I can hear it. ‘Drip, drip, drip’. Like Chinese water torture, slowly driving me a little bit crazy. Can no one else hear it? I can’t hear anything else except ‘drip, drip, drip’. My father at the other end of the table is laughing. Possibly telling a joke or a funny story, but all I can hear is the constant drip behind me somewhere in the corner of this soggy sukkah!
It is such a shame that it is raining, but I don’t know why I was surprised really. Bad weather and Succot go together like chicken soup and lockshen, which incidentally is exactly what is being served to me. As the steaming bowl is placed in front of me, I hold my face over it and inhale the wonderful aroma.
“Mmmmmmm” I say. “This smells delicious, Mum”.
‘Drip, drip, drip’. Seriously am I the only one hearing this?
Ironically, the cramped little flat I am currently renting is much the same size as a sukkah, so when my parents invited me to spend a few days in wooden hut, it was like a bit like a home from home. The only thing difference is the constant ‘drip, drip, drip’.
Ever since Rosh Hashanah, my younger brother and sister, Noah and Sara, had been asking me if we could all stay overnight in the sukkah during Yom Tov , and after putting it off, I had agreed that tonight would be the night to do this. More fool me! They were super excited by the prospect of an al fresco sleep over, I was not quite as enamoured, but I guess when you are 8 and 10 things are a little more exciting, than at 22.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain really. As my father kept reminding me, Succot is a ‘time of joy’ according to the Torah. After the hardship of fasting and inward contemplation and repentance of Yom Kippur, I guess there is something to be said for having a festival where eating and socialising are back on the agenda. It’s just a shame that we have to do it inside a cold hut with no roof, rather than the warm, comfortable, double glazed home just a few metres away.
To my siblings, the idea of sleeping in the sukkah was a bit like being at camp, but without having to wade through a muddy field. For me, I was not such a fan of the great outdoors, but what can you do? In an attempt to make it as painless as possible, I had brought my super thick socks, an extra yoga mat to go under my sleeping bag, and ear plugs, but something told me that it was going to take more than a few creature comforts to make this an enjoyable experience. The Dan Panorama it very much wasn’t, but at least it was just for one night!!
Dinner was lovely. Mum as ever had prepared a meal fit for a king, but for the size of an army, so at least we wouldn’t go hungry during the night. The rain seemed to have stopped a little, and the constant dripping appeared to have gone, although I could still hear it inside my head. Now it seemed that the wind was starting to blow up a little.
Eager to start the fun, my siblings were clearing and folding up the table almost as soon as benching had finished. Like Superman they changed into their pyjamas in mere seconds, and were ready with their teddies, sleeping bags and blow up mattresses. “I have never seen you two so excited to go to bed. Maybe you should sleep in here all the time”, my mother joked.
As they laid down either side of me, and the time switch on the light went off, the whole sukkah was in darkness. Noah wanted to play eye-spy which I soon began to realise is a pretty limited game in a sukkah with no lights, but it kept him amused for a little while. There was much giggling and fidgeting from both of them as they tried to come up with more and more silly ‘eye-spies’, before they finally fell asleep all curled up like little koala bears in their sleeping bags. Lying on my back looking up, I listen to them both snoring next to me. I can see the stars and moon shining down. Maybe sleeping in a sukkah is not all bad, I thought as I dozed off…
Suddenly, I awake from my dream with a start. I feel the sukkah shaking around me. The wind wailing through the trees outside, making it sound even more scary. Noah and Sara wake up and cling to me not knowing what is happening. I take out my ear plugs, and hear a crash, the sound of breaking glass. I quickly jump up out of my sleeping bag, and peek out of the door of the sukkah to see what is going on. I hear my parents come running out into the garden from the house.
“Sara, Noah, Gila, are you all ok?” My mother shouts out into the darkness.
“Yes,” I shout back to them.
I see a tree that seems to have been blown over. The top of it seems to have smashed into the back upstairs windows of the house. Those same back windows in Noah and Sara’s room. The room where they usually sleep. What if they would have been in their beds, rather than in a wooden shack in the garden, things may have been worse. A whole lot worse.
The children start crying loudly, clinging to me, my parents telling us to stay where we were to avoid any glass or tree debris.
For a single moment, the wind stops, and everything seems to stand still.
I look up at the stars and moon again. Given that the tree succumbed to the wind, the sukkah could have easily blown away too, but thankfully it was sheltered by house. I take a moment to thank Hashem for such a lucky escape, and realise that maybe staying in a soggy, damp, wooden hut in the garden sheltered by a house wall, with a ‘drip, drip, drip’, isn’t so bad after all!!