Tea, No Cake & Corona Guests
Have you ever been invited to someone’s house for tea and not been presented with either cookies or a slice of cake? Shoin, we begin with a true story which grada fits well with a plug the Oisvorfer is about to give.
This past Friday, Bina Levy, a close friend of the eishes Chayil and a person I have known for over 40 years -yikes, called and suggested (invited) that we walk over following the Friday night seuda for tea. Shoin, taka a nice invite and why not? Ober the invite came with a disclaimer. What was it? She added that she did not have cake or cookies to serve and that if we wanted to snack either with our tea, we needed to supply our own. You hear this? And that’s taka how it was Friday night when the Oisvorfer raided his own freezer and brought along cinnamon rugalech to enjoy with his tea. Why didn’t Bina have cookies in the house? Like most of us, she wants to maintain her figure, ober what has that to do with me? All that being said, a good time was had by all.
Shoin, speaking of Bina and though her tea was served naked (without cookies you chazerim), Bina is a shtikel, or more, of a curator and is this coming Chol Hamoied hosting an art show in her backyard. See the attached poster and please stop by. Warning: she may offer drinks but just to be sure, bring your own cookies.
Avada you all know that Sukkis is a time for guests. It’s a joyous holiday. We pray for good weather and many are invited out and in for meals. Other, enjoy hosting in their sukkas and we are quite accustomed to seeing people coming and going to and from different homes. It’s a Sukkis tradition and very gishmak. That being said, and despite all the planning, there are last minute changes as weather –controlled at all times by the RBSO- plays last minute tricks on the best of plans. Shoin. Ober, this year many are grappling with a bigger issue; WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE CORONA VIRUS? Is it proper to have guests? May you, or should you, eat in a friend’s sukkah? Is the sukkah considered mamish like outdoors and therefore somewhat, or even dramatically safer than indoors? Or, is the sukkah with its closed walls no different than being indoors? One thing is zicher: When it’s cold or rainy, it certainly feels like the outdoors. What’s pshat? How do we navigate? And that question raboyseyee, is on the minds of many this year, what to do?
Grada, just this morning the eishes chayil showed the heylige Ois a video from a gentleman who so ingeniously -and according to kimat all, also halachically kosher- built his sukkah with only ½ walls, the lower half. In fact, he demonstrates how a sukkah can be built without any walls. So illuminating is his video that sukkah manufacturers and distributors may soon begin a smear campaign against this man; who does he think he is potentially hurting their businesses? Avada you know that hurting someone’s Toirah inspired business is a big no-no, efsher worse than tearing toilet paper on the heylige shabbis. How does one -without house walls, meaning starting at ground zero, build a sukkah with either half or no walls? Click here: https://images.shulcloud.com/257/uploads/d362b0fe-82ca-4bfb-9607-aa0c3f10b8a1.mp4 to find out; it’s quite creative and kosher too.
And while contemplating all that, let me digress to a myseh shehoyo (a true story), one I woke up to Wednesday morning. Avada you recall learning back in Parshas Shimini how Moishe -in addition to leading the Yiddin through 40 years of mostly aimless wandering through the midbar where they were constantly getting into heaps of trouble with the RBSO – was also heavily involved with the Mishkan Project. We learned how when it was completed, Moishe erected and dismantled it daily for seven days. And so begins Parshas Shmini with the words “And it was the eighth day.” After seven erections and dismantling’s, shoin, it was to be left standing. Side note: this story is not at all related to last week’s myseh about Yael going seven rounds with Sierra. The heylige Ois is zicher no Moishe, not by a longshot, ober this past Friday and again this morning, for a few brief moments the Ois felt like him. Vus-iz-gishein (what happened)?
Going back to my youth mamish- decades back- my brother and I loved decorating the sukkah. Years before Leiter’s in the 1960’s came out with the first ever canvas/pipe style sukkah, a great number of the sukkas found in Boro Park were fashioned from doors. Yes, doors mamish. Throughout the year, my father would walk the streets, looking for discarded doors at various construction sites. Somehow – to this day how, remains a mystery- he found a way to bring them home by placing one a time into the family veygila (shopping cart) and walking it home. Easy it was not. That door joined its sister doors and when enough were gathered, we had the sukkah materials. How he got them to stand together was also no small miracle but the biggest of all miracles back then was the sechach, the bamboos poles used to cover kimat all sukkas. Because most doors were of different heights – each a few inches taller or shorter- the poles weren’t exactly even. Ober one thing was zicher: the sukkah never once collapsed. Nor was it blown away as a result of strong winds. Readers who grew up in Brooklyn know whereof I speak. The sukkah doors would not budge.
Ober as time marched forward, enterprising Toirah inspired entrepreneurs came up with new designs, ideas, and lighter materials. Doors were replaced by wood paneled sukkas which were replaced by fiberglass -still available- and those have been surpassed by the even lighter and easier to store snap-in sukkas where the male and female poles meet and shoin. Eventually they also created the popup sukkah for those on the go. Sidebar: the original popup sukkah was initially designed to be a pop-up toilet for those who were mamish on the go, or run, if you chap. The Oisvorfer recalls a demo from its inventor. Shoin, that idea went to the shitter, ober, the popup sukkah was instead born and remains a hit. Ober, what has all this to do with Moishe and the Mishkan? It’s azoy: with the help of the eishes chayil and two of our three boys, the sukkah was mostly erected on last Friday. We left the sechach for after Yom Kippur and on Tuesday night, in advance of placing the sechach, the Oisvorfer spent some time hanging the lights and decorations. The sechach was to wait one more day until Wednesday. All good until this Wednesday morning when I woke up and looked out the window. And shoin, there was no sukkah to look at; it had collapsed and was one mangled mess. It took kimat an hour to untangle the poles but fewer than two minutes to conclude that the sukkah could not be saved. It’s taka emes that the central physical ritual of the holiday is the sukkah, a flimsy temporary shelter, ober were we not taught that temporary means eight days? Oy vey! As this post is being written on Thursday at 4PM, we remain sukkah-less, ober have faith that somehow by tomorrow evening or before, a replacement sukkah, our fourth in four years will be standing. Four in four years? Who buys four sukkas in four years?
To answer that question, we hearken back to Sukkis of 2019, when over Yom Tov, gusts of wind did the exact same thing to the sukkah purchased in 2018. That sukkah was replaced and erected over Chol Hamoid of 2019. And here we are again? The eishes chayil reminds me that that is the fourth time our sukkah has been destroyed by strong winds. We need old doors! Ober, was the Oisvorfer upset? And the emesis no! The RBSO is sending a message, what that message is, ver veyst? Avada I’m not in a hurry to meet up with Him anytime soon, ober years from now -hopefully- when He’s done questioning my offensive behavior over the years, and should the opportunity arise, I’ll be sure to ask about the need to have purchased 4 sukkas in three years. In any event, it should be a kaporo, OMEN! The bottom line: at 8:00 AM on Wednesday I texted Micha Kaplan, he the son of Reb Aryeh Kaplan OBM -he one of the outstanding geniuses of our times, a man who passed away at the age of 48 but managed to write 33 Jewish themed books- to appraise him of what took place. The bottom line: a replacement sukkah will hopefully arrive today. Stay tuned for next adventure in the flying sukkah.
Another bottom line: once the new sukkah is built and Yom Tov begins, we will in fact be hosting guests each and every meal. Ober due to corona concerns, and because our guests are all elderly – thousands of years old by now- this year, they will have to maintain social distancing rules and guidelines. Shoin, has the Ois gone mishuga? What’s pshat that his guests are thousands of years old? Nu, to answer that question, let us meet the Ushpizin. The who? The Ushpizin and not the movie by that name released in 2005 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ushpizin.) What’s an Ushpizin?
Shoin, anyone who attended a yeshiva zicher heard of the ushpizin. Ober, what the hec is it? Is it a furshpeiz (an appetizer)? Let’s begin here. Is the ushpizin mentioned anywhere in the heylige Toirah? Not! In the Mishneh? Also not? What then is it and who invented it? Is it edible? Also not. Zug shoin (tell me), what is it? The Ushpizin is Aramaic for “guests,” a reference to the seven supernal guests, “founding fathers” of the Jewish people, who come to visit us yearly in the sukka, one for each of the seven days of the Yom Tov. Sidebar: the emes is that they are all in the sukkah the entire Yom Tov. Every day another of the guests leads the otherworldly entourage, and makes a seemingly virtual appearance in our sukkas here below. How that works, ver veyst. The bottom line: One of the minhogim associated with the Yom Tov of Sukkis is inviting invisible guests into the sukkah. Shoin! And guess what? Sukkis is not the only time we invite the invisible and let us recall how yearly at our seder(s), we invite Eliyohu Hanovee. We even open the front door for his symbolic entrance. Shoin, invisible guests don’t eat much and never disagree with our political leanings.
The bottom line: Long before virtual meetings to include zoom and others came about, we Yiddin have had virtual visitors in our sukkas. Many have the custom to welcome them in with special prayers and poems. Others go so far as to light seven candles each night to honor the ushpizin. Some Sephardic Jews have the custom of setting aside a chair in the sukkah for the guest of the day. The chair is decorated and an announcement is made each day that this is the chair of the ushpizin. Disneyland?
Is this all real, ver veyst, ober the ushpizin are mentioned in the Zoihar and avada you know that the Oisvorfer does not -ever- argue with the Zohan and or the Zoihar! It’s kabolo, it’s mysticism and beyond my ability to chap. The bottom line: one cannot chap everything, if you chap. Nuch a mul (one more time): the ushpizin are spiritual guests who are the counterparts to the physical guests in our sukkah. Says the heylige Zoihar (103b–104a), azoy: “One must gladden the poor, for the portion of those [spiritual guests] one invites must go to the poor.” What that means, ver veyst, but those words may be the source for the ushpizin guests whose faces adorn millions and millions of posters sold all around the world. Alternatively, another quote might efsher be the source of this great poster business. Also from the heylige Zoihar, is this: “when a person sits in his sukkah the Shechina (The RBSO’s Divine Presence) spreads its wings (metaphor) over it from above and then Avrohom, together with the other six chosen (Yitzchok, Yaakov, Yoisef, Moishe, Aharoin, and King David) dwell together with him.” What all the means, ver veyst? A number of them were shepherds mamish, and others shepherded the Yiddin. What is the Zoihar? It’s kabolo (kaballah), the Jewish mystical tradition; who can argue otherwise?
The bottom line: this year we have asked our guests to mask up before entering and as you can see in the images of the ushpizin, they all agreed. The final bottom line? How many times has the Oisvorfer told you that in the end, it’s all about the business opportunity? Many! What we know with certainty is this: A kabolo inspired entrepreneur read the Zoihar and shoin, a poster business was born. First paper, then plastic and now laminated and in 3-d, the Ushpizin guests appear regularly in tens of thousands of sukkas all over the world. And they raboyseyee -all masked up- together with our new grandson, are the Oisvorfer’s Sukkis guests.
Chag somayach, a gittin Yom Tov and a gittin shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv