Sukkot, or the season of joyous celebrations, began last Friday night and will continue until tomorrow. A “sukkah” is a booth or hut. It is fragile, just like the world is fragile. It is a meant to be a reminder of the 40 years Moses and the Israelites wandered the desert after their liberation from slavery in Egypt.
This year, our sukkah has a few bungee cords and a lot of palm fronds, courtesy of a City of Hope doctor named Mark Esensten and the Arboretum.
Every year, Mark organizes a palm tree trimming expedition. This year I arrived late because of a court appearance. Nearly everyone had left when I drove up in our old Ford F-150, dressed in jeans, hiking boots, denim shirt, USMC baseball cap, leather gloves and a machete. Lucky for me, Mark had a bunch of palm fronds waiting.
Palm fronds are the new fruitcake. I thanked Mark profusely. Then I went home and called other friends, who arrived to pick up a few. We took the rest for our sukkah.
What is a sukkah? It is a fragile structure. Lace table clothes hang from the sides. We put the palm fronds on the top, across the bungee cords. Underneath, there’s a glass-topped table, with place mats and jalapeño peppers and the occasional pumpkin.
Why is Sukkot my second favorite holiday? It’s fun. Hot dogs taste better in the sukkah. Diet root beer tastes better in the sukkah. Friends talk more in the sukkah. The wind blows and at some point, it usually rains. Parts of the sukkah fall over. It’s like having a tent in your back yard — a fragile tent with a palm frond roof.
My only regret is that the holiday lasts but a week. We take the sukkah down after the eighth day, which is another holiday.
Here’s a famous old joke about the holiday of Sukkot:
An observant Jew moved to Park Avenue. A few months later, it was Sukkot, so he built a sukkah on his balcony. The neighbors were unhappy, so they sued him. They filed for an emergency restraining order on the very eve of Sukkot. In court, the neighbors argued that the sukkah on his balcony was an eyesore.
The man was worried. It was the eve of the holiday. What would he do?
The judge listened to both sides and then entered his ruling.
“This is Park Avenue,” said the judge. “You must respect the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Judgment for the plaintiffs!”
And then, his order: “I hereby order you to remove the structure within ten days!”
La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California October 8, 2009 Valley Sun