Thursday, October 16, 2014

The End of the Fall Holiday Season

The holiday season begins with Rosh Hashanah and ends with Simchat Torah - the most joyous holiday in the Jewish calendar. Simhat Torah  is not mentioned in either the Torah nor the Talmud. If you would like deeper understanding of the holiday you can read this, which goes into quite a bit more detail than the wikipedia entry for the holiday. It's a day of celebrating the final reading in the Torah Scroll in the book of Deuteronomy and the return to the beginning reading in Genesis. It is not so much of a 'starting over again'  -  the concept of life in Judaism in not cyclical, but linear - so much as a 'new beginning'. After the stock-taking inventory of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with deeply felt prayers for repentance, we now have a chance to begin anew and hopefully do better. The Torah scrolls are removed from the holy ark (usually three scrolls) and members of the congregation dance exuberantly while carrying them in circuits around the room and out into the street. I've never been able to photograph the celebration because any rabbi I've ever interacted with would want me to participate in the observances, and not work (as in take photos). The same is true for the first days of Sukkot and Pesach (I would love to be able to photograph a seder),  Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Shavuot.

The final day of Sukkot, called Hashanah Rabbah, is however accessible to me. I celebrated it in Crown Heights at the Chabad headquarters of the Lubavitch movement. The Sukkat was densely packed with men performing the holiday rituals with the lulav and etrog. In the back of the sukkot there was a special section set aside for women to celebrate the ritual also. But the rooms were so crowded access to the women's section was impossible. I'll have photos of the celebrations in the next blog post.

The streets of Crown Heights were filled with people enjoying a meal in the many sukkot set up by restaurants on Kingston Avenue, and shoppers restocking for the next round of holiday meals.

People enjoying the culinary delights of the neighborhood in the outdoor sukkot:



Shopping for the next round of holiday meals:


Young men shopping for their first traditional homburg:



Shopping for kippot (skull caps) can be daunting if one's husband has a big head:


Everyone in the neighborhood was in a celebratory, super friendly mood: