Humor: An Angeleno Sukkos
As a child, the sukkah I knew best belonged to my aunt and uncle. Aunt Susan and Uncle Ira lived in Baltimore, which receives 70 days of precipitation a year. Several of these days seemed to take place yearly during Sukkos. Our usual routine went like this:
My sister and I are setting the table in the sukkah. Rain begins to fall. Aunt Susan says, “Quick! Take the dishes back to the dining room!”
The rain stops. Uncle Ira grabs the kiddush cup and shouts, “Run back outside!” We dash to the sukkah and make kiddush.
While we are inside to wash before hamotzi, the rain starts again.
We dine indoors.
When I moved to L.A., a city with an arid climate, I looked forward to sitting in a nice, dry sukkah. Alas, I soon learned that it’s pretty common to receive our first seasonal rain during Sukkos. If we are lucky, it holds off till Shemini Atzeres. If we are really, really lucky, it begins only after we’ve put away the sukkah for next year.
Most years, we aren’t lucky. The rain arrives at 3 a.m., while we’re sleeping in the sukkah.
In between sudden cloudbursts, though, an Angeleno Sukkos is hot. And I don’t like hot. (You can blame that on my Viking ancestors – at least I blame them.)
We have a pre-fab sukkah, which is very convenient. Unfortunately, we bought it the year before the company we purchased it from created a special model to cope with the Mediterranean climate. (Apparently someplace as unsophisticated as Los Angeles can have a very sophisticated-sounding climate.) At some point, my husband cut out the plastic windows – better suited to a greenhouse – and replaced them with metal screens. Nevertheless, the temperature in our sukkah tends to run about 10 or 15 degrees warmer than the temperature outside our sukkah.
Normally, our desire to perform hachnassas orchim is undermined by the size of our apartment. Our home is small enough that if our children were animals, and our apartment was a zoo exhibit, PETA would be picketing on our sidewalk.
Our sukkah has no such limitation. Desperate people who lack yards, patios, and balconies often rely on us to provide them with the means to sit in the heat, drink grape juice, eat challah, and beg for more ice in their lemon-flavored seltzer. Our youngest guests run about like pet iguanas who have sat a bit too long on their heat rocks.
When everyone leaves, we mop up the sweat that has pooled under their seats.
Don’t get me wrong. I love an Angeleno Sukkos – in the evening. There’s nothing quite like sitting in the sukkah, sipping tea and reading a book while my husband learns Torah beside me. There’s no need for a heavy jacket or a wool skirt or thermal underwear purchased at REI and rated for sub-zero temperatures.
You are welcome to join us for a cup of Earl Grey or Mint Medley some evening during Sukkos. Perhaps we’ll even glimpse a starry sky through our well-worn-but-still-kosher schach mats – if the smog and light pollution lift.
I’ll just pray you don’t swing by on one of the 19 days a year it rains in L.A.