Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sukkot Neurosis

While everyone is ranting and raving about how much they love sukkot, this holiday always makes me a bit nuts. Don't get me wrong, I agree that Sukkot should be a happy chag, with lots of good holiday spirit and peace among Jews (and mankind). Yet the Arba Minim freak me out every year.

Living in Israel, we have great service -- tons of teenagers come to my door, in advance of chag, and take orders. "Kosher, Mehudar, and Super Mehadrin" - ranging from 60 NIS to 95 NIS. At only 95 NIS for super-mehadrin, can't beat that deal anywhere. Granted, when I had the time, I enjoyed browsing the Mea Shearim/Geula or Bnei Braq lulav markets, but now time is way to precious. 3 days before sukkot, I'm invited to my salesman's home, and in the comfort of their home get to browse the exclusive "super mehadrin" section. The problem is, that I'm convinced the very second I buy this beautiful etrog, and super closed lulav, the brown spots will come out overnight, and the lulav won't make it to the first day of chag.

Will my wife's potato kugel squish against the hadassim and aravot in the fridge, crunch their leaves and make them fall off? Will the chol hamoed trip break my lulav's back, despite all the tender love and care I give it? And then, in shul itself - will my lulav get knocked over, my etrog drop kicked? Will I succeed in putting my hadassim and aravot back into the fridge before they dry out?

ARG! Sukkot Neurosis every year...Makes me so relieved when Shmini Atzeret comes around.


Anonymous said...

I see I'm not the only one...

Anonymous said...

I suggest a week of prozac will do the trick.It comes free with a full set of the super mehadrin.

JoeSettler said...

For a long time the notion of purchasing a Lulav and Etrog severely bothered me.

In fact, I began to disdain the ever approaching Sukkot holiday because of the whole L&E purchasing process.

Here I am, shelling out good money, on what?

A lemon and some weeds that grow along any river – that I could take for free, mind you.

And so here I am going into one Shuk or another, forced to spend serious money on a piece of fruit and some weeds!

And everyone takes it so serious.

There’s mehadrin, mehudar, badatz... And the vendors and hawkers are throwing out artificially high prices like these things are made of gold – which they aren’t.

For many years, I nearly didn’t buy a set because it became so ridiculous, annoying, and antagonizing, but I always caved in at the last moment.

The only thing I could think of was that G-d was laughing at me with this nonsense.

Then I realized, yes, G-d is laughing at all of us with this nonsense, and that’s exactly the message of Sukkot.

We live in a Sukkah in part to understand how ephemeral life is and how we can only rely on G-d for protection. We learn that the physical structures around us which we rely on are actually transitory, precarious and vulnerable.

Purchasing the Lulav and Etrog is the same.

People become convinced that a fruit and weeds are suddenly worth their weight in gold.

They obsess over finding the perfect Etrog.

And the funniest thing is, after spending so much money, what do we do?

Eight days later we throw them out – or at best make some jam.

Yet, that is the exact message that we are supposed to discover from the Lulav and Etrog, which perhaps many don’t get.

Not only are our physical structures impermanent and volatile, but so are our abstract structures.

Our entire monetary system, for example (whether based on the dollar, gold, or even barter), is simply another flimsy abstract structure that is just as capable of collapsing on us as any physical structure.

Our financial system is so easily manipulated that prices are able to become so artificially inflated over a lemon and weeds – it’s there to teach us a lesson.

Just like on Sukkot we must ultimately rely on G-d for shelter from the precariousness of our physical environment, we must ultimately also rely on Him in for shelter from the volatility of our conceptual environments too.

Chag Sameach.

Shifra said...

When I was a little girl (maybe six or seven) I dropped my father's esrog on the shul steps on the second day of Yom Tov, after hallel, breaking off the pitom. I can still see that esrog falling out of my hands...
My father (a VERY patient man) didn't even yell at me (or maybe I was crying so hard I didn't hear him, who knows?!)
My husband knows I suffer from Post-traumatic-stress-disorder when it comes to the arba minim so he always orders a pitomless esrog... whew!

Anonymous said...

I have a neighbor who is in the Etrog growing business. Any time I reconsider wht I am spending on Arba Minim I remember that I am supporting someone's entire livelihood which is the highest form of Tzdaka according to Rambam. Likewise, I am keeping my order with the same person year in/year out even when some worthy organization comes aknocking trying to raise money for something through sales of Arba Minim.

You did not mention the lulav cartel that almost was this year. I'm glad these unscrupulous dealers were broken. Someone who is trying to take an unfair profit deserves to be left, one week later, with dried out burn-your-chametz kindling.

I would also be remiss if I didn't mention the arava tree in our back yard. One of my neighbor's kids planted it as a twig over 15 years ago and now it is a monster. I never charge for aravot but perhaps I should charge to recoup our sewer roto-rooter expenses.

The !@#$%^* water-seeking tree has sent roots twenty meters away that broke into our sewer pipe and we need to have it cleaned every 2-3 years. And right now, on Hol Hamoed the drain is starting to gurgle. I hope we can last till isru chag without a flood.

I still won't charge for aravot. We cut several hundred sets erev Sukkot and a similar number will be needed for Hoshana Raba.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shifra: Since I broke the pitum on an etrog when I was a kid, I absolutely refuse to buy an etrog with one. Too bad they don't make spineless lulavim (or dry-out proof aravot)

ifyouwillit... said...

Spineless Lulav - that would definatly sell. My friends Lulav didn't even make it to the first day.

Pittum-less is always the best way forward in my eyes!

Moadim L'simcha!

Lion of Zion said...

60-100 sheks is great bargain by american standards.
i hope to post on this business that makes suckers out of all of us. (sigh, one more post i will probably never write.)
the biggest laugh i ever had was the year i worked on kibbutz tirat zvi. they have etrog fields, and after sukkot i was assigned the job of clearing out a machsan that contain boxes with thousands of unsold etrogim. the street value in brooklyn probably would have been half a million dollars.

gee, what a moron:
there is no mitzvah that says i must get ripped off year after year. would you pay someone $1000 for a pair of $25 pants because this was his parnasah?
yes, i know that they must make a lot of money over two weeks because there is no market for this product the rest of the year. but that is not my problem. let the dealers get sidejobs. growing up my italian neighbor was a gardner. well there is not that much gardning to do for about seven months of the year in brooklyn. so did he double his prices to account for this? no, he was also a real estate agent on the side for the "off" months.

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