I made meatloaf for dinner. I also lit a a yarhzeit candle because it's a yizkor day. This meant I had to go to shul Tuesday morning, rain or no rain. And remember - no umbrellas.
Because it was raining and because there's really nothing else special for Shemini Atzeret - some people eat in their sukkot without making a blessing, but after due research, we decided it's not going to be our custom (basically, since it's not a mitzvah, we should only eat there if the day is really nice or we have another compelling reason, such as having our friend Sharon come - she's in a wheelchair and would have to be carried up to our apartment. She can get into our ground level sukkah no problem.) As it happened, Wilma passed by so no one ate in their sukkot anyway. Anyway, the women's side was almost empty Tuesday morning - just those of us saying yizkor. No one wanted to deal with restless kids who couldn't even play outside.
Shemini Atzeret is when we begin the prayer for rain, and the cantor leading musaf did a lovely job. Jonathan said it wasn't the way he would do it, but it was still beautifully done.
Then home to more meatloaf and naps until Jonathan left for mincha. I left just after it became fully dark, so I could light my yom tov and my second yarzheit candle. I also took my Sukkot machzor and a fantasy novel with me. I got there just after the main part of ma'ariv, which Jonathan led because he has the "fake chiav" of my father. I got there just before the opening set of hakafot - the dancing around the bimah. They'd moved the bimah, which is designed to be portable, to the center of the room. We only have two sifrei torah and they stay on the men's side. Honestly, I can't see our rabbi (I respect him greatly and think he's one of the best rabbis we've had in terms of scholarship and kindness, but he is unbending on this one point) permitting that anyway.
Hakafot can be boring to just watch. There was a circle of women dancing, and they asked me, but Simchat Torah is such a day of conflicts for me that I couldn't. So I read the book I took with me, which I did just for that purpose, and it was fine. I stood up to watch interesting bits - men singing silly songs or songs in a silly way - through the mechitza. The top quarter of our mechitza is just open rectangles, covered with short lace curtains. We lift the curtains for the hakafot (also for announcements and speeches). Therefore, I had an unobstructed view when I stood up.
Eventually, it ended (7 hakafot at about 20 minutes each, with a kiddush after the first one) and ma'ariv ended, so I could say kaddish. And then we went to a friend's house for dinner. Dinner was nice - she made pizza and there were salads and she baked farmer cheese - really yummy. We got there around 10PM and left about 11:30. The lights were out in our bedroom before we got home. There was a large representation of the board at that dinner, though, and I think there will be some liturgical changes made - largely, we want to sing "Adon Alom" after musaf, like everyone else. Ending after kaddish is...weird.
Jonathan was given shacharit, so he had to leave early. I got there just after kiddush, which we sponsored, and which, as traditional on Simchat Torah, was held after shacharit but before the hakafot. So I missed Jonathan leading, and I had to make my own kiddush and catch up. That was...well. Unlike in previous years, the entire kiddush was on the women's side (last year and the year before, it was on both sides) and there were still men hanging around. I had to go to a separate room to catch up. Oh, it's permissable to pray around strange men, but it's highly uncomfortable.
And then the same thing - the men danced with sifrei torah and with kids, and I watched or sat and read. Most women showed up fairly late for the same reasons. Then came the Torah readings. Since all the men have to get an aliyah, and this synagogue only has two torah scrolls and doesn't do groups, there was another long, boring time while the portions are read over and over again. Again, the book came in handy.
Then all the kids were gathered together (boys and girls) and given the children's aliyah, and the final honors were done.
One of the honors given out on Simchat Torah is "chatan bereshit.". We complete the Pentateuch and start again, and this person is given the first chapter of Genesis. It's a great honor and we were happy when Jonathan was given it. And then he gave it away to someone who is making aliyah and deserves to get some sort of honor. Surprised the rabbi, though. Jonathan *did* regret that, but. *shrug*. Next year.
There was a minimal musaf - no teasing the cantor permitted (in many places, as the cantor does the musaf repetition, the other men pile things on him, or carrying him around or flip him or whatever, but our rabbi disapproves of that.) and just a bit of shtick - funny, out of place tunes, dancing, my very silly husband pretending to be a kohen, except instead of doing the traditional Vulcan salutes, he first did boy scout salutes and then peace signs.
And only I saw this on the women's side, because I have a custom of standing during the repitition and could see, whereas most women sit. So they kept asking me why I was laughing. Then I stumbled over kaddish. It's been a year and I hadn't practiced.
Musaf sequed into mincha (afternoon service) because it was 2PM (longer than R"H morning), which was done very, very fast, and then we went home. And had omelets and very long naps. Having mincha then was very convenient since I didn't want to go back and I got to say kaddish again for my father.