Religion & Beliefs

Plastic Apples

The other day, I stopped into a Judaica shop for a particular book and, okay, okay, to peek at the Sukkot tzotch, and after seeing plastic pumpkins, strings of plastic apples, a string of plastic light-up gourds (okay, those were … Read More

By / September 26, 2007

The other day, I stopped into a Judaica shop for a particular book and, okay, okay, to peek at the Sukkot tzotch, and after seeing plastic pumpkins, strings of plastic apples, a string of plastic light-up gourds (okay, those were kind of cool, I must admit), I started feeling unnerved by these piles and piles of plastic, glittery, cartooney, printed and manufactured options available for Sukkot. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but something felt weird about it to me. Don't get my wrong. I think Sukkot is fan-fucking-tabulous and love a done-up sukkah just as much as the next yiddishe maideleh . But, something was so iddly about it all to me all of a sudden.

I kept asking myself what my stupid deal was and knew it had something to do with the fake stuff. I kept asking myself why manufactured things in a sukkah would be that big a deal and, anyway, finally, after seeing piles of sparkly, printed, plastic, factory-made, mass-produced sukkah decorations and fiberglass sukkah-in-a-box kits and sturdy PVC poles out of the corner of my eye as I looked for that book on a nearby shelf, I came to realize what my deal was. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the decorations, by any means, but it was more about what the decorations were not. (Bear with me here for a sec. I need to sort of get to my point in a roundabout way. As I'm, you know, often doing. Ahem.)

We blow our fuses because our computers crash, our cars bump into each other, or we feel sometimes ashamed in our plainness when a friend or neighbor celebrates great material fortunes. Right? Right. But, in a Sukkah, we are all humbled and leveled to sameness. We are at the mercy of the temperature, the weather and forced to rely on more dependable, yet less concrete, things– conversation, connection, laughter, sharing a meal. (All the things we probably thought about focusing more on during the Days of Awe.) The Sukkah reminds up that our lives aren't in our nice homes and the nice things in our nice homes, but in our doing, our living, our actions.

It is, let us not forget, a harvest festival, and try as we might with agri-chemi-pharma-whatever, the earth and seasons always win. The more we ignore and try to fight the seasons and the earth, could it be the more and more disconnect we experience from that individual light that makes us human..? Just like with a manufactured, plastic sukkah, perhaps….? (Don't get me wrong, I have had the pleasure of being in some stunning sukkot, plastic and otherwise, I'm just saying there is something to said for seeing the natural elements going on in a sukkah to really feel the earth mother mojo around you.) Perhaps on the outside looking in, we have every reason to be happy in this country. We have choices, so many choices, every single day, and even many poor families are still better off than most inhabitants of third world countries. We seem to have happiness flowing from everywhere, don't we? So then why are we medicated to the hilt, medicating our kids, stuffing our foods with chemicals, making everything bigger, better, faster, blowing through money faster than we can make it, opting for "convenience" over "responsible" or "healthy", addicted to each other, television, computers (oy, guilty), the BlackBerry (again), multi-tasking (oy), drugs, shopping, debt, stuffing our homes with everything we can reach and, why, above all else, are we addicted to being so busy?

Because sometimes all of that crap is easier than sitting and listening to ourselves and just being. Rosh HaShanah suggests this to us and makes us turn the soils to uncover honest and human things we perhaps had forgotten in our emotional junk piles. Yom Kippur, with themes of mortality, drives this home even more so– is it better to die having lived a righteous life filled with stunning moments?… Or… is it better to die with piles of debt and junk and "wouldda couldda shouldda" lists around us that we never looked up from? That's a no-brainer! Sukkot is abundance. But not hollow "stuff", just simple abundance of feeling, connectedness to the planet and people, pausing to dig the moments… Sukkot's celebrating isn't about bigger, better, faster, more! It is about the more… um, ethereal definition of "abundance" not the material one. And, that's key, I think.

So, in the Judaica shop, I felt a distinct need to make a conscious decision to keep Sukkot natural. It's a time for autumn fruits and vegetables to taste their best and nourish us the most. It's a time to be humble before nature, life synchronicity and the world and make a big, empowered, conscious leap… down. Not down as in lesser, but down as in slower, as in still, as in calmer. (Perhaps that is what we mean when we say "Calm down!"…?) Why buy sukkah decorations when you can make them? Why buy a sukkah when you can make that, too? It's focusing, it's empowering, it's natural. It's even, dare I say, the natural, thriving world we have lived in for thousands of years begging us to return to it, even if for just a week. May security be found in the ethereal and may more fragility be realized in the material.

Chag Sameach, my dears.