January 7, 2007

Simchat Torah

So Sukkot turned into Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Everyone gathered at synagogue to make the blessing for rain. After all, we have had over six months of sunshine and deep blue skies – it’s time for some rain.

About a dozeon or so of the shuls in our neighbourhood somehow manage to coordinate the timing so that everyone is out in the kikar, the traffic circle nearby, for hakafot and dancing. People swirl with the Torahs, children sway on their father’s backs and everyone claps and sings. And, then as if time were suddenly up, everyone goes back to their seats in their respective shuls.

And as soon as the chag is over, the smart, more experienced people take down their suukahs. I love this holiday so much that I have a hard time parting with the sukkah and I just want to keep it – little did I know that the rain bracha is quite effective!

That evening, Aviva and I walked over to Yad Levanim for yet more hakafot. And since the chag was over, there was a live band set up outdoors. There was a mechitzah so that women and men could dance separately and there was energy here beyond belief. I would have thought that these people would have been worn out from their dancing earlier on in the day – but that was definitely not the case.

And everyone was there. They brought their grandmothers, their babies, their lawn chairs, their blankets and their coolers. Vendors set up booths selling corn on the cob, cold drinks, glow in the dark trinkets. I saw everyone I knew and I could not move. As for Israelis, the more the merrier, yet Aviva started to complain about claustrophobia right away and yanked my arm, “Let’s leave.”

But I just wanted to watch the young girls and I pushed against the current of the crowd until I could have a glimpse. These high school girls put their all of their koach into dancing. They link arms and dance in lines, hopping back and forth in unison, stooping, twirling, singing, clapping. I love watching but the steps are so beyond me, I dare not even try to join in.

One of Aviva’s classmates spied her and tried to drag her into the fray but she resisted and would not let go of my arm. It is these moments when we feel so moved to be here and yet so apart from it all . Aviva felt almost offended by the noise, the physical contact, the crowds and was bowled over by the sheer energy here. I myself love this but I cannot dance like this. I do not have this exuberance but my soul is so nourished by the energy. I want to stay and soak it up but Aviva has to leave and this I respect. Maybe next year she will feel as if she belongs.

I woke up the next morning to a crash of thunder and the heavens opened up. Geshem! The rain that we prayed for arrived. And it had politely held off until the bands had packed up their drums and guitars; until everyone was utterly exhausted and hoarse from so much frenetic dancing and singing; and until they had safely taken down their sukkahs - almost everyone, that is!

“The sukkah!” I shouted and I leaped out of bed to see if I could salvage some of the paper artwork from the sukkah that the kids had made. Within seconds I was drenched by the cold rain. And after so many months without rain, it felt so strange and yet so good.

The cotton ‘walls’ of the sukkah and bamboo schach were drenched within seconds and I knew that the rainy season was now officially here. Looks like I will get my wish keep the sukkah up after all. In fact, I may be waiting quite a while for these to properly dry out before I can store them away until next year.

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