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Mama Deb
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December 2010
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Mama Deb [userpic]

Three down. One more week to go.

We had dinner with friends that night. He's math professor, she's a housewife and they have about seven kids, all but two of whom are married, and those were in Israel. So they're childfree this holiday. They also invited another math person, and the evening was full of math puns. They have an amazing sukkah - it's of the framed panel variety, but every panel is numbered and lettered (1a, 14b) and he's been steadily attaching handles to the panels to make them easier to handle. Given that his youngest son is 20 now and will probably not be able to help him in the future, that makes a difference. The decorations ranged from mylar to childmade.

Dinner was vegetable soup and salmon, and quite delicious.

And as they live on our block, it was a short walk home. We did stop next door to visit their sukkah, and Jonathan chatted about the book our neighbor was reading. I went home partway through.

I got to synagogue during hallel and had time to catch up. Problem was, when I went to put my etrog (citron) away in its box, half the pitom broke off. The pitom is the remnant of the flower end of the fruit. If the fruit doesn't have it at time of purchase, that's fine, that's kosher, but if it has one and it breaks off after you start using it, then it may well be a problem. This is why a lot of people buy them without pitoms. But that's not our custom. We've discussed it, but we can't.

So, just before the beginning of the Torah reading, I got my husband's attention and we met outside the sanctuary and I gave him the box and told him what happened. He took it in with him to ask the rabbi what I should do. The answer? I shouldn't use it the rest of the day (that met not holding during the hoshannas, which I'll explain later) but I could use it the rest of the holiday. Later, during kiddush, I asked him why that was so, and he explained that it's only a Torah requirement on the first day, when the rulings have to be strict. The rest of the holiday, the four species are rabbinic and therefore the rulings can be lenient. Also, it wasn't muktzeh, so I could take it home.

He didn't bat an eyelash that I had my own. Which is...well, I did get a stare as I walked to synagogue holding my lulav. Women in my neighborhood do not have their own, normally. *Shrug*. I've been doing that for ten years now. I see no reason to stop.

And then there was musaf. And this pointed out a problem. My synagogue is *deep* in talent for leading services. One of our ba'alei tefillah is Alan, who has a sweet, musical tenor and who knows and uses so many tunes. But, and this is awful, his mother died on Monday. And so he can't lead services. He wasn't a mourner yet, because his sister decided that instead of burying their mother right away, they'd wait until today. Now, in fact. Which made this holiday more painful even than it should have (even if burying her on Monday would have killed shiva - as it is, they can't sit shiva until after Simchat Torah.) Even if he had buried her, though, he couldn't lead services on Sabbath and Yom Tov. Daily minyanim, sure - that's expected. Mourners are top of the list for leading daily services. But there is no mourning on Sabbath or Yom Tov, so mourners don't lead.

The other big ba'al tefillah was off visiting his wife's family. That leaves two large holes. Musaf was led by the gabbai (deacon), who is...not tuneful. Or musical. Or practiced. He tried, though. And then there was traffic problems during hoshannas.

This is a service where the men, carrying their lulavs and etrogs, march in a big circle around the bimah, repeating phrases after the leader sings them. And they got the traffic pattern messed up. The phrases are punctuated fore and aft by the phrase "hoshanna", which means "Save, please." Some women also marched around in a big circle in the empty space where our kiddush tables are. I could have used a spare etrog and done the same, but I chose not to.

Kiddush was in a sukkah - this is unusual. Normally, our synagogue, which rents space from a girl's school, does not build one. However, this year the school is hosting a chol hamoed (half-holiday) circus in its huge courtyard, and will be serving refreshments, which must be in a sukkah. So they built one. And we are allowed to use it for our kiddushes.

Then we went home, and I cooked lunch - storebought (and delicious!) noodle kugel, saute'd chicken breast filet and peas'n'carrots. We ate that in our sukkah and then we took our naps.

Dairy night. After 7PM, I put the lasagna in our oven, changed the kitchen to dairy and finished the soup by saute'ing garlic in olive oil and adding thawed and squoze frozen spinach, which I then covered with my roasted veggie broth and added (not enough) salt and pepper. My brother-in-law showed up without his girlfriend or her daughter, so it was just us three. The soup turned out fine once we grated in a *lot* of parmesan cheese. As I said, it needed salt. The lasagna was yummy, of course. And we had mocha cake for dessert because it was Jonathan's Hebrew birthday. Then we sukkah hopped - first to our next-door neighbors and then to the same family we'd had dinner with the night before. Brother-in-law and host both teach in the CUNY system. We spent a lot of time bemoaning how little kids learn these days.

I got to shul late, so I was surprised that Jonathan was leading. I knew he was getting the haftarah, but he'd also asked to do musaf, and the gabbai was relieved to pass it on to him. He was, of course, wonderful. Yes, I'm biased, but he was also told that by other members of the congregation. And this time I got to stand by my seat and hold my lulav and etrog during Hoshannas. (I'd rather not march if it's only around emptiness.) We did have discussion on how to keep arbot (willow branches) green. The consensus was aluminum foil, wet paper towels and refrigeration.

Since it was Jonathan's birthday, we had lamb chops for lunch. Also, my tzimmes came out really well - sweet, rich and appropriate with the main dish, the holiday and the season. I'm pleased.

I napped away the rest of the holiday.


It sounds like you had a good time. In my neighborhood it would been pretty out of the question for a woman to have her own esrog and lulav. Though I did know a woman who washed mayim achronim (finger-washing before bentshing) and no one seemed to care.

Sukkot was always my favorite holiday. We'd usually visit my in-laws the whole time, and that meant I wouldn't have to be alone, and I'd have someone help me take care of my kid. And I could go for walks with my husband, and eating in the sukkah was fun. And my mother-in-law is a good cook and just an all-around nice lady. I'm pretty wistful about it now. The first night I was remembering my husband reciting the Ushpizin and I felt pretty sad.

Simchat Torah was also nice except the rabbi used to constantly try to force my husband to drink alcohol. (By "force" I mean things like putting the cup up to his lips after he already said "no.")

I might go to some synagogue or other on Simchat Torah, possibly the Conservative place down the street. I'm not working.

Sorry, I got carried away and this became about me. I just don't talk to many people who know what the holiday is.

Don't worry about that. It's nice to know you have good memories of it.

(And the rabbi of our old synagogue used to do the same for my husband. But Jonathan stood his ground.)

I do the enjoy the holiday.

As for mayim achronim - if it's done at all, it should be done by both. It's basically a finger bowl - they used to use highly irritating salt from the Dead Sea, and use their fingers to dip in it. The mayim achronim is meant to rinse that salt away. And, well, that's *it*. We don't do it ourselves, although we do offer it to guests. And if we're in the home of someone who does, we *both* do it, and no one blinks an eye.

(Also, if we have three women and less than three men, we have a mezumin of women. Plus, *I* make the motzi, unless he'd heard kiddush in shul and I haven't. In which case, I make the kiddush and he makes the motzi. :))

I've occasionally participated in a mezumin of women (well, twice I think...) but it was really almost never done, and I remember one rabbi's wife saying quite sternly that she "didn't have men's and women's mitzvos mixed up" and she wasn't going to do it. Then again, the opportunity didn't come up that often.

I've never seen an Orthodox woman make hamotzi on Shabbos if a man is there. I don't think people would be scandalized, but I've never seen it.

I wasn't in the most far-right circles but things were... different. And now... I don't know how I feel about it. If I'd been in more "modern" circles (for lack of a better word) would I have been more comfortable? Probably not, because I would have always felt the implied criticism from people to the right. Which may not be fair, but it's true.

I'm glad the soup mostly worked out.

And I had terrifically boring pasta dishes both nights -- but since I had to do most of the sukkah assembly without my husband (I did get a friend over to help; unfortunately, she's 11 inches shorter than my husband) that's not bad.

Also, I'm impressed that your husband can wing festival Musaf -- yaaleh v'yavo is one thing, and I suppose I could read through the rest of it well enough, but the sheer quantity of Random Extra Paragraphs in the kedushat ha-yom section scares me. :)

Wing? Much practice. Even so, I'd rather have a few minutes warning so I can choose tunes for Kedushah. Also, I'm somewhat out of practice; I flubbed the scansion of a couple of things, reaching the end of the tune two words before the end of a paragraph, frex.

At our shul, it is 99.9% impossible to sway the congregation from its preferred tune for Musaf Kedushah (which is sung in what might loosely be called "unison"). I have tried and failed -- and I've seen exactly one person (a six-foot female rabbi with enough force of will to power a small hurricane) succeed. It's a nice enough tune, mind, but every so often I want something different.

All the same, I actually enjoy leading regular Shabbat musaf -- and one of these days I do need to get around to learning the Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov variants. Just not this year. :)