life in and around NYC is insane

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A blessing for cookies? Of course!

Life is full of unexpected opportunities.

It's Sukkot. That's the Jewish equivalent of Thanksgiving. An 8 day holiday celebrating the harvest.   It's a minor holiday, most people I know learned about the holiday in Hebrew school but don't really observe it.

The holiday is celebrated in a Sukkah, a small hut built to resemble the dwellings in which our ancestors resided while wandering in the desert for 40 years after the Exodus.

You're supposed to build one of these behind your house, decorate it with fruits and gourds and etc., and eat all your meals in the hut for 8 days. I actually did this once, when my kids were little (still have the building materials in the garage somewhere, I think), but for the most part -- it's the kind of thing you do in Hebrew school and then ...

The other tradition of Sukkot is to wave the lulav and etrog.  A lulav is a slender palm branch that is held together with two willow branches and three willow branches.  An etrog is a citron that looks mostly like a misshapen lemon -- very fragrant.   The custom is based on Leviticus 23:40  -- And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.

Again, I did this at home once or twice, when my kids were little, but for the most part ...

And then yesterday....

Chabad is a Jewish outreach program sponsored by a Hasidic group, the purpose of which is to encourage Jewish observance among those of us who are secularized.  When I left my office yesterday, a group of Chabad volunteers were outside my building, asking passers-by if they were Jewish. My friend Jen was in the process of shaking the lulav and etrog when Lynn and I came out of the building. They had a Sukkah built on the back of a pick up truck!  I got to shake the lulav and the etrog, and then the three of us went into the Sukkah and had cookies. 

It was a brief encounter.  Yet it stayed with me.

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