Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Dear Mordechai,

I don’t have a very big house. When is the best time to have guests?

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Too Much Food

 

Dear Too,

Sukkos, because you can say, “Come to our house! You can sleep on the porch!” Or Shavuos, because you can timeshare the beds. Or Pesach, because everyone falls asleep at the table. Or Purim, for the same reason. Or Rosh Hashanah, because you’re not supposed to sleep.

In fact, I think the rabbonim specifically designed the Yomim Tovim so you can have guests no matter how small your house is. Remember: In those days they all had one-room homes.

And no, I can’t explain three-day Yomim Tovim.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

I think my neighbor is holding his lulav backwards.

Awkward Conversation Opener

 

Dear Awkward,

Is he a lefty? I ask because I’m a lefty, and I hold my esrog and lulav in the wrong hands. Some lefties even switch their hadassim and aravos, but no lefty is sure of his minhag, because he can’t remember what happened the last time there was a lefty in the family. Especially since studies show that lefties die sooner. The constant barrage of annoying questions might be why we don’t live as long. (“Oh, are you a lefty?” “Why are you holding your lulav wrong?” “How do you start your car?”)

So he might be a lefty. Or he might be a genius who thinks that everyone in the entire shul that he’s looking at is mirror image. He might be the same guy who points to the wrong side of his face when you have something on yours.

Not sure if he’s a lefty? Throw your esrog at him. If he catches it with his left hand, he’s a lefty. If he catches it with his right, he’s a righty. If it bonks him on the head, he’s ambidextrous.

 

Dear Mordechai,

Why do I have to buy seats for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur? My shul already has seats.

Stanley Aisles

 

Dear Stanley,

I don’t get it either. On Shabbos, it’s free to go to shul. You can daven as many times as you want. Though the limit is four.

Okay, so you’re not really paying for the chair. What does a folding chair go for nowadays? Like 15 bucks? Can I just bring my own chair? And what if I pay for a seat and it’s the kind that has one short leg. Can I just pay 75% of the bill? Or are they gonna tell me that I have to pay extra for the “easy shukel” feature?

But it’s Rosh Hashanah. You want to play financial games to outwit your shul? Maybe that’s why they pick that day.

Basically, it’s a fundraiser. Shuls don’t run themselves. There’s gas and electricity and people fighting over the air conditioner and those little tiny two-inch squares of stiff Shabbos “toilet paper,” and someone to clean up aravah leaves, and someone to occasionally go through the shul fridge and throw out the old tuna (though admittedly some shuls save money by not having anyone do that).

So how does a shul make money? Well, what churches do is they pass a hat around on Sundays. But our big day is Shabbos, and we can’t pass a hat on Shabbos, even though many of us have hats.

So one way a shul can make money is by selling seats. Especially on days that everyone has to come, and when davening is way too long to stand. And it has to be a day when everyone shows up.

And there are a lot of communities, unfortunately, where no one shows up for shul all year except Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In the Orthodox world, we show up all the time, but for some reason on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the men’s section gets smaller. And there are the same amount of men.

But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are very specific days, and everyone has to come those days.

“Can I just daven the next day for free?”

No, it’s too late. The gates are closed. You have to get a rabbi and file an extension. It’s not like buying costumes cheaper after Halloween. It’s that day.

Point is, there’s an overcrowding issue. So buying seats is a way to make sure that you have one altogether. You also get to help choose where you’re sitting, and to make sure you don’t sit next to any lefties and end up bumping elbows with them for six hours every time you both turn the page. And if you want, you can even make sure that you and your kids get seats near each other, so the kids don’t have to figure out how to navigate a six-hour davening when all you gave them to go by is one of those lazy machzorim that does not print a single thing twice, and would rather have extensive page-turning instructions, in tiny Hebrew. And for some reason they print their responsive piyutim so that you have to keep saying the end of one line and the beginning of another.

If you don’t buy a seat, you can still show up, but you might have to stand in the aisle and keep moving all davening when people pass you, and people do not stop passing you the entire davening. Especially that guy who paces.

There are other benefits to selling seats:

  1. People are more likely to pay attention during davening because they want to get their money’s worth.
  1. If you suddenly charge money for something, people want it more. Maybe Rosh Hashanah is popular because they charge for seating.
  1. It also guarantees that someone won’t show up and spread out – leave his tallis bag on one chair, his hat on another… “Can you pass my hat?” He needs to fund the three seats somehow.

 

 

Dear Mordechai,

Should I get Wi-Fi in my sukkah?

Hay Day

 

Dear Hay,

Yes. Obviously. Your sukkah is supposed to be like your house, and you can’t live in your house for ten seconds without Wi-Fi. On the other hand, you mainly eat in your sukkah, and do you really need everyone sitting around all Chol HaMoed and staring at their phones at the table? On the other hand, that’s what they do in the house.

Maybe they’ll pay more attention during meals if you sell seats.

It happens to be, though, that there are plenty of useful things you can do online that would be convenient to do without leaving the sukkah, such as checking the weather. Also, looking for Chol HaMoed trip ideas, ordering food (“SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS: You have to come through the house and knock”), and looking up what to do if you come face-to-face with wildlife.

Your guests are also less likely to notice that you’re making them sleep outside.

 

Have a question for “You’re Asking Me?” Have a seat. That’ll be $125.

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