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Pesach Roundup

Despite the fact that our government is teetering on its last leg, the security situation is...

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Weather is a funny thing in Israel.  On September 1, the summer is “over.” At the end of Simchas Torah, people heartily wish each other a good winter.  The chagim have passed.  School has begun (usually). Winter is here.  Supposedly.  But I don’t know - it hasn’t felt much like winter to me, with the scorching sun and above-80-degree weather we’ve had these past few weeks.  After reciting tefilat geshem, we usually get a drop of drizzle here or there, just to let us know that our tefilot were heard.  But despite the advertisements for sweaters and warm coats now being sold, there’s not much reminiscent of winter in these parts. I always wonder who exactly is buying those coats when many are still walking around in shorts and flip flops, and people are still heading to the beach.  I would say that just looking at those ads for warm clothes is enough to make me sweat, but I’m usually sweating way before I even see the ads.  We are still using our air conditioning at home and we are not yet able keep up with our family’s demand for ice (no, we don’t have an automatic ice-maker in the door of our fridge).  Last week we started to say “V’ten tal u’matar.”  “Winter is now upon us,” people say in earnest.  Personally, I wouldn’t call it winter exactly, but it seems we may be beginning to ever so slowly turn the corner.  The days are still warm, but not brutal.  Towards evening, something that almost resembles a chill can be felt in the air, and sightings of people wearing sweaters is a distinct possibility. But winter? Not the term that comes to mind.  But then the other night came the rain! Real heavy rain! Cats and dogs. Complete with thunder and lightning - the kind that wakes you up in the middle of the night with a bang. 

Between lockdown, quarantine, and just plain corona, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time at home. I’m not complaining - I love my home. Also, the people in it.  But sometimes I get the feeling that I’m not just quarantined at home - I’m actually quarantined in my kitchen.  For years, my family has been saying that no matter what time Shabbos starts, no matter who is coming for Shabbos, I am glued to my kitchen on Friday.  But it’s not true!  I usually take a few laundry breaks outside of the kitchen.  Does that not count?  I also always aim to have a relaxing cup of coffee before Shabbos.  And even if I do that in my kitchen, I think it should count as an activity outside my kitchen.  But I typically run out of time before Shabbos and the coffee just doesn’t happen. If we go away for Shabbos and I’m off from cooking, my family members ask me what I will do with myself on Friday, as though I don’t have the capability of engaging in activities outside the kitchen. They say this as though it’s an oddity. But I’m wondering where else should I be?  Am I missing out on something of great importance?  I don’t know.  But I definitely spend a lot of time in my kitchen, and not just on Fridays.  And especially now, with several family members quarantining at home, I am beginning to wonder if life actually does exist outside my kitchen.  Besides the general food preparation in quantities of which I am no longer used to cooking, there are also other reasons I don’t seem to manage to get out that much. 

Here we are once again. It’s Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan. Calling Chodesh Cheshvan “mar” (bitter) has always felt a bit insulting to me. I was born in Cheshvan, so if Cheshvan is mar, what does that say about me? Yes, I know, it’s called MarCheshvan because there are no chagim this month. Fine. So I don’t have to be insulted. But truthfully, I have my own secret reason why Cheshvan is considered mar.

We had very much been looking forward to our son coming home from yeshivah for Yom Tov. After we had gotten used to having him with us for five consecutive months during the first wave of the coronavirus, we really missed him when he was in yeshivah for almost two months straight. Despite the success of his yeshivah in pulling off the almost impossible feat of getting through the z’man with no cases of COVID, we still kept distance from our son upon his return, as we do when any of our children return to the nest after being on the outside for an extended period of time. Some might call this extreme, but even though it is very difficult, I view it as my hishtadlus in keeping the virus at bay. So, when he returned home on Motza’ei Yom Kippur, he was greeted with a big smile and a friendly chat, but no hug or kiss.

This past Yom Kippur is one that will be remembered for a very long time. The degree to which people contorted themselves in order to come up with creative and practical ways to deal with the current situation and have a meaningful davening on Yom Kippur was astounding. Between the virus, the restrictions, the weather, and the obligation to fast, the solutions were varied and truly remarkable. Some davened early. Some davened late. Some davened indoors. Some davened outdoors. Some built structures solely for the tefilot of the Yamim Nora’im. Some davened in parking lots. Others in public parks. But wherever one found oneself, the experience was a first for all. In Tel Aviv, Neilah was attended by many who do not usually observe Yom Kippur, nor do they view it as the holiest day of the year. Who knows what was stirred in the souls of onlookers who stopped in their tracks to listen as the shofar was being blown outdoors at the culmination of Neilah? 

The weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah have always looked a certain way in our home. The topics of discussion are pretty much predictable year after year.  In no particular order: Guests. Seats. Shuls. Menu. Shiurim.