Monday, September 24, 2007

The Jewish X-mas Tree?

Tomorrow we're having our first-ever Sukkah-decorating party. Somehow, with kids around, it seems important to milk this holiday for all the fun it can give.

So far, the sukkah itself is unassembled (but requires no nails, screws, or anything - just needs to be slotted into place). I've got 3 sheets for sides, outdoor twinkly lights, markers for coloring in pieces of fabric to be hung inside (and to color in a design I will draw on one of the sheets), bells, ribbons to hang the bells from, and some beads. We will harvest the skakh from around the yard. (heh heh, sneaky me - sure, come to a party, trim our shrubbery.)

The bells, in particular, are essential. They must reach down below 3 feet, and be securely fastened, so that the one-year-olds will have something safe and entertaining to occupy themselves with. Since I'm sure they will get lots of shaking, they've been chosen individually for their musical sounds.

Now comes the question:
I have inherited some things from my (Swedish Lutheran) grandparents, including some Jul Bokke (little straw goats on strings - literally, "Yule Goats"), which I have always used to decorate our sukkah. These things are traditionally hung on a Swedish X-mas tree, but I like the connection to straw (harvest-time) and goats (the Akeidah/Yom Kippur) they evoke.

I ALSO have inherited a little felt mobile made by my grandmother which she always hung up at X-mas, showing 3 kings - the kings from the Nativity story, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They've been living in a paper bag for several years, now, since they have great sentimental value, but no practical use in a Jewish house.

Would it be too weird to re-frame them as Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaakov, and hang them in the sukkah as we invite in ushpizin? I'd like to keep passing them down to my children, but they'd need a relevant meaning.

Plus, it would give me the opportunity to make some more little felt figures of my own for the foremothers, over the winter. Which would be fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Apples and "Honey"

(Note: the infamous Blogging Bear invited me to write a guest post, and then neglected to post it. So here it is, for your New Year's reading pleasure. L'Shana Tovah, all!)

There is a long-standing dispute about the meaning of דְבָשׁ (devash), the word used in the Tanakh for honey. Is it, as in Judges (14:8), the "honey" we know today, explicitly connected to bees? Or is it, as some assert, usually a reference to date syrup? As Gil Marks points out, the former is a wild product of the land, just like the other elements that comprised Yaakov's gift to Joseph when seeking a second portion of comestibles during the famine of Parshat Miketz. The latter, in contrast, is a highly domesticated, processed substance, which requires intense and long-term human labor. Date trees, after all, are planted by generations that never see the first fruit.

If we must dip in "devash," is it better to use the honey which makes us rely on Divine providence, or the honey which asks us to rely on our own hard work and that of the previous generations?

(Granted that most of us get our honey these days from the supermarket, not the intestines of a lion...)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


So, yeah, I'm a little slow on the posting lately. Here are some random fish from the current stream of consciousness:

Elul. Elul?! Already??! Holy frickin' cow.
Oh, right, and I better go buy some non-leather flip-flops.

Did you know that it is almost impossible for a 12-month-old child to bruise himself, no matter what he bumps into/falls down on/falls from? And yet the same child can inflict welts the color of aging eggplant on his poor parents with a simple, well-aimed, hug?

Product release is coming. We are soooooo late. We are sooooooo screwed. (updates, fellas, and lots of 'em!)

Yesterday (Labor Day) I got my first half-day to myself (no husband, no son, no work) in about, oh, 6 months. Turns out there is a person buried under the mama somewhere. She gets to come out and play again in, oh, maybe 10 years. (FYI, my liberating activities were: reading a book on the hammock in the yard, painting pottery at one of those paint-your-own-pottery places, having lunch at a fancy cafe, and, um, well, really that's about it. Living on the edge, right?)

When car dealers say they'll have the part in "tomorrow," what they really mean is, "we'll get it sometime next week, but we'll only tell you it's here after you've called us four hundred times to find out what's going on because we don't talk to each other or call customers back."