Rochel Burstyn: The Sukkot Zone

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005RDB.101316 POV Viewpoints.inddDuring the summer, I took my kids go-karting. The sight of other adults lining up for a turn made me feel like I could do it, too, so I joined the queue with 8-year-old Binyamin.

Soon the cars were revving up and speeding around the course. Within seconds, I realized I feel much safer when there are speed limits, traffic lights and drivers who are mature enough not to aim directly at you (and if they do, won’t flash a rude gesture as they pass by). Completely ill at ease, I drove sloooooowly and carefully, allowing all the other riders (and perhaps all the caterpillars in the vicinity) to overtake me, while an extremely annoyed Binyamin plaintively begged me to “Please drive faster.” It was an experience I’m not eager to repeat.

Then, recently my husband, Yaakov, and I went on a Segway tour, something we’ve never done before. We were allotted 20 practice minutes to get used to the sensation of being a few inches off the ground and, right away, Yaakov was zipping around the parking lot, exclaiming how fun it was while I was swerving wildly this way and that, confident I’d be taking a spectacular flop to the sidewalk any moment.

A few minutes into the tour, Yaakov realized he hadn’t quite mastered the stopping maneuver so suddenly there he was, clinging on for dear life, wailing “Help! Help!” as he sailed past our entire group, dodging cars and people who were out leisurely walking their dogs. Our kind tour guide caught up with him and reset poor trembling Yaakov’s Segway so it couldn’t go faster than 5 mph, and we set off again (although I admit I had a much harder time steering after that because I was laughing so hard).

005RDB.101316 POV Viewpoints.inddThe uncanny thing was that when we got home Yaakov forgot all his fear and only remembered the exhilaration — he’s actually willing to try again. And that’s part of the wonder about stepping out of your comfort zone: You discover you can do something you didn’t even know you could and that feels great! Even when we’re not anxious to repeat the experience, we have a newfound appreciation for what we do have.

Part of Sukkot is about leaving the comfort of our homes, exposing ourselves to the elements and eating in the sukkah. It’s great fun when the weather’s gorgeous, but even when it’s not and rain is dripping in your soup or a congregation of bees are humming uncomfortably close to your nostrils, trying to get at the chocolate cake on your fork, it still gives us that renewed appreciation for our heated, insect-free homes.

During Sukkot, we’re looking at things from a different perspective — from within a temporary house — and a different perspective somehow always makes even the most ordinary things more fun.

It’s like getting any mundane object from another country — it’s the most unexciting item on the planet, but it just looks so exotic with a label in a foreign language. For example, I was thrilled when my mother-in-law gave me packages of Hebrew-labeled toothpicks and straws when she returned from her recent trip to Israel. (Or maybe she was responding to my unique and meaningful gift of special-from-Australia toilet paper after my last trip overseas? But in my defense, they had frogs printed on them! They were so cute!)

Wishing you an extra-ordinary Sukkot!

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