Boston isn’t like anywhere else.
For that I’m grateful.
Eastern Massachusetts is a crucible of history, innovation, education, Jewish community and intellectual fervor that has few parallels. I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else, seeing as how I’ve spent almost my entire life within 10 miles of Route 128.
But there’s one particular aspect of life in our neighborhood that I love the most.
There is nothing like running on a cold fall evening, going apple-picking with a fleece jacket or searching for the perfect pumpkin. Those are memories and sensations from my childhood that I now have the privilege to see my kids also experiencing and feeling.
But while I love all those things, my favorite fall activities have nothing to do with running, picking or football. They’re about the Jewish holidays.
While I’ve always felt that way, now that we have four (FOUR!) kids, holidays, traditions and celebrations have taken on an entirely new meaning. With our sons, ages 9 and 6, and our daughters ages 3 and…one month, celebrating the holidays now isn’t about how we want to, but about how our kids want to.
While I love dinner with my parents, two days off from work and seeing the falling leaves kicking around the temple parking lot, my kids flock to apples (and challah) and honey, reading children’s books in the rear of the sanctuary while I pray next to them, and building LEGO sets and blocks during Rosh Hashanah dinner. (And, of course, they appreciate my mom’s excellent cooking as well.)
I love Sukkot completely. It’s a holiday full of mystery, weather and a whole host of cool things that we’ve been doing for thousands of years. Is the lulav (a closed frond from a date palm tree used in the holiday services) a primitive rain dance or an indication that God is everywhere? Is the sukkah (a temporary hut constructed for use during the holiday) a temporary house in the desert/on a Jerusalem pilgrimage or a booth to sleep in the field during the harvest? Who cares? We keep on shaking and praying, eating and dwelling, fall after fall in the cool New England air. While I’ve shaken the lulav in places other than Eastern Massachusetts, there’s nothing like a chilly breeze blowing through the schach (material used to cover the sukkah) as you sip hot tea in your backyard sukkah. And the beautiful thing is that my kids kind of like it for the same reasons. Lulavs are cool. Etrogs (yellow citrons used during the holiday) are cool. Eating outside is cool. Sukkot rules. Especially in Boston.
Growing up and going to college, the holiday was generally about reading Torah and/or driving down to New York to party at the Jewish Theological Seminary (an annual tradition I had while at Brandeis). But in recent years, it’s about going to shul (synagogue), dancing in the hakafot (Torah processional), waving flags and tired children crashing into bed late. I love that at random times afterward, my daughter starts singing, “Anenu, anenu, b’yom korenu” (“answer us”), and I marvel at the fact that the cheap Simchat Torah flags are the object of violent struggles between my two boys for a few weeks after the holiday.
The holidays are now here, and there’s no better company to be celebrating them with than my family, and no place I’d rather be celebrating them than in Boston.
And it’s a good thing I feel that way, because I never plan on leaving.
And I hope my kids don’t either.