By Mordechai Schmutter

 

From time to time, I run a yom tov article that is really not written for you — it’s just a way of recording my family’s apparent minhagim. Minhagim are treasured traditions, handed down from generation to generation as a way of keeping our mesorah alive, but the problem is that, for the most part, handing things down in this way is like playing a game of telephone, where, over the years, some customs get added, muddled, or taken out.

That said, it’s always a good idea to write down your family’s customs somewhere so your grandkids know, going forward, whether your kids ever actually paid attention when you talked.

  • Although I spell it “Sukkos,” I have a minhag to pronounce it “Sukiss.” I also say “Shvooiss” and “Shabbiss.”
  • I have a minhag to keep our sukkah in the garage, but our decorations in the attic.
  • I have a minhag, after we finish putting up the sukkah every year, to go inside the house, go upstairs, and look out the window.
  • We have a minhag to hang lots of decorations that are supposed to make our sukkah look nice but instead make it look like an ad for saran wrap. Pesach is the holiday of foil; Sukkos is the holiday of saran wrap.
  • I have a minhag to put up the sukkah on a Sunday. And to panic every year about how few Sundays are left. This is despite the fact that I mostly work from home every day of the week. But I do want my kids available so they can help me by bringing out a few of the poles and asking me if they’re getting rewarded.
  • When I’m putting up the schach mat, I have a minhag to get splinters.
  • My kids have a minhag to hand me the schach poles one at a time, perpendicular to the direction I need them in.
  • We have a minhag to hang a picture of a sukkah in our sukkah. And in that sukkah, there is also a picture of a sukkah. I wonder if we’re just part of someone’s picture.
  • My father has a minhag, when looking at esrogim, to ask if they have anything else in the back.
  • I have a minhag to spend 13 minutes frowning knowledgeably at esrogim before settling on the second one I looked at.
  • I have a minhag to buy my hadassim in a bag so that I can’t see them until I get home, but I don’t buy my esrog and lulav in a bag.
  • I have a minhag to put my hadassim and aravos in the fridge, like they did in the midbar.
  • My aravos have a minhag to start turning brown the moment I pay for them.
  • We have a minhag to zip our sukkah door closed when everyone leaves it, even though animals can go right under the tarp anyway and people know how to use zippers. Even burglars. I don’t know what burglar is going to be stumped by a zipper, but I guess one who wants to steal folding chairs.
  • My mother-in-law has a minhag, handed down from her ancestors, that the first night of Sukkos she comes out to the sukkah in a coat. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, or how hot it was when she was outside five minutes before yom tov.
  • I have a minhag to make weak excuses as to why I can’t sleep in the sukkah.
  • I have a minhag to serve soup on Sukkos, so we can see if the rain ruins it. We have this soup even if it’s 90 degrees out and my mother-in-law is wearing a coat.
  • We have a minhag to pop in to look at other people’s sukkahs, even though I don’t know what we’re looking for. Are we seeing if they’re kosher? Are we looking at their decorations? I don’t come to their houses to look at their decorations.
  • My kids have a minhag to say that dvar Torah about how the samech of “sukkah” has four walls and the kof has three and the hei has two-and-a-half, even though no one in history has ever built a two-and-a-half-wall sukkah that looks like a hei. How does that little half-wall stay up? Why do you need a doorway if you’re already missing a wall? Who are you, Avraham Avinu? And yeah, it could be that the letters are just a mnemonic device. So what’s the mnemonic device to remind you not to incorporate the vav into this dvar Torah?
  • We have a minhag to turn on our neighbor’s motion-sensitive backyard light at least once over the course of yom tov.
  • The non-Jewish neighbors behind me have a minhag to do construction three feet from our sukkah while we’re trying to eat. Drilling, hammering, sawing, the works. Especially when we try to sing. If there is nothing for them to build, they have a minhag to mow their lawn.
  • My wife has a minhag to urge me to sing over the construction. Like the neighbors are going to say, “Ooh, that’s some nice singing. Let’s stop drilling and listen.” I think this might be why they’re doing construction.
  • I have a minhag to tell my kids every time they pick up the arba’ah minim to watch the pitum. Even my teenagers.
  • My kids have a minhag, while they’re watching the pitum, to bump the tip of the lulav into random walls and fellow mispallelim.
  • I have a minhag, if my esrog is not perfectly straight, to hold it at an angle so that it looks perfectly straight to me. I’m the one who paid for it.
  • I have a minhag to lose the kesher that goes around my lulav holder on the first day of Sukkos.
  • Everyone in my shul has a minhag, during Hoshanos, to totally forget how to walk.
  • I have a minhag to always end Hoshanos on the exact opposite side of the shul from where I need to be.
  • I have a minhag to forget to say the ushpizin of Yaakov Avinu.
  • We have a minhag to go out to eat on chol ha’moed to a restaurant with a sukkah in the middle of the street, so that we can literally feel the cars passing by.
  • I have a minhag to forget to make the berachah of “Leisheiv Ba’sukkah” several times over the course of yom tov, even though I made it a point to go out to the sukkah, bringing everything I need with me, over the course of several trips, and now I am in a sukkah surrounded by signs about Sukkos, and I still forget to say “Leishev.”
  • I have a minhag, on chol ha’moed, to eat yogurt and hard-boiled eggs at the zoo. Because we don’t see enough wildlife in our sukkah. (NOTE: This minhag extends to chol ha’moed Pesach as well.)
  • We have a minhag, at some point over chol ha’moed, to say, “It always rains on chol ha’moed.”
  • Our minhag is not to wear tefillin on chol ha’moed, though I kind of wish I would, because I’m a lefty, and people stare at me and say, “Hey, you’re holding your lulav in the wrong hand!” And that way I can say, “Yeah, well, I also wore my tefillin on the wrong hand.”
  • I have a minhag not to knock any leaves off my hoshanos, but not for lack of trying.
  • My wife has a minhag to attempt to grow aravos every year, usually in a place that we will hopefully remember not to mow come spring.
  • My shul has a minhag on Simchas Torah to sing the very same songs that our forefathers sang the very first time they finished the Torah.
  • I have a minhag to pick up Simchas Torah flags for my kids at the supermarket for free, and I don’t know why. No kid uses them. Are they going to hold yet another stick that they can use to poke adults while walking in a circle?
  • When I was growing, up, a lot of shuls seemed to have a minhag to play pranks on the chazzan during Mussaf on Simchas Torah. How on earth was that OK? The poor guy had yahrzeit.
  • I have a minhag to sit down the day after yom tov with my kids’ school papers and realize that I forgot to record how many seconds each kid learned each day, especially since, for several of those days in a row, I couldn’t write.
  • I have a minhag to be at a total loss as to what to do with my esrogim after Sukkos. We just have a box of tiny brown rocks that smell good that I don’t want to show my kids because they’re just going to break off the pitums.

I’m thinking of starting a minhag to buy flowers for my wife before Sukkos. That way she’ll do whatever chemical process she usually does to keep them alive for a week, and I can sneak my aravos in there every night.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.

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