Jerry has wonderful memories of davening on yomim tovim with his father in Rabbi Landau’s shetible in Flatbush. His father loved the timeless melodic nusach of the davening, and he sang joyously.
Perhaps Jerry’s favorite moment was when he and his younger brother, Seme, would be shepherded under his fathers tallis during the Birkat Kohanim. It didn’t get much better than this for Jerry, and he always looked forward to intimately sharing this moment with his father.
He remembers asking his father why he and the other children were required to be guarded under their father’s tallaisim. His father explained that no one was allowed to look at the kohanim during the blessing. Of course this peaked Jerry’s curiosity. His father patiently explained that anyone who looked at the kohanim would turn blind. This fascinated Jerry, as he knew the handful of kohanim in the schtieble and was unaware they possessed these super powers.
His father explained that the kohanim wouldn’t blind Jerry; instead Hashem’s spirit would enter the shul during Birkat Kohanim and hover over the kohanim. Of course, since no one was allowed to look at Hashem, he explained, he couldn’t look at the kohanim.
Jerry was flabbergasted. He asked where Hashem was before and after kohanim. Jerry was totally confused. If Hashem was everywhere, how and why did he need to enter the shul during the Birkat Kohanim blessing when he was actually already there? Jerry’s father, a saint of patience, explained that we can’t understand everything but this is what we were required to believe.
Well, for Jerry, seeing was believing. He hatched a plan to peek out of his fathers tallis to watch what he believed would be an incredible spectacle of the spirit of Hashem soaring into the shul and hovering over the kohanim.
What Jerry saw in Raiders of the Lost Ark — the scene where the ark was opened and the celestial spirits began to fly around, visibly soaring prolifically among the people — approximated what he imagined he would witness. However Jerry’s spirit was grounded when he peeked out and all he saw was his fathers friends in front of the shul, in their socks (some actually with holes in them), singing the kohanim prayer. This was a serious bummer for Jerry. He spent almost an entire year worrying that he would turn blind — and it wasn’t even worth it.
As Yom Kippur nears, and I begin to reflect on memories of davening with my parents and grandparents, I miss them terribly, yet I simultaneously feel their presence and remember how much they loved me, and the wonderful times we spent together during the Yomim Tovim.
Jerry and I wish all of you a G’mar Tov, an easy fast, with a good year to follow and unquenchably beautiful memories of loved ones lost during our lifetimes.
Here’s a sweet way to break your fast, and start the new year.
1 packet instant rapid rise yeast
1 cup unsweetened plain almond milk
1/2 cup butter, divided
1/4 tsp. salt
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup + 1 sugar, divided
In a microwave safe dish place the almond milk and 3 Tbs of the butter and microwave at 25 second intervals just until melted. Remove from heat and let cool, so that if you were to put your finger into it, it would be very warm, but not burn your finger. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast.
Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast into it. Let activate for 10 minutes, then add 1 Tbsp. sugar and the salt and stir.
Next add in flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring as you go. The dough will be sticky at first, as you knead it, it will become less sticky, at that point, transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or so until it forms a loose ball. Rinse your mixing bowl out, coat it with canola oil, and add he dough back in. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a thin rectangle. Brush with 3 Tbsp. melted butter, and top with 1/4 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
Starting at one end, tightly roll up the dough and place seam side down. Then with a serrated knife , cut the dough into 2 inch sections and place in a well-buttered 8x8-inch square or round pan (you should have about 10 rolls). Brush with remaining 2 Tbsp. melted butter,and cover with plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Once the oven is hot, bake rolls for 25 to 30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes and if you like you can top it off with this sugary delight.
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. milk
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix well till dissolved and drizzle on buns.
A version of this column appeared in 2016.