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
"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
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.