Well, here we are: six days into Sukkot, and my undecorated, we-haven’t-had-one-meal-in-its-blue-tarp-walls sukkah stands on my deck, waiting like a girl on prom night for her date to show.
It’s just so sad.
Each time I look out the kitchen window and see the lonely little structure, I feel a serious pang of guilt. In that brief moment I have the urge to go get some construction paper and make paper chains—the extent of my artistic abilities. But then, something distracts me and I don’t think about it until I see it again, or am standing in someone else’s beautifully decorated sukkah and am beset with sukkah envy and guilt.
(I know, I know. It’s not the sukkah, it’s me.)
It wasn’t always like this. I wasn’t always like this. I used to be ready for the holidays. Before I converted, you should have seen my Christmas tree each year, the meticulously-wrapped presents under it, and the decorations in my condo. Both my husband and I assumed that I would transfer my holiday-decorating energy to Sukkot, and we would have one heck of sukkah.
Of course, I was single then, and didn’t have a 19-month old daughter, and a house sorely in need of updating.
It’s not that I don’t like Sukkot. In fact, it’s one of my favorite holidays. My first trip to Israel coincided with the festival, and I was taken by the feeling of celebration all around me, seeing the families walking together carrying their lulavs and etrogs. I vowed on that trip that when I had a house that I would have a sukkah and make decorating it and eating in it a part of my family’s tradition.
And I really meant to make that happen this year. I figured last year’s pathetically decorated sukkah that we only ate in once was an exception since it rained every day and we literally had just moved into our house the week before. Surely, this year would be different.
But here I am, midway through, and it’s actually worse than last year. I’ve had lots of meals in other people’s beautiful sukkahs, but not one meal in ours. (At least I have ‘dwelled’ in a sukkah, even if it hasn’t been ours.)
This year, I’m blaming the timing of the holidays.
I mean, c’mon, we just had Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. After all the preparations and hosting out-of-town-guests, I am exhausted. This just reinforces my personal belief that the Torah was written by men (or if you believe God wrote the Torah, evidence God thinks like a man) because, let’s face it, a woman would know better than to bunch holidays back-to-back like this.
I’m burned out, Jewed out, and the last thing I want on my plate are more Jewish holidays.
This is not good.
Because, despite all my legitimate reasons for abandoning our sukkah, the fact of the matter is that I am shirking an obligation that I clearly feel (otherwise I wouldn’t feel this guilt), and along with it, the opportunity to create an important family tradition. Being Jewish, living Jewishly, isn’t always convenient. In fact, it is often a pain in the tuchas. A pain that I asked for, and a responsibility that I have embraced. And I’m lucky to do so.
So tonight, no matter what the weather (and it’s not looking good), I am going to eat in our sukkah, shake the lulav, and recite the blessings. I know that it doesn’t matter that I haven’t had time to make it pretty, that I will probably freeze my ass off, or that 2 minutes in my daughter will be demanding the etrog, thinking it’s a ball to play with. I will have dwelled, and damnit, I will be happy about it. I will have fulfilled a promise that I made to myself, and performed an obligation that I feel as a Jew.
I might even hang a paper chain.
NEXT year I hope to have a beautiful sukkah that my whole family helped to decorate, and that it becomes a family tradition. I know the timing of the holidays will never change, but maybe with a little bit of planning, I can pull it off.