...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sukkot, cell phone, moving

Sukkot

The Jewish festival Sukkot takes place this year between the 27th of September and the 3rd of October (or, if you prefer, between the 15th and the 22st of the month of Tishrei--it ends the 21st if you're in Israel). Yesterday P'nai Or held their Shabbat services in a community sukkah about two miles from my house, so I woke up early then bundled up to bike over in the rain. I'd never been in a sukkah or seen a sukkah before, so I didn't know what to expect--maybe something like a small hut or a lean-to. This one turned out to be huge and four-sided (according to Reb Aryeh the sukkah can be in the shape of any of the word's Hebrew letters), and covered with branches, leaves, hanging fruits, and fronds. Probably about thirty or so people were able to pack in. It was cold and a little drippy--the rain held off, but water from the previous night's rainfall dripped onto our heads from the overhanging branches and I was a little concerned that the Torah would get wet when they raised it up at the end of the reading. After the service, we all participated in the mitzvah of eating a meal in the sukkah--the rabbi's wife brought out some hot apple cider and some people from the congregation had brought hot matzvah ball soup, which seemed like the most delicious thing in the world on a cold Shabbat morning.

Fellow Hebrew Bible nerds (Eric?) might be interested to know that it's traditional to read through the whole book of Quohelet (Ecclesiastes) during Sukkot. The temporary nature of the sukkah is meant to remind one of the transience and immateriality of life, a favorite topic of the author of Quohelet. Tthe book is attributed to Shlomo, or Solomon, but as Reb Aryeh pointed out it's almost certainly pseudoepigraphic, as its lexicon contains words that didn't appear in Hebrew until centuries after Solomon's death--a fact that led one woman to crack, "Sure, but Shlomo was ahead of his time!"

Because the service was held away from the usual synagogue and there had been some miscommunication about who was bringing over the Torah and the siddurim (prayer books, with the Hebrew liturgy transliterated and translated into English), we had to start the service without either. The idea of getting through the service without the Hebrew transliterations in the siddur was daunting to me, especially since I hadn't been to services for the past couple months, but it turned out to be not so bad. I knew the opening blessing for Torah study, most of the Elohai N'shama prayer, all of the Ashray, and a significant chunk of the Yotzayr. By the time we got to the Amidah, the liturgy leading to silent prayer before the sermon, the siddurim and Torah had arrived. It was worthwhile for me, I think, to go half the service without a siddur and realize how much I've learned over the past year: at this time last year, I had only the passingest of acquaintences with Jewish Renewal and didn't know my n'shama from my nefesh. In fact, this Thursday is Simchat Torah, which was my very first P'nai Or experience; it's the one-year anniversary of participation in P'nai Or. I won't be going to this year's Simchat Torah, though: as it happens, that night is also Daniel's and my one-year anniversary.

Cell phone

I have a cell phone! After going back and forth about how much I really need one, how much I can afford to spend, what the best service provider is, what kind of phone to get, etc, I finally just biked over to the AT&T store on NE Broadway and bought a pre-paid cheapo Go Phone. The words "Go Phone" are thankfully not written anywhere on the phone--they make it sound like a phone for feisty grandmothers who would describe themselves as "always on the go," or little kids. You should call me, and we should talk. I don't want to write the number here but I'll put it on facebook or something.

Moving

Yes, I'm moving, again. Bleh.