Monday, February 1, 2010
Last Batch (No. 12) of my old letters - Published in Jewish Tribune 28th January, 2009
Yom Bays Leseder Breshis 5714 Isru Chag Lechutz Leoretz - Poh Ir
Hakodesh Yerushlaim - 2 Oct, 54
Your last letter arrived on Chol Hamoed and I am expecting.........
Well, I suppose you are interested to hear how I spent Yom Tov. There are so many impressions left that it is difficult to sort them out. The Succos atmosphere starts here long before the actual inauguration of the Festival. The first omen is the Esrog fragrance pervading all of Meah Shearim many weeks before. A crescendo is reached in the days following Yom Kippur when the layer of chicken feathers from Kapporos begins to disappear under stacks of Schach and Lulovim, and all balconies begin sprouting rickety Succos. It is quite remarkable that a great percentage of otherwise irreligious people make Succos. Maybe it is because of the children. The barrack style buildings of Botey Ungarin presented one united front of plywood and assorted timber. The necessity of singing Zmiros on Yom Tov is obviated by three neighbours on each side and another half dozen on the balcony above. Schach is relatively cheap here, as competition is fierce and delivery costs only a few piastres extra. Arba Minim can be bought from one local pound upwards. This year there was a plethora of Lulovim and a mild shortage of Hadassim, a complete reversal of last year's situation; following, no doubt, a simple economic rule. There are several reputable Mevinim of Esrogim here including one woman, well known locally by name. Standing in the queues outside their doors one heard much technical conversation about the pros and cons of Pitumim, the relative pedigree value of Kfar Haroeh over Pardess Shloimoi and Halperns versus Bravermans. The Esrogim come from the orchards in barrels and one can pass a shop in the early morning and late afternoon and see the same grey beard dangling over a barrel edge looking for a greater Mehudar. Where else does one see such
The first night of YomTov I ate at.... [why the dots? - HT] Their eldest is just beginning to talk a mixture of Ivrit, Yiddish and English. The Yeshivah has a separate Succoh for sleeping, but that did not enable me to get an average of more that six hours per night during the whole of Yom Tov as festivities continued to the early hours of the morning each day. Chol Hamoed is very prominent here with few shops open and Shtraamlech etc. worn. Simchois Bays Hashoevoh were held all over the City, the highlight being two evenings in the Yeshivas Hamasmidim and the one in Chevron with jazz bands and microphones which somehow blend quite well with the Jerusalemites. I enjoyed the Yeshivas Hamasmidim more. The unsophisticated Simchoh cannot be described. There are many types of dances Horas, Debkas, bottle dances and impromptu efforts. Long after midnight I dragged myself home convinced that "Mi Shelo Ro'oh Simcho Zu Lo Ro'oh Simcho MeYomov".
[During Chol Hamoed the Yeshivah has a number of festive meals in the large Succah. These are attended by the Roshei Yeshivos , all bachurim in town and other distinguished visitors. At one such occasion the Lutzker Rav, R' Zalman Serotzkin, who regularly davenned in the Yeshiva, delivered a homily. He prefaced his talk by saying (I translate the Yiddish from memory), “I am now going to say something which my good friend Reb Chazkel (Sarna – the Rosh Yeshivah) is not going to enjoy”. He glance hesitatingly at the Rosh, who looked rather grey and concerned. “In olden times in Der Litte (Lithuania) it was the custom for Yeshiva Bachurim to delay marriage until their thirties, or even their forties. It might have been expedient or even almost essential in the circumstances then prevailing, in order to achieve Gadlus in Torah. Today, I see that this Minhag is rapidly disappearing. I know that some deprecate the change. I am not amongst them. What we do know is the true Derech Hatorah.]
On Simchas Torah all or nearly all Yerushlaim comes to Chevron. The art of singing and dancing has been developed to a fine degree and it is one of the sights of the year. One of the specialities is "Se'u She'Orim Roshaychem" when the Sifray Torah are taken out. [They are replaced in the Aron Kodesh between Hakofos.] There is a block of about a hundred jumping up and clapping over their heads in front of the Uren Kodesh, whilst behind them are semi-circle after semi-circle charging backwards and forwards to the magnificent tune. The Hakofos ended at 2 am but singing continued until 3.30. You must be wondering when we ate - well, Kiddush was made before Maariv and dinner was served all through the night. and the Olam went down in groups.
[I have forgotten to write about the Esrog Benshen on the first day. To be quite sure I went to Brisk where a small crowd had assembled. A quick count revealed eight Esrogim and half as many Lulovim, but to save time most were hustled away and only the three best, and what beauties, were for public use. The Rav [Yitzchok Ze'ev Soloveichik] Shlito was excited to begin with, but by the time he explained all the complicated Teno'im, which he repeated to each user, he was frantic. He was frightened that they were getting spoiled and so kept adding such clauses that if one shokels the Lulav one is not Yotze; if one reverses the Esrog ditto, until the strain was too much for him and he felt ill and gave the business over to a son, who was just as meticulous, if not so excited.]
To return to Simchas Torah. In the morning the Seder was Davenning until after Mussaf and then dinner followed by Hakofos which carried on until four when after Mincha the Olam went out to the main crossroads and several hundred watched by many more continued enthusiastic Rekidos (if not without alcoholic support) until well after nightfall, when the crowd danced up to the Brisker Rav Shlito and back. What a sight! We of course had Hakofos again after night when we joined a Chassidishe Olam who also make Hakofos. In the morning we celebrated our own Simach, also very leberdik. The cumulative effect of the whole YomTov has made me completely exhausted and I am now taking a few days' rest. ...