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Creating Shelter

C. Rosenberg

For some women, preparing for Yom Tov requires more than devising eight days of menus — it means constructing their own succahs

Thursday, October 06, 2016

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For the Kids

Since my divorce, I’ve realized there are so many things I cannot do on my own. So many things for which I must rely on my friends — and their husbands. Taking take my son to shul Shabbos morning, selling my chometz, buying arba minim — even reviewing my son’s Gemara homework with him. Come Succos, though, I was determined to build a succah for my kids. After all, which self-respecting boy has no succah to boast of? And I wanted my daughters to feel a part of Succos, too — there’s enough lacking in their lives, why add a succah to the list?

I would learn how to build a succah. I would! For the kids, anything.

The Succos after the divorce, my neighbors offered to build the succah. Yanki, a teenage neighbor, rounded up a crowd, and did it from A to Z. But even as I watched them pull the lumber and bamboo from the communal storage area, and knock nails into all the right (and some wrong) places, I knew their kindness wouldn’t go on forever. That I wouldn’t allow it to go on forever.

Though the neighborhood boys did not seem to enjoy my presence much — what teenager wants an adult watching them? — I stood my ground. Camera in one hand, pen and notebook in the other, I recorded every step of the succah’s construction, determined to do it on my own the following year.

When the succah was complete, I also numbered the back of each succah panel so I’d know how to position them the following year. I’d printed my photos right after last Succos, pasting them into my notebook with detailed explanations.

Neat and organized by nature, I knew exactly where to find my succah notebook when I needed it, a few days before Rosh Hashanah. The previous year, I barely had time to put up any succah decorations. This year will be different, I told myself — I’m in charge.

But standing next to a pile of succah materials I schlepped up from the basement with my son, I tried to make sense of the previous year’s notes. And failed. Miserably. I had been positive I understood how to do it.

“Are you sure I wrote these numbers?” I asked my son.

He grunted.

“These holes don’t line up with the holes on the next panel.”

“We can make new holes.”

I sighed. We spent over an hour just trying to figure out the correct position of each panel — without much success.

“This board was upside down,” my son called, hoisting up a panel. “That’s why it didn’t fit. Let’s try it the other way.”

“But the numbers… I didn’t write them upside down….”

Since there wasn’t a better alternative, I tried. Incredibly, he was right. We turned some panels right side up and some upside down, and the holes for the screws line up with each other.

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