Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Preparing for the Harvest Moon

Tonight is the full moon. This moon is called the 'Harvest Moon' by many. The full moon tends to rise very large and very yellow at this time of the year because of it's position in the sky. As the sun appears to move south now, due to the earth's tilt, the moon and the plane of the ecliptic appear to move north.

In the Jewish calendar this is the full moon of the month of Tishrei, which has significance, as we shall see.

This full moon is also coming hard on the heels of the autumnal equinox, which happened overnight between Saturday and Sunday just past. In this part of the world, it happened in the early morning hours of September 23.

Here is the sunrise on Monday morning. I try to take the position of the sunrise on the solstices, exquinoxes and cross-quarter days, but Sunday morning we woke up to much needed rain. So I took the picture on Monday. I also took it from a different position than the front porch. I have the whole apparent movement of the sun through the seasons documented from the front porch now, so I moved to the corner of the house in the side garden.

And here is the sunset on the equinox, taken from the back door. I thought I would add sunsets this year. It has moved a fair distance south, and now setting south of Tijeras canyon. At the summer solstice, it sets above the Sandia mountain front. Maybe next year, I will get really ambitious and capture the annalema!
Now there's a project...

This year, the Jewish festivals have been very close to the solar year quarters and cross-quarters. And we are in the month of Tishrei, the month that has more holidays than any other month. In fact, counting the two days of Rosh Hashanah (Tishrei 1-2), as well as 7 more days of repentance, and then Yom Kippur (Tishrei 10), we have already had 10 days of holiday this month. But we are not done yet. Tomorrow night, on Tishrei 15, we begin the seven day festival of Sukkot, the Ingathering Harvest festival. And then we have one more day to linger--Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, bringing the grand total of holiday days in Tishrei up to 18! So although the days of awe ended at sunset on Yom Kippur, we still have Holy Days to prepare for!

It is the custom to arrive home from synagogue at the end of Yom Kippur and immediately begin to build the Sukkah--Booth--that we will eat in and dwell in during the Ingathering Harvest Festival. The purpose of this is the link the Holy Days and to express confidence that the repentance of Yom Kippur was effective. We are turning from awe to joy.

In our family, we never seem to be able to do that. We could, I suppose, bring out two boards and put them together, but we are tired and very full after the break-the-fast meal, which is a combination that leads us to fall into bed rapidly upon arriving home after a full day at synagogue. So on Sunday morning, after a good breakfast of eggs, bagels and creamed herring (the last left over from breaking the fast), Bruce pulled out the parts of the Sukkah.

Now, being that he is an engineer, there is no sloppy nailing involved. He has the braces already bolted to the uprights so that all he has to do is put the boards in place and bolt them in. I watch with some trepidation as he and N. go about putting up the frame and then they tie on the walls and roof, made of trellis, with pre-cut lengths of rope, that Bruce prepared the first year we were married. Well, actually, Bruce cut them. N., our resident pyromaniac, burned the ends to keep them from fraying. (N., who can start a fire in rain with a bow drill, is also responsible for burning the chametz every year just before Passover starts).

Why do I watch with trepidation? Because the Sukkah--the harvest booth--is a symbol of the transience of all material goods in life, and therefore is supposed to shake in the wind. Being an Engineer and a card-carrying Geek, First Class, my husband has great difficulty with this concept. Nothing he builds should be anything but solid. This year, I fluttered around, as usual, reading aloud the rules for Sukkah building as recorded in the Talmud out of Seasons of Our Joy by Yitz Greenberg, in order to remind Bruce that this is not just some Yiddishe Mama whim, it's THE LAW!

Finally, Bruce stopped, and with an exasperated sigh, announced, "This Sukkah is going to shake in the wind! I put only one carriage bolt in each brace, whereas last year it was two. And I told N. not to tighten it as tight as he did last year!"

"Yeah, Mom," N. agreed. "Just try it! It shakes."

To paraphrase the Mayor Daley of my childhood:
Dey tell me its gonna shake in the wind. I dunno. Looks pretty solid to me.

But then, Bruce insists that there are the legally prescribed two and a half walls there, too. I count only two. Seems like we need another half-wall on the north. When I pointed this out, Bruce rolled his eyes and invoked a legal fiction. Then he put the tools away, humming the tune to Leave a Little Bit Undone all the while. I should have never purchased that CD!

Tomorrow I will put on the strings of Chile lights. This is a New Mexican Sukkah. And we will hang the vegetables and put on the schkach (branches on top). And we will invite in the Ushpizin--the Holy Guests. And we will proceed to dwell in the Sukkah for seven days. Thank goodness "dwelling" can be defined as eating in the Sukkah, because the nights have become frosty here on our mountain ridge.

But tonight, I need to set dough for Challah. Another Holy Day starts tomorrow morning.


Magpie Ima said...

There's a fine line between halachically (don't know how to spell that,m actually) shaky and coming down on the guests!

After 10 years of outdoor storage our lattice sukkah became unusable and it was always too small. My wonderful husband, a Jew by default if not by birth, is building us a double wide sukkah this year that will fit lots and lots of guests which thrills me. I'll post pictures on my blog when we reach completion--likely to be moments before sundown tomorrow. :-) Chag Sameach!

Judy Aron said...

We have a sukkah that we put up without nails - it has dowels that keep the framing together. I also sewed a cover to go around the sides.
We aren't putting it all up this year though. I hope you enjoy yours. It looks great.
Hag Sameach!

Eric Novak said...

I'm sorry about that Elisheva. A lot of posts didn't come through the email this time. You were not the only one. Could you send me the details of your post at ericnovak@dls.net? I will be glad to add it for you.

Eric Novak

momof3feistykids said...

I hope you and your family are enjoying blessed holidays. :-)