May 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Since I’ve made aliyah over four years ago, something invariably happens to me this time of year. Maybe it’s because I’m an autumn baby born into the crisp month of November. Or maybe it’s the Scottish-Canadian ancestry running cool through my veins. Whatever the cause, it starts around early October and lingers for weeks.

I start missing, no that sounds pale—I start aching for fall.

Don’t get me wrong. I am constantly surrounded by stop-what-you’re-doing-and-just-remember-to-breathe scenery. Velvety beaches with seas so electric blue it makes me cry. But when I close my eyes I see clear-as-day visions of towering trees bursting with fiery hues of orange and red. My journeys to a world of hayrides and apple picking and pumpkin pie…

It’s not lost on me that at the same time I am experiencing my “fall flashbacks” I am simultaneously surrounded with the smells, sights, tastes and sounds of Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot. It’s the beauty and magic that unfolds when I’m here that helps snap me out of my fall-time longing for being over there.

While I’m being transported to the spicy aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg and sticky sweet maple syrup delicacies, Israel is being bathed in the rich golden amber of everything honey. Only five minutes from home at a local honey boutique, our kids have sampled the sappy nectar from the flowers of avocado, eucalyptus, clover and even onion, each with their own distinctive tastes and aromas from the four corners of Israel (eucalyptus and clover being clear contenders every year). While honey is definitely the debutante of the ball, the rimon, pomegranate, shows up at the dance an hour late but still as stunning. Rich in bright, poppy red with seeds bursting with sweet, tart juices, it’s easy to become addicted. Here many children go on class trips, picking pomegranates off the trees and taking bags home to share with their families. The bountiful flavors and sweet foods of Rosh Hashanah sweep through our homes, and as we roll up the welcome mat we used ushering in the new year, Sukkot starts peeking its head from around the stony corner.

The Jewish holidays weave their way through every fabric of our being here and Sukkot is no exception. While I was craving the bright colors of reds and oranges I was met with a sea of warm yellows and vibrant greens. It’s difficult to go far without seeing tables filled to the brim with bright etrogim, and their fresh, citrusy scent is intoxicating. The streets are lined with cars whose roofs are bedazzled in beautiful green foliage of all sorts, heading to hang as a crowning jewel atop their temporary home. Swarms of men walking the streets with their brightly colored lulavim and etrogim resemble a Monet painting, or perhaps Seurat….

The sukkot in Israel are not only glistening and gleaming with all their hanging ornaments but they are also filled with the different sounds of chag. From the second Yom Kippur concludes, the sounds of banging hammers on metal poles permeate the air as everyone gets busy building and starting their new year with a mitzvah. Overnight, the country is transformed with sukkot dotting the horizons. While we sit and eat with friends and family in our sukkah we are surrounded on all sides by neighbors all singing and harmonizing, and the different melodies blend together in a crescendo that has become for me the sound of “chag.”

The weather this time of year is perfect for families and friends to go hiking, camping or spend a day at the beach. While the nights are soft and breezy, the days are warm enough that families often bring their sofas and indoor furniture out into their sukkah and really turn it into a temporary home.

One of the favorite yishuv traditions takes place the first night of Sukkot. Children in pairs or large groups walk around the yishuv, bag in hand, collecting an assortment of candy and sweets from every sukkah they can get to. As each adult in their sukkah holds their bowl of treats to dish out, they ask, “Yesh lachem shir oh dvar Torah? Do you have a song to sing or words of Torah to share?” As the night unfolds, new sounds fill the warm air, those of children singing “Vesamachta bechagecha,” of little voices sharing small pearls of Torah they have learned in school, of sweet sugar-coated laughter and little feet running…

I truly love it all and am so overcome with gratitude and appreciation to be able to celebrate the chagim here.

One of my favorite paths to walk is the short walkway I take to get to shul. I love the cobblestone path with all the different trees from neighboring gardens growing overhead. It feels to me almost like a chuppah. At this time of year the pomegranates, figs and flowers are in full bloom and sweet jasmine perfumes the air. It is on this path to prayer on the way back from hearing Parshat Bereishit that I make peace with the fact that it’s probably going to continue this way, this gnawing feeling for fall. While I personally believe that Israel is our crowning jewel, much like the bright green leaves that hug the roofs of our sukkot, I also know that God created an incredible, complete world filled to the max with beauty and wonder. And He wants us to drink it all in.

After Sukkot leaves us, the stores are yet again overflowing, this time with tantalizing sufganiyot that can be considered edible works of art. Chanukah is approaching, with winter on its heels.

Don’t even get me started on the first New Jersey snowfall.

By Esti Rosen Snukal

Esti Rosen Snukal is a mom of four boys and adopted mom to a lone soldier. She made aliyah with her husband from Teaneck to Chashmonaim four years ago and documents many of her experiences on Facebook. Esti can be reached at [email protected].

 

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles