By Hannah Reich Berman
Both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have passed. But there are still more holidays to celebrate. It should be noted that what these “celebrations” mean for many of us is old-fashioned hard work and, in some instances, a fair degree of stress.
Most people build their sukkahs right after Yom Kippur ends. Others get an earlier start and set it up before Yom Kippur. Either way, by the time this article appears in print presumably all sukkahs will be up and decorated, with long folding tables and folding chairs placed inside. And, by now, housewives will have planned all the meals, shopped for the ingredients, and finished most of the cooking and baking. Having all of that done goes a long way to reducing stress levels.
For a good many, the biggest stressor might be the number of bees that find their way into our sukkahs. Adults don’t usually panic, but they do shrink back at the sight of bumblebees. Young children have a different reaction. They will shriek and, in some cases, flee. The number of bees in the sukkah varies from year to year. We can only hope for a bee-free chag. Many families will set out hanging bee traps with honey, stuffed cabbage, or a small piece of gefilte fish inside. This is done in the hope that the aroma of the food will entice the bees away from the table. But some bees are not so easily fooled. For the more clever bees, there are alternate methods of entrapment. If a bee should land anywhere on the food-laden table there is always somebody who thinks he knows what to do and how to capture it. He will place a cup, upside-down, over the bee. This traps the offender and prevents it from scaring the daylights out of some of the guests. But there is always one genius who did not witness what went down, and this person, not realizing that the turned-over cup holds a bee inside it, will turn it right-side-up, thereby releasing the winged prisoner. As the newly freed bee flies out and over the tabletop, it elicits even louder shrieks.
But, buzzing bees aside, once all of the work has been completed, the meals in the sukkah are very enjoyable. However, this is true only if the weather cooperates. Nothing ruins a meal in the sukkah more effectively than a heavy rain. It is less troublesome if the downpour begins before we sit down to eat. Then we have little choice but to set everything up indoors. But, as we have all experienced, there are times when the scenario is more unpleasant. This happens when we all sit down inside a beautifully decorated sukkah, make our berachos, and begin our meal, only to hear the dreaded words, “Uh-oh. I think I felt a drop of rain.”
For some reason, few of us ever pick ourselves up quickly. Most of us wait and hope for the best. We think that maybe it will just be a few drops and then stop. But if the rain persists and becomes increasingly heavier, suddenly everyone is on his or her feet, snatching up the food, the dishes, the silverware, and everything else from the table and then racing inside. It’s not a fun activity, but once inside, where it’s dry, we make do with eating the meal in the dining room. Most of the people try to seat themselves in the same configuration as it was in the sukkah. People don’t like change.
In most cases, it is often not just families but also neighbors and friends who get together to share the meals and enjoy the company over the holiday. This will be another three-day chag with the same sequence as Rosh Hashanah–Thursday and Friday, followed by Shabbat. May we all enjoy every minute of the coming holiday. That’s the way it is and that’s the way we hope it will be!
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.