Saturday, October 7, 2006

Did I vanish?

No, I didn't vanish. I've been busy with work, Yom Kippur, being sick, getting well and analyzing my career/life path for the not-so-distant future. There's thoughts of grad school being tossed around this noggin (Baltimore Hebrew University, that is), in addition to all the other stuff that consumes me in all my free time. I figured it up that out of the 168 hours in the week, I have about 70 of those where I am neither sleeping nor working to just sit and be completely, absolutely worthless. So I purchased two books today.

1) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer: I checked this book out from UNL's library shortly after it was released, but with all my reading and efforts to finish my senior thesis and graduate, I didn't have time to read it. Thus I didn't really enjoy it, especially after getting through Everything is Illuminated -- possibly one of the best books I have ever read. It was absolutely magnificent, so getting into ELIC was sort of hard. Summary: It's about a little boy whose father dies in the WTC during 9/11, complete with mini "flip book" of man falling from the WTC (sort of horrifying).
2) Fabulous Small Jews by Joseph Epstein: I believe I read a review of this in Commentary magazine. It was either that or in one of my other Jewish rags. Summary: It's a collection of short stories by a man who has written for the New Yorker, Harper's, Atlantic Monthly and has a NYT bestseller called Snobbery.


Today was the start of Sukkot. I've decided that when I get married and have children I'll be building my own sukkah, no matter how wacky the neighbors think I am. Now what, you ask, is a sukkah? Well, this cute little Popsicle sukkah is the best example of a sukkah that I have for you. Sukkot means "booths" and is a festival of the booths in honor of the harvest. It's a four-sided little hut with three vertical walls and a ceiling that cannot be made solid, which means that you must be able to sit in the sukkah and peer into the heavens and see the stars. Some people use latticework to create the sukkah ceiling, then covering it with leaves. It's a 7 or 8 day holiday that includes lots of feasting and hanging out in the sukkah. I'm sort of glad I don't have a sukkah right now, though, as it's cold and rainy in D.C. -- definitely NOT sukkah weather unless you have a sukkah space heater and some umbrellas. The final day of sukkot is Shemini Atzeret and soon after is Simchat Torah -- a stellar holiday that finalizes the reading of the Torah for the year, which sends you back to Genesis to start all over again (Jews cycle through the whole Torah each year, though some Conservatives and Orthodox take 3 years to read the whole Torah -- that is, they read only PORTIONS of each Torah section and spend 3 years completely getting through the Torah, though they still celebrate the beginning-to-end of Simchat Torah).

Sukkot also includes the use of the Four Species -- lalav, hadass, etrog and araveh -- which are used during prayers and also adorn the sukkah (it's part of the whole harvest thing). Of course there's biblical precedence for this: "And you shall take for yourself on the first day the fruit of goodly (meaning of Hebrew uncertain, but modern Hebrew "citrus") trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook" (Lev. 23:40).

Essentially the holiday is a reminder of the travails and travels in the desert (for 40 gall darn years) before entering the land. You eat in the sukkah, call it home and hang out in thanks for G-d's protection during the wandering. Who WOULDN'T want a sukkah, eh?