Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Exhale pt 1. TGI-Cheshvan


My most recent check in came right after Yom Kippur. Many more days of Yom Tov later, that post is a distant memory, already stored in the now somewhat populated archives of my time in Budapest. Here are some updates about what I've been up to since then...

Jewish holidays (Holidaze continued):
I came to Budapest a few weeks before the chagim so that I could have time to acclimate and make connections before jumping in to the unforgiving and fast holiday schedule. I felt blessed to make it through Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with positive religious, social, and personal experiences. The looming marathon of Sukkot-Shemini Atzeret-Simchat Torah seemed so daunting that I almost didn't want to think about it. However, I was once again very lucky with how my holiday season closed up. I went to the Frankel Synagogue for all davening, and finally felt like people knew to expect me, greet me, and check on me. As I wandered to my seat and tried finding the right siddur for Sukkot, someone came over and handed me an English-Hebrew siddur published through the Conservative Movement in the 1940s. I really appreciated the gesture. Synagogues build communal sukkot on their property, but people do not privately build them. After all services, I joined the community for Kiddush and Hamotzi in the Sukkah built in the courtyard around the Frankel Synagogue. I do not take at all for granted that I could fulfill the mitzvah of sitting in a Sukkah, because I thought it would be entirely possible that I would go through Sukkot without having the opportunity. Sukkot's emphasis on the transitory nature of the Jewish experience (captured by the Sukkah which is an impermanent residence that reflects our journey in the desert) once more challenged me to think about the themes of movement, travel, adventure, and home. I'll spare you another "sermon" here, but I'm glad that this theme continues to challenge and excite me. I also was invited to read Haftarah literally on the spot, which I was incredibly reluctant to accept, but people were very impressed that I could read the words fluently and that I knew the trope (even though I clearly improvised on the "hard" ones).

On the second night of Sukkot, a friend I made at synagogue named Ádám invited me to his apartment for dinner. He described his apartment as an unofficial Moishe House. He lives with really nice Jewish people who are all very involved in the community. They even built a little sukkah on their balcony, and the meal began with all guests hanging fruits from the sukkah. It was so great so celebrate the holiday in such a unique, meaningful, and fun fashion that night.

For Simchat Torah, I sort of expected the usual crowd (~25 people) to show up, and for us to walk around with the Torahs while singing. I walked in to shul 10 minutes after the official start time, and the sanctuary was literally overflowing. Young children walked in a huge procession around the perimeter of the sanctuary, as their parents and other community members gathered in the pews and placed candy into the kids' bags as they paraded round and round. It was adorable. I had no idea that there were so many little kids and young families involved in the community, and this celebration was very different from what I am used to. I also know that my earliest positive memories of synagogue were of getting candy from an auf ruf or from the candyman. Even though the 15 (!) Torahs in the procession were peripheral to the candy craze, there is something to be said for probably 100 kids wearing nice clothes and kippot coming to synagogue to walk in a parade with Torahs and have a happy time.

The next day, I arrived to synagogue 25 minutes late, and there still wasn't a minyan. As a little more time went on, people started coming with their children (which meant candy parade round 2 was imminent), but the accompanying parents incidentally helped make our minyan. The Torah parade and trick-or-treating ensued as expected. Most families left after that, although a good amount stayed. The Torah service was very nice, and I again felt grateful to participate in this celebration of faith and community.

It is now Cheshvan, and we are in the clear until Chanukah, and in the clear from Yom Tov until Passover. I am grateful that I did not have to miss school or work to accommodate my religious needs, and I am blessed that my new community welcomed me into their celebration and prayer. Although the chagim disrupted my attempts to get into a routine in my new city and have a sense of structure in my personal and professional life, the chance to organically network with the Jewish community through prayer, meals, and celebration was a special privilege.

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