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Sep 27 2012

Onto the Next Jewish Holiday–Sukkot!

By at 10:10 am

lulav and etrog for sukkotNow that the High Holidays are over, we can all relax and take a break from all that Jewish holiday excitement…er… NOT. Sukkot starts this Sunday at sundown and lasts for a whole week.

If you’re not familiar with Sukkot, it’s a festive holiday that features fun activities like hanging out in huts and shaking weird looking fruit. Want to know more? Read our rundown of the Sukkot basics here. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 19 2011

Sukkot Ain’t Over Yet

By at 11:44 am

This totally happened to the box of tissues in my house the other day.

Personally, I’m a fan of celebrating holidays as much as I can. Sukkot is usually one of them–though we have no outdoor space to build a sukkah, I try to find my way into someone else’s. Or do some fall baking, or something like that. But this year–well, all of the members of my household have colds. And Sukkot–a holiday where you celebrate by being outdoors in a hut–doesn’t go so well when you’re sneezing and coughing all over each other.

So we’re doing Sukkot a bit late–and in our own style. My daughter and I are going to celebrate the end of Sukkot with this delicious edible sukkah craft. All you need are crackers, cream cheese, carrot sticks, and some cherry tomatoes. Since my 2-year-old will only eat the crackers and cream cheese, I’ll be left to eat the vegetables on my own. But it’s cool–because we’ll be spending time together and learning something,  too.

(If you’re not feeling like doing Sukkot–try this edible turkey Torah craft for Simchat Torah! We’re big on eating our crafts these days.)

Chag sameach–a happy holiday!

Oct 17 2011

I Went to Work on Sukkot

By at 3:31 pm

Mayim Bialik on the set of Big Bang Theory. Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

I work on “The Big Bang Theory” and I was required to work on the first two days of Sukkot. We had rehearsal and run-throughs of the script for producers, writers, and CBS; there was no filming involved. Normally, I would have been in synagogue, but this year, I wasn’t and it’s okay. This is my life right now, and here are 3 ways I made it work for me (in addition to making festive meals, drinking kiddush and lighting candles at home.)

1) I hired a car service to drive me to work. Sure, being in a car is halachically different than driving a car myself, but it’s not how i would choose to observe the holiday. That being said, it was relaxing and a nice change of pace to commemorate the holiday this way. And, no, my driver wasn’t Jewish, so I didn’t cause any Jew to break the holiday on my behalf. That would’ve been a bummer so close to Yom Kippur, because I totally just atoned for everything I have pretty much ever done, thought, or fantasized about. Gotta keep the slate clean.

2) I didn’t use my laptop or my phone from work. What a lovely break this was, and it made it really feel like a yontif (holiday)! I normally keep my laptop constantly running at work, and I respond to dozens of emails a day about meetings, publicity, my book being edited, etc., right when they come in. I am a real slave to technology, and for those 2 days, I really embraced the aspects of observance that force us to focus on ourselves, and not on the things we distract ourselves with.

3) I dressed fancy. I grew up with parents who were snazzy dressers, and who encouraged me to have special “shul” clothes. It always made holidays and Shabbat special, and I have carried this pattern into my own adult life, and have passed it on to my sons, who also love dressing fancy for shul, even though they call it dressing like “Maccabeats” (of Yeshiva University fame). Anyway, I dressed in shul clothes for work this year, and it felt really special. I don’t tend to wear sparkly dresses to work in general, or my hair in a French twist with pearl studs. I didn’t wear heels, since we work long days, but I put on proper make-up before the holiday started (it’s customary not to put it on during the holiday) and really felt like I had brought the holiday with me to work by dressing fancy.

One day, I hope to be in a position to set my taping schedule around the 8,000 Jewish holidays that I want to observe according to halacha, but for now, I remain a Jew in exile, a soul yearning for its way home, and a happily employed actress on “The Big Bang Theory.”

I wasn’t sure if I should be so public about me working on the holiday, but I have never claimed to be perfect in observance, and I hope that by sharing ways I make observance fit my life, I can give someone else the support to know that it’s it’s not all or nothing as we learn and grow, that while we are on any particular path, we can still enjoy it even if it’s not moving exactly where – or as fast as – we want it to.

Oct 12 2011

Sukkah Lessons From a “Hard-Core” Jew

By at 10:42 am

“What is THAT?”

When I hear someone say this sentence in a certain tone as they peek into our backyard, it’s a good indication that it’s sometime just after Yom Kippur and they’re looking at our sukkah.

I grew up in a neighborhood full of Jews, but most of them were more on the “Rosh Hashanah-Yom Kippur-Hanukkah-bar mitzvah” side of the observance spectrum.  In contrast, we were deemed “hard-core” for observing other holidays generally. The fact that we went to synagogue instead of school on holidays such as Simchat Torah and Shavuot made my siblings and I curiosities. “Now you’re just making these holidays up,” one of my high school friends said when I returned to school after Shavuot.

Curiosities, though, were one thing. My dad getting out the tool kit, canvas, scaffolding and skhakh (the covering) for our reusable sukkah, though – that was closer to “weird.” And, as an ever-self-conscious adolescent, I was pretty sure that no one except us was eating breakfast, weekend lunches, and dinners in the backyard. I was sure no one had to make sure they didn’t trip over makeshift electrical lighting while they cleared the table. None of the other kids at school were trying to get warm in a down vest as they ate butternut squash soup, relishing the feel of steam on their faces. I even wanted my family to keep their voices down as we made the blessings, worried that our (Jewish) next-door neighbors would hear us and be freaked out. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 11 2011

New Quiz: Sukkot

By at 9:29 am

Judaism must believe in the old adage, “When it rains, it pours” — at least when it comes to the fall holidays. Just after Rosh Hashanah came and went, Yom Kippur was here ten days later. And, like clockwork, five days later and we find ourselves at Sukkot.

The harvest festival, which begins this Wednesday at sundown, is a week-long celebration often spent outdoors in sukkahs, or temporary dwellings. So, in order to prepare yourselves for what just might be your kids’ favorite holiday (I mean, you get to decorate a fort!), we’ve got a little quiz that covers the basics of Sukkot.

Be sure to take it today, because pretty soon it will be Simchat Torah and Sukkot will be so last week.

Take the QUIZ now!

Oct 10 2011

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Sukkot

By at 11:35 am

Sukkot is one of my favorite Jewish Holidays, and it is wonderful and fun for kids.  You get to build a club house and decorate it with all of your awesome art and crayon creations. You can eat, play, and sing in it, and, if you are lucky, camp out under the stars.

From a farmer’s perspective, the holiday makes lots of sense.  Sukkot falls during the peak of the fall harvest. I find it very natural to feel a direct connection to our ancestors who built sukkot long ago. And from a mother’s perspective,  shifting meals outside is a welcome relief because there is no need to pick up all of the crumbs that fall to the ground.

Sounds a little too perfect, right? What’s the catch?  For us, it’s a bit unusual.  Over the past year, my 4-year-old has shown his first real signs of Christmas envy.  Every once in a while, he will start wistfully talking about candy canes, ornaments, and, of course, Christmas trees. (His main exposure has been friends talking about it at preschool, and the glimmering trees we have stumbled upon here and there.)

Whenever he talks longingly about Christmas, it sends me into a bit of a panic. How will we manage to impart a solid, joyful Jewish identity to our children, with all of its complexity, hard questions, and devastating history — when shimmery, happy, easy going Christmas seems to be hidden around every corner?

In the midst of one somewhat desperate Jewish sales pitch, I  recently found myself saying that during Sukkot, we get to decorate an entire hut–not just one tree.

“You mean with pretty lights and candy canes?” He asked. “That’s one way to decorate,” I said.

We’re in the process of building our sukkah now. All of the pieces from the branches for the frame to the corn stalks on top will come from our farm.  And once it is built, it will be time to decorate.

I am not sure I will be able to find candy canes this time of year (plus I don’t allow my children to eat artificial colors), but I think I will look for some healthy, natural treats to hang from the ceiling.  And if we make some decorations, I guess we can call them sukkah ornaments, because technically they are.

I’m doing my best to make sure that my children have a fun Sukkot this year.  Come Christmas time, we’ll hopefully remember how we played, sang, danced, ate treats, and even got to build and decorate an entire sukkah.

Photo: Aaron_M


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