So Sukkot starts tomorrow evening, and this is a Jewish holiday that I have come to love in recent years. Firstly, you get to do construction (and thanks to Abby for making 5769's sukkah building refreshingly free of cursing, crashing wood and abrasions, due to her excellent power drill skills). Second, you decorate by hanging all sorts of stuff from the roof and walls of your sukkah, thus indulging the repressed Christmas tree decorator hiding out inside many Jews. And third, if you choose, you buy the Four Species. The palm branch, myrtle branches, willow branches and etrog that you can shake and gawk at during the holiday. If you have no idea what I'm talking about google "lulav" and all will be revealed.
Now I can order my lulav and etrog from my shul, but that would deprive me of my annual trek to the crowded, hot basement of the Israel Book Shop in Brookline, where young men from Monsey work feverishly to assemble our lulavim, and where one can choose etrogim ranging in price from $45 to over $100. The lulav is basically imported sticks and come "free" with the etrog. This is one of my relatively few annual encounters with the most Orthodox part of the Jewish community, and it is always an interesting one. The gentlemen are curt but polite as they deal with a guy (me) who is obviously not frum. In recent years I've brought Roxanne with me, and she finds the whole scene fascinating. This world of men in beards black hats haggling in Yiddish, Hebrew and English over lumpy lemons is a world away from her temple nursery school's neat and tidy world of Conservative Judaism.
So as we are leaving the store (purchases: lulav, etrog, two plush lulav and etrog sets and a sheet of lulav stickers) we pass a man in typical "black hat" Orthodox uniform: beard, dark suit, black hat. Roxanne turns to me and says, "Daddy, why do we always see that guy at the Israel Book Shop?" I keep a straight face and explain that we see a lot of guys who look like that here, but they are, in fact, different guys. Someday I may have to take Roxanne to Boro Park, or, God willing, Jerusalem, to prove that more than one guy is running around in a beard and black hat.