Monday, October 13, 2014

Sukkot in the Land of Memory

Today is one of those days that's made for Mumford and Sons circa winter 2010-11.

Those were melancholy days where I spent a lot of time on the backroads of Pennsylvania on dangerous, winding roads drifting between a coffee shop and a Poconos bungalow that was never mine.

Leaves in burnt orange, rusty red, and deep marigold mixed with splashes of rain all send me back to that place, and Colorado is deep in that weather at the moment.

After a three-day holiday (that was the first two days of Sukkot plus Shabbat) home with the little one, where I was reminded -- once again and for the last time -- that I simply can't take Ash out at night, the oddest thing about not having Mr. T around on holidays and Shabbat became apparent.

Kiddush. Motzi. Havdalah.

It might seem like minutiae, but there are many things as far as ritual in Judaism that I was never keen on making my own. I know a lot of families where the husband does kiddush (that's the blessing over the wine on holidays and Shabbat typically) and the wife handles motzi (that's the blessing over the challot, or bread). In most communities havdalah (the blessings to mark the end of a holiday or Sabbath) is done at synagogue or handled by the husband at home. Yes, it seems very patriarchal, but for some reason, I really like those aspects of my married life.

I've been trying to remember whether, when I was single and religious, I did these things at home, relied on synagogue for them, or just didn't do them at all. Part of me thinks I heard the prayers at synagogue and covered my bases there, but part of me also feels like maybe I just didn't do them when I was alone at home, which is probably why I tried desperately to get meals out on the holidays so I didn't have to do them myself.

Does it sound weird? Being so unwilling to do a few simple blessings over some wine or bread once a week? After all, a woman is totally allowed and, in fact, encouraged to make kiddush. There's nothing about a woman not being able to say motzi, either.

There's just something that's always been comfortable in my world about having my husband, the "head" of the house, the super-duper, obligated-to-do-so-many-mitzvahs guy, taking control of these ritual acts. I'm all in love with being a progressive, forward-thinking working woman, but some things just feel right a certain way.

So I went through the motions, with Ash squiggling about, saying the prayers and inhaling gluten-free challah at a table set for the night meals. We'll repeat the ritual again at the end of Sukkot, too. But I'll be glad when the holidays are over.

The thing I keep telling myself is that the pain of separation from a spouse for the potential of months, not weeks, is that this is how people used to live. Husbands would go on trading routes or off to war for months, if not years, leaving wives and children back home to fend for themselves. In those days (even 50-100 years ago), there wasn't Skype or FaceTime or Facebook or texting or other instant forms of communication. There was a hope that -- maybe -- you'd hear from someone in a few weeks or months.

In reality, I'm spoiled. I'm lucky. I'm able to chat with Mr. T daily (save the three-day holiday situation and Shabbat, of course).

Then again, as a good friend R.C. pointed out, women also didn't have the obligations of full-time jobs back in those days. They stayed home and kept house or ran the shop with hired help or other similar assistance.

Although I'm going to miss many months of hearing my husband say prayers over the wine and bread we eat on a weekly basis, I'm blessed to live in the 21st century and in a Jewish community where people are ready and willing to help -- even if I don't always take people up on their kindness.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.