Monday, October 5, 2009

An Offering of Thanks to Hashem on Succot

The crisp autumn air blew through our schach and the multi-colored decorations in our Succah swung back and forth in the gentle breeze. Succot in Eretz Yisrael is a unique experience. In the States, I recall that only Orthodox Jews building a Succah. Not so here in Israel.

Even the marginally traditional here in Netivot opt for erecting some kind of Succah, whether it be made from wood or merely some sheets thrown haphazardly around the "pargula" covered porch. (A "pargula" is a special hand constructed latticed covering over a porch which I've never seen outside of Israel.) There are markets for the Arba Minim in many cities, and again, you can see chassideshe Jews standing next to men without tzitzit at the same stand checking out the wares.

I had an extremely moving moment this year during Succot, as I sat outside with my husband, and several children and grandchildren. The air was crisp and singing came from some neighboring Succot while music piped in from tapes came from others. The evening had just began—that hour when sunset has heralded the end of a day, yet the moon has yet to put in an appearance.

I looked around our table sated with joy at the presence of so many beloved family members, and suddenly I was thrown back almost forty years. I recalled a Succot holiday spent in upstate N.Y. (I grew up in the borscht belt.) Although it was Succot, I, alas, had no Succah that year. My parents were on the verge of becoming frum, but had not yet made that final leap of faith that requires changing of lifestyle, an incredibly difficult step to take in one's middle age. I felt absolutely bereft. Succot without a Succah, without Yom Tov meals; no decorations; no singing….. absolutely nothing. I never felt more alone or bereaved in my entire life. I was in mourning, for the Succos that never was. Or at least, not yet part of my newly Shomer Shabbos life.

I pushed aside the beige curtains and peeked outside in the twilight, the witching hour, at the mountain across from our home. My eyes took in the red, orange, purple, and yellow autumn foliage high above near Sam's Point and in the trees surrounding my home. I raised my tear-filled eyes to the sky and prayed, "Hashem, please let me have the zechus of marrying a Ben Torah and raising frum children who will never lack for a real Yom Tov or Shabbos! Please, Hashem, allow me to build my home in Eretz Yisrael!" Yes, even then barely Bat Mitzva, I knew that only Israel would sate my thirst for a truly Jewish lifestyle.

Time spiraled forward, and I found myself thrown back into my Succah in Netivot, filled with incredible angst and upset, feeling the desperation and frustration of that previous Succos holiday of yesteryear. I burst out crying. My husband was taken back and asked what was wrong. "Nothing," I answered. "Nothing at all!" Sitting together with him, our children and their children in Eretz Yisrael in OUR Succah, I could honestly answer him, "Nothing is wrong. Baruch Hashem, on the contrary….. !"


goyisherebbe said...

That was really touching. I appreciated it. Today we had a feeling of great thankfulness ourselves as we all congregated in my brother-in-law's sukkah in the Jewish Quarter with all but one of our eight kids (she gets back from India on Wed.) and all of our 20 grandchildren plus some cousins of my brother-in-law who came in from Ra'anana and my father-in-law who was in the Bielski Bros. partisan group during the war. The sukkah is truly the place most conducive in the world for expressing that thankfulness to Hashem for everything He has done for us.

Moriah Designs said...

Devorah of recommended that I contact you. I give you permission to repost my article at

Chag Sameach.

Netivotgirl said...

Goyisherebbe- WOW! To live in the Jewish Quarter!! You are SO blessed!!! Halevi I could live there--- you will witness, Be'H the shofar heralding moshiach; the new Bait Ha'mikdosh coming down from heaven;etc.!!

One of the joys of my life when my health allowed it was to join my pupils on Yom Yerushalayim. As you know everyone goes on foot from Gan Saker (or the Independence Park for boys) through the "Yishmael free" Old City until reaching the Kotel. You do indeed have much to be grateful for.

Moriah, I will look at your article and thank you in advance for permission to repost it! (Pass on the thanks to Devorah) I'm cooking up a migraine (so gotta go ZZZZZZZZZZ a bit,) otherwise I'd open it up immediately.

May we ALL meet at the Kotel with the Geula Shleima before Succot is over!

Netivotgirl said...

Moriah, I would like you to get in touch with Batya after Succot when she returns from abroad. I'd like to e-mail you, and I don't want to publish my personal details here. My heart goes out to you.

I've taught in an Ulpana for 15 years, and in oral exams (for the English Bagrut) if testers ask about violence in our school, the girls laugh as it is so absurd and far away from our reality, B'H!

Be'H,I will send your article to Batya and ask her if she thinks it is suitable for this site. I feel so bad that as starry eyed olim THIS is the reality your children are going through.

At neither of the schools where I work would the principal/ staff have reacted as you wrote. I'd pull my kids out!! Refuse to let him use the phone? Not allow the police to be called?

There simply MUST be another option for you school-wise. Rather choose a more "shtark" (black) school system like I did and stand on your guard that they remain open minded than put up with such violent abuse.

Is there no NOAM Torani school in Beit Shemesh? That is a school system that is geared to the Dati-Leumi sector and in most cities has children from strong Dati Leumi homes. In NONE of the charedi elementary schools in Netivot do you find violence such as that your article described.

My kids are aged 19-30; all went through the "black" school system and came out NORMAL--- all are into kiruv and not classic "charedi" folks, as I stood over them with a virtual hatchet making sure they remained open minded, non-judgmental and full of ahavat yisrael.

May Hashem bless you and your family with a wonderful year of naches and no more heartache like that in your article!

goyisherebbe said...

I live in Kochav Hashachar. It's my brother-in-law who lives in the Jewish Qtr. It's a great place to visit (not so easy to approach), but I love where I live. My brother-in-law has two (!) sukkahs, one off the house and one on the roof. It was grand there. I'm sure you love where you live in Netivot, too. I have heard good things about it.

Sara Layah said...

This is a beautiful post - thank you for sharing.
May you continue to go from strength to strength!