Z’man Simchateinu

One day before the beginning of Sukkot, Z’man Simchateinu, the Time of our Joy, I became a Bubbe for the first time. It is an honorific title for which I have waited fairly patiently and for which I am humbly grateful. I write “fairly patiently” because while I did not annoy my children with expectation, I certainly practiced Bubbehood  with all of the children at OJC and let it be known that I was ready! And I write “humbly grateful” because while I am filled with an uncanny, indescribable joy, I am well aware of so many people who will never become grandparents for one reason of life or another. May we always have humility when acknowledging a blessing.

Carmel Louis Fainshtain and his Ima, One Day Old

And so, I acknowledge my blessing. Carmel Louis Fainshtain entered the world and Z’man Simchateinu took on vast new dictionaries of meaning. This is truly a time of great joy and yet it is not complete. Due to the vagaries of COVID-19, Jonathan and I arrived in Israel in time for the birth, but we will be in quarantine for a total of 14 days. I can offer Sarah comfort and whatever wisdom I recall, but only over FaceTime. Jonathan will be sandek at the bris of his first grandchild, but via Zoom. 

Is it still Z’man Simchateinu if it is not complete?

And now it actually is Sukkot, Z’man Simchateinu. Being in Israel for the holiday is absolutely a time of great joy, but again, it is not complete. Here in our quarantine apartment, there is no sukkah. Josh purchased lulav and etrog from the shuk for me, but I daven alone on the balcony. 

Davening on the balcony of our quarantine apartment.

Is it a time of great joy or will I allow Covid-19 and this quarantine to diminish it? Talmud has something valuable to offer to my question about the incompleteness of joy. In Sukkah 11b, we find an argument between Rabbi Eleazer and Rabbi Akiva:

These booths were ‏ענני כבוד clouds of glory, this is the statement of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Akiva says: They established for themselves ‏סוכות ממש actual sukkot

Every year for the past 35 years before this one, I have spent time in an actual sukkah, making kiddush with my community, welcoming guests, eating autumn meals; and throughout the week, embracing the idea of my vulnerability and the world’s fragility. The three temporary walls and star-pricked skhach roof teach me to reject the idea that any of us has control. With or without a sukkah, we now know in our very souls that none of us has control. One message of Sukkot is that the only true safety and shelter is found in God‘s protection.

If the actual sukkah is the antithesis of real shelter, the Clouds of Glory are the ultimate shelter. Our ancestors who wandered through the wilderness should have been vulnerable in every way, but instead, they were completely safe, sheltered by God. God’s cloud shielded the Israelites from the desert’s harshness and protected them from enemies.

The time of our great joy is about both vulnerability and protection. Humanity has never been in as much turmoil and fear during my lifetime as we are now. And yet in the midst of the upheaval, here I am welcoming a brand new precious life. Incomplete joy, Judaism teaches, is the only kind of real simcha that we ever have. We gather at holidays and remember those we’ve lost. We celebrate a wedding and smash a glass to remember tragedy even at the beginning of a new marriage. I celebrate Sukkot without an actual sukkah. I have a new grandson whom I cannot yet hold in my arms. Yet it’s all joy if it’s connected to acknowledging the blessing of God’s loving abundance.

This year, I may not have a sukkah mamash (an actual sukkah) but I most certainly have the experience of being protected by Ananei Kavod (God’s Clouds of Glory).

Moadim l’simcha, may these days of Sukkot be filled with joy for you!

Rabbi Paula Mack Drill

22 responses to “Z’man Simchateinu”

  1. Joanne Richman says :

    Mazel Tov on becoming a Bubbe! Life’s greatest joy… he is beautiful.. what hair! And your words were so beautiful.. they gave me a much healthier perspective on this very difficult time .. I, as many of us, am struggling to keep the faith that this, too, shall pass. It is beyond painful not being able to hug my grandchildren.. my boys.. my people.
    I am so happy for you and your family. Looking forward to more photos after quarantine!
    Stay safe… stay healthy… and THANK YOU!!

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Joanne, thank you for your lovely words. It means a lot to know that words can help us by allowing us to recognize the common experience in this too fragmented world.

  2. BeverlyWertheim says :

    Mazel Tov to the entire Drill family. You and Jonathan have become members of the greatest club ever. Enjoy. As always, your words are so helpful and meaningful. Thank you for that. Mom and son look beautiful. Please extend our love and Mazel Tov to all. Miss you!

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you, Beverly. I can certainly look to you as a fantastic example of what a loving and valuable relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be!

  3. Karen Frank says :

    So beautiful, Paula Mack Drill. And indeed the only way to look at joy, as our hearts are usually at least partially broken at the same time.

  4. Judith L Craig says :

    Mazal tov to you and the whole family! We are so happy for you. And it feels like complete joy! We love you.

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Todah rabbah, Judy! Yes, it all depends on the glasses we wear; incomplete joy is absolutely complete joy. That’s what Judaism says!

  5. Lydia Katz says :

    I am so, so happy for you, Jonathan and your whole family. I feel your pain in not being able to hold your beautiful little boy (I so ache t o hold my great grandchild Emma Lou) but you are holding him in your heart. Your Succah that you hold in your spirit is the most beautiful. You and Jonathan will be the best Bubbe and Zade because you have so much love to give. Enjoy your time in Israel and let’s all pray for this pandemic to end So Carmel Louis can come to OJC and we can all Kvell. Love you!!

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you, Lydia! Yes, we are in the same boat. I do hope you will get to hold Emma Lou soon. What a nice thought – the day that Carmel Louis comes to shul. There won’t be anyone able to pay attention to the Torah reading!

  6. Sheila Bunin says :

    The joy of hugging your daughter and cuddling your grandson will be extra heartfelt after this separation. I am so thrilled for you and Jonathan, and Sarah and Sagi. A beautiful new life brings hope for the future. And Carmel Louis is blessed to be born into a most loving family, plus a most devoted congregation. We love you all so much !!

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you, Sheila! Carmel is exactly that – hope for the future! Special love to you from Sarah!

  7. Sally Winter says :

    Hi Rabbi, Mazel Tov!! Grandchildren are such a blessing. Your words are always just what I need to hear. May this be the beginning of many more Simchas for you and your beautiful family! Enjoy your time with family in Israel and get home safely,

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you so much, Sally! Moadim l’simcha! May you enjoy this lovely festival of Sukkot!

  8. Candace S. says :

    Beautiful Rabbi Drill! Mazel Tov Bubbe

  9. Fabio says :

    Mazel tov, Rabbi Drill! Great post!

  10. adiskin@aol.com says :

    Thank you so much, as always for your thoughtful words. The pictures are such a joy to look at!  Thank you for sharing them. Davening on your balcony alone knowing that your healthy grandchild is nearby and you are in Israel is truly a blessing.Love and hugs,Annetteps don’t understand why the font changed but I didn’t want to type all over again.

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      And thank YOU as always, Annette, for your support and care. You are correct – my healthy grandchild and being in Israel to eventually meet him are the greatest blessings!

  11. J. Scott (Yitzchak) says :

    Mazel Tov to Rabbi Drill, her family and new-born grandson! May they live a long happy and healthy life! L’Chaiym!

    • Rabbi Paula Mack Drill says :

      Thank you, Scott, for your wishes of Mazel Tov and long life! Moadim l’simcha to you. May these lovely days of Sukkot bring you ease and joy.

  12. Lita Mustacchi says :

    Dearest Rabbi Drill, Jonathan and Beautiful new parents of handsome Carmel Louis with his full head of hair. There is nothing like being a Bubbe and Zaide for the very first time. The magic begins- and it truly is a magical time for all of you. I love you all and send many hugs and kisses. I am sure you will bring many photos ,. with much pride. Cannot wait to share them with you. Enjoy your time together. Again, much love to you all Lita

    On Mon, Oct 5, 2020 at 8:16 AM Two Rabbis, One Voice, Three Opinions wrote:

    > Rabbi Paula Mack Drill posted: ” One day before the beginning of Sukkot, > Z’man Simchateinu, the Time of our Joy, I became a Bubbe for the first > time. It is an honorific title for which I have waited fairly patiently and > for which I am humbly grateful. I write “fairly patiently” because ” >

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