By Malkie Gordon Hirsch
For the past few weeks, due to the way yontif had been falling out, I wrote my columns more often—double the amount I usually did.
And although I usually had enough material to write about, being that my life is anything but ordinary and mundane, even I had to pause before starting yet another piece for the seemingly endless yomim tovim schedule.
When I made mention of it in passing to my father, the editor, he smiled and replied, “You’ll have off … over chol ha’moed.”
Gee, thanks. Also, I want a raise.
So I wrote this before Sukkos, a holiday that has always been a favorite because it follows the seriousness that Yom Kippur brings. It’s a lighter, happier yontif, with plenty of amazing food, and it’s frequently a time when families try testing their limits by seeing how long they can last in each other’s presence before completely losing their minds.
It’s funny how people have this idea every year of getting together with siblings, parents, and grandparents with the purest of intentions: creating memories for themselves and their children.
In this fantasy, the sun is shining (but it’s not humid), birds are chirping, and the kids aren’t fighting.
That’s how you know it’s just a dream.
Yontif with family is a beautiful social experiment that oftentimes goes awry when you combine many different personality types in close quarters for several days without any technology to buffer. And also, with a lot of alcohol. That helps at times.
My sister is guilty of this idealism, this need to get family together.
My kids and I were expected to join my sister during the first days, which has been our new tradition after Moshe’s passing.
Our kids are the same ages and it’s an opportunity for them to connect, other than over FaceTime.
But did she stop there? No, no, no.
Next thing I know, I’m added to yet another family chat, this one titled “Yom Tov Sukkos.” I started scrolling through the members of said WhatsApp chat and realized with horror, after a quick count, that my entire family was on this chat.
I quickly shot a side text to my sister that looked something like this: “DINI, ARE YOU INSANE? YOU’RE BASICALLY MAKING ANOTHER BAR MITZVAH MINUS THE CATERING OR WAITSTAFF.”
To which she responded in her cute little voice that resembles Tinker Bell’s, “They all wanted to come when I invited them!”
To which I responded “WHY DID YOU ASK THEM?!”
So, from this short exchange, you can gather that:
Dini’s way nicer than I am.
She’s definitely on mind-altering drugs for inviting her five siblings and twenty nieces and nephews for two days of yontif.
Here’s the weird thing: I really looked forward to yontif.
We knew we’d go through a record amount of juice for kids (apple) and adults (wine), that’s for sure.
There would be many little children on melatonin at bedtime, and I hoped my sister would keep posting menus and prefacing it with, “OK guys, I’m becoming slightly overwhelmed…”
I read it all and laughed because her house would never look the same again.
Ever, ever again.
Yet, this happens every so often, in addition to the family simchas we attend. We gathered last summer every Shabbos at a rental in upstate New York, we occasionally do dinner to celebrate anniversaries or birthdays, and, at times, we just hang out because we like each other’s company.
There’s me (the oldest and outspoken one who gets everyone nervous with the stuff that comes out of her mouth), the pensive one with the dvar Torah and song (Yochanan), the favorite (Dini, the hostess and tiny MVP of the family), the athletic one who’s a favorite among the children (Dovi), the funny one with a penchant for mumbling (Nison), and the baby/entrepreneur (Nachi).
Growing up together, our personalities weren’t as established. We were just a bunch of kids who happened to be siblings growing up in the same house.
As we grew, our sense of self developed and we slowly became the people we were meant to be.
We got married, had children, and still enjoyed each other’s company, despite the many distractions that life tends to bring.
On the first Shabbos after Moshe passed, when I didn’t know how I’d make it through the day without him, every member of my family packed into my house to show me how much they cared.
They walked in from Far Rockaway, they stayed locally, they did whatever they had to do to show their solidarity and loyalty to a member of their tribe.
I was left feeling deeply touched and proud of the fact that I knew that when it came down to it, there was nothing each sibling wouldn’t do for the other.
If nothing else, that’s something in which my parents should take great pride.
So although this yontif might have been a bit noisier than I had originally anticipated, it was also one where great memories were made, where there’s happiness and laughter, where we set the example of showing our kids that although you don’t choose your family, sometimes they can become great friends, too.
Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, a social media influencer, veteran real estate agent, and runs a patisserie in Woodmere.