In the days and weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, we endured many blisteringly hot and humid days. The heat was bad but the humidity was worse. Since many people were planning to attend an outdoor minyan and to daven in an open-air tent, the weather was a legitimate concern.
As we all know, Mother Nature is not to be trifled with. She has a terrific sense of humor. Two days before Rosh Hashanah, the weather began to cool, and on the first day of the chag, heat and humidity were not a problem — it was downright cold for those women and children who were davening outside. Men don’t mind the chill because shirts, suit jackets, and tallitot are layers that protect them. (For the sake of accuracy, I used the word “tallitot,” but because that word is Hebrew, I have heard it only in Israel. Here in the States, most of us say “talleisim,” remembering how our parents said the plural of tallis. Regardless of how one calls it, the point is that a tallis helps to keep a male warm. The females are cold.)
I can hardly wait to see what Mother Nature has in store for us on Sukkot, when we eat outdoors. Sometimes she cooperates and sometimes not. Occasionally, it rains on Sukkot. If the rain begins before the meal, it is less of a problem, but all too often the first drops fall just as we’re sitting down to the meal. That brings on a major scramble as everyone grabs something and dashes inside. Plates, glasses, and utensils as well as Kiddush cups, challahs, and the tablecloth are snatched up. The scenario is worse if the food is already out on the table. Some of these people have never moved so fast in their lives as they do when they are preserving their meal. Thankfully, this doesn’t happen often.
Mother Nature often has a different trick in store during this time. Sukkot is a fall holiday, and during the fall some species of stinging insects become more aggressive. This behavior is aggravated as natural food sources are depleted with colder weather and the bees grow hungry.
To the delight of the bees, we help them out each October by putting food outside on our sukkah tables. Because the little guys are hungry, they simply do what Mother Nature intended them to do. That means messing with our meals. People put out traps filled with all manner of enticing foods to lure them away from the table. Some people put gefilte fish in their traps, but that’s a shameful waste of delicious, traditional holiday food. In any case, none of it ever works.
Kids jump up and scream when they see a bee. Many adults also panic. There is often one person who successfully manages to trap the bee by placing a cup over it. The problem is that there’s also usually another person who didn’t witness the bee’s capture and turns the cup right-side-up, thus allowing it to escape. The ensuing screams are deafening.
Not many people know that garlic repels bees and that sprinkling garlic powder all over the table will keep them away. However, it’s a good guess that even those who do know it wouldn’t sprinkle garlic powder because the odor might also keep the guests away! For your information, peppermint and cinnamon, which are far more pleasant-smelling, are also repellents.
We will hope there will be no rain during Sukkot and that the bees will keep away from the table and instead consume whatever food is set out in traps. It rarely happens, but there’s always a first time. That’s just the way it is.
Chag sameach to all!
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 516-295-4435.