Throwing Caution to the Johannesburg Wind

Throwing Caution to the Johannesburg Wind

I was having a session at the gym today when I heard the woman next to me berating her trainer for dating a Jewish girl, when he is not (being thin and blond, and well, a trainer). Incidentally the skirt over her pants and the cap she wore with a few strands of hair sticking out quite nonchalantly gave me a very clear sense as to where she fitted in the demographic scale that is Jewish Johannesburg.

“I swear to God I wont be at your wedding I will not!” she screeched (clearly forgetting that she has just annulled all her vows) and that there were other people in the gym. “But come to us for Sukkoth Thursday (it’s the most Divine holiday), and you can talk to my husband about this. He will make mince meat out of you, verbally that is, I swear”. Pause. “And bring your doll – I am dying to meet her, dying!”

She was right of course. Sukkoth is quite “Divine”, especially in the temperate magnificent spring weather that we are experiencing. Even building the sukkah, Patrick – who has been doing mine for years – tells me is no sweat at all. But I wondered what Trainer Steve will think of all this when he does go for dinner Thursday, with his doll.

For me Sukkoth has always been the time to exhale. The stress of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, still a very real memory, contrasts so dramatically to this festival of seeming irreverence, celebration and quite simple weirdness. I relish the trailers and trucks piled with branches that suddenly become common on our roads and that conversations about the number, cost and size of your palm-leaves (that makes me a slightly uncomfortable) have taken over conversation. I love the fervency of the debate comparing fresh to permanent schach and the appropriate use of cable ties, along with how many one can fit in their sukkah, comfortably, many falling short on the definition of that very word.

From the lulavim to the hoshanot, to our botanistic (I know its not a word) scrutiny of the etrogim, it is most bizarre, even given all the explanations. And I am reasonably confident that I will ever really get to understand it at all. I am also pretty sure that I don’t actually want to, because for me that’s half the point. The throwing off of physical and intellectual yokes is what makes this special. We build (ok, Patrick builds) the sukkah where we eat and celebrate. We give up our sturdy home, and place ourselves somewhat outside our physical comfort zones and outside our rational ones too. We throw caution to the wind, we switch off those security beams (which didn’t ever really work in any event – not since the dogs kept setting them off) and we venture outside. It is stunning and it is electrifying (not the fence, but be careful with that as the sukkah might be dangerously close to the perimeter walling) and we relax. We don’t get annoyed when we see that someone has placed the “Ushpizim” poster upside down (Paticks’s Hebrew has never been particularly good) and we take the time to breath. The air wafts through and we are peace with our world.

My goal this year is to not speak about Isis and the BDS and of boycotts. It is to leave Gaza to the Gazans for a few days, and let go of the fact that the Rand is 11.32 this morning. I intend not worrying about the platinum industry and pricing and strikes and who will be the next Reserve Bank Governor. I might even not worry about the weight that I will put on. Rather, my intention is to focus on the big stuff. To spend a few days focusing on the size of my palms, on the pitom of my etrog, and that way make sure that Sukkoth is in fact, I swear, Divine.


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