Friday, September 28, 2007
Sukkot thoughts
This week is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. Yesterday, being the first full day of Sukkot, I drove through the Jewish neighborhood I work in and watched hundreds of families, couples; 19 years old and pregnant and old men shuffling down Pico in what our Christian nation calls "their Sunday best" walking to and from shul. Sukkot is a very celebratory holiday and is often thought of as a close relative to Thanksgiving. All around L.A. and other big cities, in Jewish enclaves you'll see kosher restaurants with Sukkot (tents) set up outside. Our hospital has a sukkah (singular) outside the cafeteria because Jews are to dwell in the Sukkot for the week. That means every activity that you might do in your home, you should try to do within the sukkah including sleeping and eating (which is very fun for kids). Also, decorating the sukkah is encouraged and so there is usually fruit hanging from the branches that make up the "ceiling" and children's arts and crafts on the walls.

There is something, for me, so enticing about the Orthodox Jewish community.

First off, the community part. The community is tight. There is a push among many orthodox to avoid some of the conveniences/distractions of the modern world. Not even close to the Amish, but movies and TV are looked down upon, dressing in the way of 19th century Poles and keeping children out of public schools makes this community reliant on one another and therefore, extremely cloistered. Which on one hand is lovely because there is such stability and on the other hand can be suffocating. Children may not be aware of what goes on in the outside world. Women and men alike often see only one path. Many of them are happy in this path and for them I am glad.

In Stephanie Wellen Levine's book Mystics, Mavericks and Merrymakers: An intimate journey among Hasidic girls she talks about the mavericks. I am one of those. I don't think I could go along for the journey. I think I would always be straining against the harness.

Second, you always know what to do.

Every morning upon rising there is a prayer to be said. Every meal there are rules for what to eat and what not to eat (and a prayer to be said). Every day there are guidelines for what to wear. Every Friday there is preparation for the Shabbat bride. Every Sukkot, there is the rush to build your sukkah 5 days after the most solemn holiday on the calendar.

There is great beauty in these rituals. Like being one drop of water on a river flowing for centuries.

And yet, that drop may get lost, divided - unsure of where she ends and the others begin.

In other, less intellective news, Michael and I are riding this weekend.

Pictures to follow.


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Blogger billie said...

It seems that all great truths are buried in paradox. The process of individuation creates direct conflict with our desire to be part of community. Ultimately, being an individual seems absolutely necessary for some of us, despite the alienation.

There's just no compromise once you start. Keep the faith, Faith!

xo, Billie

Blogger MonkeyGurrrrrl said...

I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to always know what to do. I think that's my idea of HEAVEN. Or jail. hmmmm.

Blogger Orangeblossoms said...

Oooh! I love the word intellective. Love it. WAnna use it soon.

Also, thanks for the exposition of the tradition.

Blogger dale-harriet said...

We never had a succoth at home (it's late September or early October, it's the upper Midwest, it's pretty COLD) but I always enjoyed our one at sabbath school. The sight of bowls or baskets brimming over with fruits never fails to delight me. The richness of the bounty we have amazes me (we'd be consideredz 'lower middle class', perhaps, but by all-world standards we're affluent). May the bounty of the season fill your home and heart....

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