Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Tishrei 5760 - September 15, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Remembering Succos - Sink, Swim or Sail: The Succa Scenario
by Malka Adler

No doubt the Succos of 5758 (1997) will go down in the annals of Israel's history as the most memorable, at least, weatherwise. The weird weather conditions were obvious as early as the previous day. I was trying to maneuver my way through the busy, bustling streets of Geula. Colored lights glowed. Succa decorations dangled alongside strings of portraits of radiant Rabbonim and Simchas Torah flags that would have flapped in the breeze, had there been any.

Every centimeter of sidewalk was covered by strollers, shoppers, toddlers and tourists. Food strores, fancy gift shops, fragrant candy corners all had lines. The sumptuous smells from cakes, cookies and challos was overwhelming. Flower vendors added dazzling color with their perfumed wares. Silver store showcases shone with elaborate esrog boxes. Children's shoe shops were overflowing. (Didn't they buy them before Rosh Hashona? They hadn't outgrown them, surely?) Lively taped music filled the air from every direction. At the intersection of Kikar Hashabbos, women were weighed down by packages and progeny. Men carefully cradled esrogim, whose aroma mingled with that of the hadassim and the bakery wares, or scrupulously supported lulavim. If one wants to feel the erev Yom Tov, Geula is surely the place to be! Only the stifling, sultry air, for that time of day and especially for that time of year, was unusual. Otherwise, it was a dearly familiar scene. Am Yisroel preparing for Yom Tov.

The sound of the hammer could be heard in the land. Most people were putting the finishing touches to their succas. Yet another picture, a ceiling fluorescent bulb for more light, a last minute handmade decoration. Everything to beautify and sanctify, but the structure was the usual makeshift, meant to last just eight days under pleasantly normal sunny or star-studded skies.

After the first stormy day of Succos, the telephones lines were buzzing:

"Is your succa still standing?" "Did you manage to make Kiddush and eat the meal before the rain started? "Did you ever hear such winds?" "How about the s'chach? Is that still in place?"

Each neighborhood in Jerusalem had an extraordinary, but different `happening.' In Sanhedria Murchevet, there was thick hail. In Har Nof, the force of the wet winds swept a porch succa right through the living room French windows, like a gigantic sucking vacuum cleaner. In Bayit Vegan, as in most neighborhoods, the teeming rain drove the menfolk who traditionally sleep in the succa, to seek shelter indoors, in the middle of the night.

Jerusalem, the holy city, certainly did not have a monopoly on the record breaking weather conditions. In southern Beersheva there was an accumulation of hailstones that had to be removed by special machinery on Chol Hamoed. Haifa suffered from flooding and numerous succos were waterlogged or damaged.

A steady rain pelted the not-too-sturdy succos for the length and breadth of the country. Then the storm subsided and we all took much needed afternoon naps. Most people awoke to bizarre scenes. In the pale grey light of late afternoon, one could see where the s'chach of one succa, not necessarily identifiable, had blown off, sailed several feet and landed on the roof of a neighbor's succa. Other roofs, especially those on high elevations, had simply sailed off into the great Unknown. Our own bamboo mat s'chach lanetzach had simply rolled itself down the length of the boards and would have blown off, had it not been stopped by the wires connected to the Shabbos clock.

The rest of Yom Tov was as beautiful as always, with sunny skies prevailing. Tens of thousands swarmed to the Kosel for the festival pilgrimage. Traffic came to a standstill about 15 minutes away. We were in the No. 1 bus and chose wisely to disembark from the bus. Seeing the lateness of the hour and the glorious sunset, many of us simply stood quietly on the side davening mincha, with our backs to the groups of Arabs walking homeward.

Eventually , we all arrived at our destination, to be overwhelmed at the sight of the thousands who were already there and the hundreds behind us. As that Succos is recorded in our memories as a time of storms, sunshine and stories, so may Hashem bless us with only `blessed rains' and a healthy winter.


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