July 25, 2024
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July 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

From time to time, I run a Yom Tov article that is really not written for you, apparently—it’s just a way of recording my family’s apparent minhagim. Minhagim are treasured traditions, handed down from generation to generation as a way of keeping our mesorah alive, but the problem is that for the most part, handing things down in this way is like playing a game of telephone, where, over the years, some customs get added, muddled or taken out.

That said, it’s always a good idea to write down your family’s customs somewhere so your grandkids know, going forward, whether your kids ever actually paid attention when you talked.—I have a minhag to keep our sukkah in the garage, but our decorations in the attic.—I have a minhag, after we finish putting up the sukkah every year, to go inside the house, go upstairs, and look out the window.—We have a minhag to hang lots of decorations that are supposed to make our sukkah look nice, but instead make it look like an ad for Saran Wrap. Pesach is the holiday of foil; Sukkot is the holiday of Saran Wrap.

When I’m putting up the schach mat, I have a minhag to get splinters.—My kids have a minhag to hand me the schach poles one at a time, perpendicular to the direction I need them in.—We have a minhag to hang a picture of a sukkah in our sukkah. And in that sukkah, there is also a picture of a sukkah. I wonder if we’re just part of someone’s picture.

My father has a minhag, when looking at etrogim, to ask if they have anything else in the back.—I have a minhag to spend 13 minutes frowning knowledgeably at etrogim before settling on the second one I looked at.—I have a minhag to buy my hadassim in a bag so that I can’t see them until I get home, but I don’t buy my etrog and lulav in a bag.—I have a minhag to put my hadassim and aravot in the fridge, like they did in the midbar.—We have a minhag to zip our sukkah door closed when everyone leaves it, even though animals can go right under the tarp anyway and people know how to use zippers. Even burglars. I don’t know what burglar is going to be stumped by a zipper, but I guess one who wants to steal folding chairs.

My mother-in-law has a minhag, handed down from her ancestors, that the first night of Sukkot, she comes out to the sukkah in a coat. It doesn’t matter how hot it is, or how hot it was when she was outside five minutes before Yom Tov.—I have a minhag to serve soup on Sukkot, so we can see if the rain ruins it. We have this soup even if it’s 90 degrees out and my mother-in-law is wearing a coat.

The non-Jewish neighbors behind me have a minhag to do construction three feet from our sukkah while we’re trying to eat. Drilling, hammering, sawing, the works. Especially when we try to sing. If there is nothing for them to build, they have a minhag to mow their lawn.—I have a minhag to tell my kids every time they pick up the arba minim to watch the pitum. Even my teenagers.—My kids have a minhag, while they’re watching the pitum, to bump the tip of the lulav into random walls and fellow mispallelim.—I have a minhag to lose the kesher that goes around my lulav holder on the first day of Sukkot.

Everyone in my shul has a minhag, during Hoshanos, to totally forget how to walk.—I have a minhag to forget to make the bracha of Leshev Basukkah several times over the course of Yom Tov, even though I made it a point to go out to the sukkah, bringing everything I need with me, over the course of several trips, and now I am in a sukkah surrounded by signs about Sukkot, and I still forget to say Leshev Basukkah.

I have a minhag, on Chol Hamoed, to eat yogurt and hard-boiled eggs at the zoo. (This minhag extends to Chol Hamoed Pesach as well.)—We have a minhag, at some point over Chol Hamoed, to say, “It always rains on Chol Hamoed.”—Our minhag is not to wear tefillin on Chol Hamoed, though I kind of wish I would, because I’m a lefty, and people stare at me and say, “Hey, you’re holding your lulav in the wrong hand!” And that way I can say, “Yeah, well, I also wore my tefillin on the wrong hand.”—I have a minhag not to knock any leaves off my Hoshanos, but not for lack of trying.—My wife has a minhag to attempt to grow aravos every year, usually in a place that we will hopefully remember not to mow them come spring.

My shul has a minhag on Simchat Torah to sing the very same songs that our forefathers sang the very first time they finished the Torah.—I have a minhag to pick up Simchat Torah flags for my kids at the supermarket for free, and I don’t know why. No kid uses them. Are they going to hold yet another stick that they can use to poke adults while walking in a circle?—When I was growing up, a lot of shuls seemed to have a minhag to play pranks on the chazan during Mussaf on Simchat Torah. How on earth was that OK? The poor guy had yahrzeit.

I’m thinking of starting a minhag to buy flowers for my wife before Sukkot. That way she’ll do whatever chemical process she usually does to keep them alive for a week, and I can sneak my aravos in there every night.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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