, we read the Torah at night on Simchat Torah. Normally, that is not done.) back into the ark. And then we said Kaddish for my father, and went home to make kiddush and eat a fast dinner.
He also got to lead the opening songs in the morning, when there is a kaddish, and I got to shul just in time for the switch over to the official morning service. We broke after the morning service for kiddush (a collation)- normally, again, we wait until after Musaf, but traditionally this is done early. We sponsored this one in honor of my father.
They set up two tables of goodies, on each side, instead of having the men all come over to the women's side. Men came over anyway. "Women's cake tastes better." :) And then we did the hakafot, the circuits,all over again. And by the third circuit, most of the men had recovered the spirit of the night before. Even the women started dancing.
Not me. I didn't feel like it. And my husband broke down in tears. This may sound backward, but. On the morning after my father's death, we had to go to the synagogue so we could speak to our old rabbi. After getting the advice we needed, I made Jonathan go to the services - he wasn't a mourner and he needed to be there. A friend of mine left her sons (eleven and ten years old, and independent) in the shul and came home with me so I shouldn't be alone while I finally slept. So, Jonathan associates the morning hakafot with this.
Another friend of ours (thank you, zsero walked him home afterwards, so he should also not be alone.
Anyway, we finally finished the hakafot, the torah readings (three of them, and one repeated over and over again until all the men got an aliyah - we have two scrolls, so we split into two groups - and then the children's aliyah) followed by the additional services at 1:30, said at breakneck speed. And that was followed by the afternoon service, led by my husband, who did a little shtick - singing the repetition to tunes belonging to other holidays - just a line or two so people would laugh, and then going back to the appropriate tunes. We got home at 2PM - we'd been in synagogue longer than we had for Yom Kippur morning. Of course, we also got to eat and drink (mmm, whiskey at 10AM...) We had another fast meal and then napped the rest of the day away.
To explain the subject header:
On Rosh HaShanah, everyone tries to wear new and gorgeous clothing to give proper honor to the day and to just feel good. By Simchat Torah, we settle for clean and reasonably pretty. :)