Just when you thought Yom Kippur was over — I mean, it is — Sukkot shows up and blows all your expectations out of the water. There’s a Hasidic custom that on the night Yom Kippur ends, after bellies are stuffed and children are put to bed, you get out your toolkit and wooden planks and palm fronds and you start building your sukkah.
So Saturday night, still in my Yom Kippur clothes (minus the white robe of a kittel that I spent all the holiday in, which my 2-year-old still insisted was a “papa dress”), I descended into the murky spider-lined depths of our garage and started fishing out the fake-wood panels that our cousins in Crown Heights had bequeathed us — yes, the cousins with a zillion kids, the ones who also always have a gabillion guests over to every meal. They’re the sort of consummate entertainers who are so stunningly perfect that you’d totally hate them…except that every time you’re at their house, they make you feel so welcomed and loved and, well, stuffed with food. That’s the genealogy of our new sukkah.
And then Saturday morning, when my kids woke up and came into the kitchen for their cereal, something weird was taking up the whole of the view through the back windows.
If it doesn’t look 100% done to you, congratulate yourself, you sukkah expert! I finished the frame, but then my wife had a catering job and she had to move all the food (that’s food for 150, if you’re curious) through the 2-inch margin between the sukkah and the wall. So I deconstructed a little — I am an author, after all.
Sorry for the gratuitous tushy shot. But there you go. Now you can only mildly make fun of me for my nonmechanical construction abilities.
It still wasn’t fully done, though. We had to get schach — the natural wood/tree/foliage sort of thing that covers the sukkahmy friend Ethan (a harmless and inquisitive friend, who happens to be an amazing comic artist, who’s not Jewish, and has no clue about all these tabernacle things we’re building). For that, we had to go into the wilderness of Coney Island Avenue, the main street of Flatbush, where a 12-year-old boy selling lulavs and etrogs heard me asking someone for directions, and summarily wriggled in between my potential navigator and myself. “You need schach?” he said. “I got some schach for you.” He proceeded to give us an address — a corner of two streets, where, he promised, “this great guy” would be standing outside with bushels of schach.
Ethan, like any right-thinking person, was dubious. But, after all, this was our adventure. So we trekked across Flatbush, and there was a synagogue, and there was our man. And, long story short (the long story involved some very Do the Right Thing-type lines from our 12-year-old hustler, a fourth-story sukkah, and an ATM search) — we got our bamboo sheet.
And there you go. You have a new story, and I have a new sukkah. My older daughter’s been talking all week about how she’s going to sleep in the sukkah. I kind of don’t believe her, if only because she never actually sleeps.
And, just as a holiday special, I would be remiss if I didn’t show you my new favorite 3 minutes in the world. It’s the new Sukkot G-dcast, and it’s all about running away from stressful things into sukkahs. Which will be my life story, in about 6 more hours.
Pronounced: khah-SID-ik, Origin: Hebrew, a stream within ultra-Orthodox Judaism that grew out of an 18th-century mystical revival movement.
Pronounced: SOO-kah (oo as in book) or sue-KAH, Origin: Hebrew, the temporary hut built during the Harvest holiday of Sukkot.
Pronounced: sue-KOTE, or SOOH-kuss (oo as in book), Origin: Hebrew, a harvest festival in which Jews eat inside temporary huts, falls in the Jewish month of Tishrei, which usually coincides with September or October.
Pronounced: yohm KIPP-er, also yohm kee-PORE, Origin: Hebrew, The Day of Atonement, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar and, with Rosh Hashanah, one of the High Holidays.