Friday, October 5, 2012

Be happy and rejoice

I think it's fair to say that I wouldn't take the subway to hang out in the Bronx after work when I have an early morning the next day if I didn't either really have to be there or really want to be there. Suffice it to say, I really wanted to be there—there being a yiddish zingeray (singalong) in some friends' sukke up on Bainbridge Avenue. I think it's probably about the 10th year that I've been there—there getting more and more comfortable over the years. It's been an awkward place for me to be over the years. First, I had barely ever heard of, let alone been in a sukke before. Second, the crowd is fluent and native Yiddish speaking, and even though I understand most everything, I don't speak at the same level as most of the folks there. I used to try and feel awkward. Now I speak Yiddish when I'm comfortable, and English or French (depending on who's there) when it's more comfortable. And over the years I've grown more comfortable asking things I don't know or understand, and so this time for the first time I was comfortable enough that I asked a friend how (and why) to shake the esrog and lulav, and when it got passed around, I shook them for the first time. (Shehekhianu.)

Anyhow, this won't be a long post, because I got home late and I got up early, but in the morning, when I was in the sukke on the roof of the JCC for a staff breakfast, I learned that we have three obligations on sukkes: 1) to dwell in the sukke
2) to wave the four species which make up the esrog and the lulav, and
3) to be happy and rejoice

So by the time I was on my way to the Bronx at night, I got to think about what it means to have an obligation to be happy and rejoice. I mean, you can theoretically obligate someone to rejoice, but can you obligate someone to be happy? For the purposes of my pure, selfish enjoyment project, I decided I needed to be happy and rejoice because I want to, and not because the Jewish religion and/or culture obligates me to. And so, of my own free will, I rode the D train north, to friends, food, singing, and much rejoicing.

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