How the Sukkah and My Mental State Came Apart / by Susie Lubell

It's safe to say that by the end of sukkot this year I was holding it together about as well as this sukkah, which is to say completely falling apart. I don't know why it's so challenging but it is. It's a solid three weeks of festive meals, and going to synagogue, and planning to go to synagogue and then not going because it's too hectic or hot or far away to walk, and hosting friends and family or being hosted or feeling like you have to host or be hosted because that's what we do and if you don't then you're a high holidays loser. Listen, we did our best. We gave it all we had. We dipped apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah. We ate a round challah. We sang songs about sitting on our porch counting birds. We fasted on Yom Kipur. The kids rode bikes as is tradition in this part of the world (it's the one day of the year the roads are empty. Like literally no vehicles. At all). We built a lovely sukkah. The kids and I made toilet paper roll creatures to hang from the sukkah as is commanded in the Torah after thous shalt not murder. We shook our fuzzy stuffed toy lulav and etrog and said blessings. We ate in the sukkah. We went camping and endured a thunder and lightening storm the likes of which has not been seen in these parts since Noah and the Ark. And we danced around with a stuffed Torah (we like our religious items to be fuzzy and huggable) for Simchat Torah. We even managed to celebrate my son's tenth birthday amidst all the holiday madness. It's enough!

And that is why, come Friday afternoon, the home stretch in a never-ending slough of festivies, I had a total come apart. I just needed to have a Friday night that wasn't a shabbat. I needed my old life where I could have a nice dinner with my family and then go to the movies with a friend. I needed to be American for one evening. And it wasn't possible. Because there's no one here to be American with. Everyone's home with their families, whether or not they are observant and that's just how it is. And most days I like it just fine. I like how the Sabbath provides a wonderful rhythm to the week and then forces you to slow down for a day. But after moving and the summer and the war and holiday after holiday after holiday, I just wanted it all to go away.

In the end I got my wish. Mr. Rosen took the kids out all day on Saturday for a long walk and picnic with friends while I got my studio in order (which paid off because I've started painting again and it's fabulous!) and then went out to Jerusalem with a friend to see a movie and eat a hamburger. Just us. No kids. And it was a total reboot.

We live here with such intensity, day in and day out, that I frankly don't even notice anymore on most days. But then it catches up with me and hoo-boy it starts to look a lot like a nervous breakdown. And then it is a nervous breakdown. But all that is in the past. The sukkah is down and my spirits are back up. The future is holiday free for at least two months. And together we say, Amen.