When I departed New York for Denver before Rosh Hashanah, neighbors in my heavily Jewish building asked if they could put up a Rosh Hashanah guest in my apartment. “Sure!” I replied. It’s a nice feature of my building’s community — borrowing an ingredient or an apartment, it’s all part of neighborliness.
The neighbors with whom I left my keys were traveling to Israel for Sukkot, with plans to be back by Hoshana Rabba. Perfect. I was returning then too, and we’d all be together for Simchat Torah.
I didn’t account for delayed flights.
In Denver, I boarded the JetBlue redeye on Saturday night, Hoshana Rabba. It’s customary to remain awake through the night of Hoshana Rabba — to study Torah, not to fly to New York. Nevertheless, I felt in spirit with the tradition. When I arrived at 5:15 am, it was still dark out. With no checked luggage, I was thrilled at the prospect of beating the morning traffic and settling in for a catnap after my all-nighter.
In the taxi, I remembered the apartment keys. I hadn’t texted my neighbor before Shabbat to arrange a plan and time for the key pickup. Now I had gotten off a redeye and the city was asleep. It was pitch dark outside. It was Sunday morning. I resigned myself to hanging out at the Starbucks around the corner for a couple of hours until I could text or call people.
I’m sure it will all work out, I thought. And if not, another friend in the neighborhood has a spare key. Either way, I’m covered.
In my sleepy state, my mind kept wandering to Hoshana Rabba. I needed to still get hoshanot, the willow branches that are part of the holiday prayers. With coffee cup in hand, as morning was breaking, and with all this time on my hands at Starbucks, I thought of Hoshana Rabba’s customary food. Soon it was late enough to start calling people, so I could retrieve my keys and put an end to this state of being locked out.
But my neighbors’ flight had been delayed. There would be no keys until at least 12:30 pm.
It was only 8 am. I called my always-reliable friend in the neighborhood who keeps my spare keys. Today of all times, she had decided to go away! For years and years she had been in the city for Simchat Torah!
Finally, I got hold of my keys, my friend kindly coming along to hold my carry-on. I couldn’t wait to relax and unwind from the flight, my exhaustion exacerbated from being locked out all these hours. It sure had been an interesting no-sleep Hoshana Rabba. We entered my apartment, close the door behind us, and bang! The inside doorknob clanged to the floor. I picked it up and attempt to screw it back into place, but no dice. Behold, my friend and I were locked in.
After a long morning of being locked out, leading me to think of the sukkah’sopen threshold and protective space, suddenly we were on the other side of things. From having been sealed out, I was now sealed in. What are the odds that happening in the space of a single morning?
What a contrast. Just moments before, all I had wanted was to be comfortably ensconced in my own apartment. Now, I was — against my will.
At first it was nice. While, regrettably, there were no kreplachon hand, I quickly boiled warm mugs of coffee and cream, and I had adorable windmill butter biscuits nestled in a cookie jar from before my trip. While it was forced “nesting,” it was lovely. Imposed calmness and relaxation, because there was really nothing we could do until my neighbors, who had just arrived from Israel, came to pick up the meatballs they had cooked in advance and stored in my freezer. They had a second set of my keys and would be able to unlock the door from the outside. Until then, time stood still. We stayed put, sheltered.
That was my conclusion to the Days of Awe this year.
Of course, I don’t know what the meaning of this was. I can only hope that it heralds a year replete with the balance of blessed comings and goings, of unlocking what has thus far been locked, in the company of friends and family, with nourishment for the journey.
But at the very least, this whacky experience certainly provided amusement, until we were finally “rescued” and I was able to pick up a bundle of hoshanot I was more than ready to thump.
Copyright Intermountain Jewish News