Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Sukkah? In What World?

Mention Sukkos this year and, at least in the Northeast and the Midwest, you are going to hear comments about being cold in the Sukkah. If those comments come from the Southwest or Florida or Israel, the comments are going to be about being too hot during the daytime in the sukkah. It doesn't seem to matter what time of year Sukkos comes out; there are going to be complaints about the weather and sitting in the sukkah.

I tend to ignore all the complaints about temperature. The weather is why there are coats and sweaters of different weights and thicknesses. Besides, some of these same complainers would have nothing to say about the weather if they were suddenly blessed with World Series tickets for a game where they had to keep an umbrella over their head because of "light rain" or front row tickets for a football game in 30 degree weather.

But I was once privileged to be in a sukkah where the owners applied modern technology to the problems of temperature. The sukkah had ceiling fans that were on a thermostat; let the temperature rise and the fans automatically turned on. The same for cold weather. The sukkah had a ring of heaters also on thermostats. And all electronics were on shabbos clocks so they would turn on and off at appropriate times. There was also a hinged cover for the sukkah that protected the schach and which was also on a Shabbos clock so that the sukkah was covered at night in case of rain. I should note that the interior walls of the sukkah had been papered in a vinyl waterproof covering and that there was an artificial turf "carpet" on the floor of the sukkah. There was also, in one corner, a portable rolling sink for washing, so as not to have to count how many doorways between the sukkah and the washing station.

I'll admit that I gawked at all the modern conveniences in that sukkah, but I never was tempted to emulate any of them in our own sukkah. Maybe it was the logistics of trying to get all those electrical items plugged in to the two-plug outlet we have for our sukkah. Maybe it was the fear of all that electricity in close proximity to the flammable decorations and sukkah building materials. Maybe it was the expense. Or just maybe I figured out that if the people eating in the sukkah didn't have the weather to complain about they might find something else less to my taste to complain about.

Note: a few years ago we had a really wild wind storm in NY right before Sukkos. Plenty of sukkahs in the neighborhood that were demolished or damaged. And that fancy, electrically wired sukkah? The schach was lifted off taking the lights and the fans with it. Apparently modern technology is no match for Mother Nature when she throws a tantrum.


Anonymously said...

I've been out of college for some time but I vaguely do remember that heat rises. So if there is a heater in the sukkah that heat is going to go straight up and out the open schach. Seems like a waste of money to me. Besides, that's what those furry boot slippers are for.

Just out of curiosity, with all the talk about how much yom tov costs, what did a lulav and esrog cost in your area?

ProfK said...

My husband's best friend was our shaliach in getting the lulav and esrog this year as he tends to haunt Boro Park and has a bloodhound's nose for real bargains. He went in last night and got a beautiful lulav and esrog, one for himself, one for each of his sons in law and one for us--no mum that anyone can see and from Eretz Yisroel with a hechsher and everything, and including the hadasim and arovos. Cost to us? $18 for the whole kit and kaboodle. Last time I saw that price I was still so newly married that I sometimes had to stop and think before I wrote my last name on a check. I believe in supporting local merchants but not when the difference in price is enough to pay for meat for 6 people for the first days of yom tov and for Shabbos Chol Hamoed.

Anonymous said...

My parents (also from Staten Island) went to Boro Park yesterday after Shabbat to pick up 4 sets of the Arbah Minim. They are simply way too expensive here in South Florida! And they had to get all different types of etrogim - slim with an internal pitum for me and my father, and fatter and with an external pitum for my brothers-in-law. Everyone has their own style - my style is one that I can easily hold in one hand with worrying every second that the etrog is going to fall down.

Also, I heard that there are one or two succahs in our neighborhood that have air conditioning. It really does get quite hot during the day.

I just build most of our succah (at is way too small for the 7 or us and next year we definitely need a new and bigger one) and it is going in a new place this year. I spent part of the afternoon trimming a few trees to get some good sky exposure in the new spot. Last year it was in our driveway, but we prefer for it to be at the back of the house. Some of the kids want to sleep in the succah, but I doubt that will really happen.


Duvi said...

When I was single I worked with one of the large sellers of esrogim and lulavim for spending money. He had some customers who insisted on perfect ones so they could really be hiddur mitzvah. Hate to tell them but the supervisor used to unpack all the esrogim, in one shipment and costing us the same amount of money, and take the ones he considered the least imperfect and box them in special boxes. Those esrogim went for a fortune.

Now that I'm married I do what you did. I head for Boro Park where they sell them on just about every street corner and yes they are very nice. I got mine for $15. My father in law routinely spends 10 times or more for what is basically the same product. And I can't tell him what I pay because I made that mistake the first year and he managed to find fault with the whole set, even though nothing was wrong. Now I just tell him that I spent around $150 and he thinks the set is beautiful.

The Babysitter said...

Sounds very fancy.

Perhaps the houses in New Square, that have succah's as part of their permanent house are able to have the right temperature and electronic gadgets.

"Apparently modern technology is no match for Mother Nature when she throws a tantrum."

great line.

Tom said...

Three years ago, Hurricane Wilma tore my succhah to shreds (I had taken most of it down right before the storm, but I left the frame up expeccting the winds to blow right through. Almost got away with it until the storm blew the frame right off the platform.).

The sides of my (new) succhah are wide open and covered with vinyl screen netting (half-way up). That keeps us from suffocating. This year, the holiday fall in Oct. so thus far it's been pretty comfortable.

Bas~Melech said...

B"H gorgeous weather in NY this year... You can feel the blessing in that when you count on it instead of relying on climate control to keep you comfy.

Anonymous said...

We've had delightful weather so far this sukkot here in South Florida. A little windy the first day (and my schach blew off), but otherwise quite pleasant - we spent a lot of time in our [small] sukkah, eating, singing, and learning.