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       Shabbat and the Jewish Holidays




Pearl with her friends
at the entrance to her house in Czernowitz.




Sukkot: A Special Holiday
Czernowitz, Ukraine (then Cernăuţi, Romania)

The other lovely holiday was Sukkot, which starts four days after Yom Kippur. For eight days one is supposed to eat in a sukkah, a booth covered with greenery. It is a reminder of the wandering of the Jews through the wilderness, after the exodus from Egypt, when all shelter was make-shift. It is also a harvest festival. We would bring Father his food into the sukkah in the neighbor’s house. Of course, we lived on the second floor and by the time I or my older sister Sali brought down the soup one long flight of stairs in our building, half a block to the next house and one flight up to the sukkah, half was spilled and the remainder was cold. However, all this was fun.

Only Father observed this tradition to the letter. Mother and we, the children just made the blessing over the etrog - a perfect lemon from Palestine - and the lulav - a palm branch, a sprig of willow and myrtle - every morning for eight days. Father went to the synagogue every day and made those prayers there. Sukkot being a harvest festival, we blessed these symbolic fruits and grains of the land of Israel.

My greatest enjoyment, as a child, was the privacy that a sukkah offered me and my childhood friends Chavale and Lucie. Since none of us had ever had our own room, we were chatting for hours, unheard and unseen by the adult world. Here I found out about the differences between boys and girls and about sexual matters, of which I was completely unaware up to the age of six or seven. I was much too bashful to ask whether all this was true, but I trusted Lucie, who was a little older than myself and had older brothers and sisters who were more outspoken than my own family.

From Pearl Fichman's memoirs, "Before Memories Fade," 1989.

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