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Joy Serves G*d in Joy as a passionate performing percussionist, poet, publisher, photographer, publicist, sound healer, spiritual guide, artist, gardener and Gemini. "Ivdu Et Hashem B'Simcha" -Psalm 100:2 ....... Joy Krauthammer, active in the Jewish Renewal, Feminist, and neo-Chasidic worlds for over three decades, kabbalistically leads Jewish women's life-cycle rituals. ... Workshops, and Bands are available for all Shuls, Sisterhoods, Rosh Chodeshes, Retreats, Concerts, Conferences & Festivals. ... My kavanah/intention is that my creative expressive gifts are inspirational, uplifting and joyous. In gratitude, I love doing mitzvot/good deeds, and connecting people in joy. In the zechut/merit of Reb Shlomo Carlebach, zt'l, I mamash love to help make our universe a smaller world, one REVEALING more spiritual consciousness, connection, compassion, and chesed/lovingkindness; to make visible the Face of the Divine... VIEW MY COMPLETE PROFILE and enjoy all offerings.... For BOOKINGS write: joyofwisdom1 at gmail.com, leave a COMMENT below, or call me. ... "Don't Postpone Joy" bear photo montage by Joy. Click to enlarge. BlesSings, Joy


detached and dethorned palm frond becomes schach
© Joy Krauthammer


- Joy Krauthammer

In my heart, I have forgiven a woman although she doesn't recognize she has wronged me. First night of Sukkot, having properly RSVP'd a week before, in joyous anticipation, I arrived early at my local Chabad for the chag/holiday, in time to light yom tov candles provided for the women, and for davvening to begin. In the synagogue's extremely large unadorned ("no decorations") but halachically correct sukkah/temporary dwelling, I found a place to sit at one of the very long rectangular joined tables. To the sukkah schach*, I happily added a beautiful fresh green circular palm frond that with kavannah/spiritual intention I had been nurturing in my garden all year because I remembered from prior years that Chabad uses few fresh fronds. Carefully, I had individually cut off every single sharp thorn running up and down both sides of the long stem, so no one would be hurt.  

The first time decades ago that I had met The Rebbe and visited Chabad on Eastern Parkway was during this season. My daughter's bat mitzvah was during Sukkot. I was happy and grateful in the High Holidays to be able now to make brachas and sit during Sukkot in a sukkah after a year had passed. Several others (all strangers to me) were already sitting at the long rows of multiple tables. Near one woman, unsure, I hesitated, but I placed a disposable table setting from the buffet table, on the table knowing that I would go into the shul to davven/pray and wanted a space to sit where I wanted to be when I finished praying. For saving seats, many other chairs were turned up onto the table but I don't do that. I drank some water from the cup, in my mind defining it as mine. I thought to myself that it would be nice if I knew someone and they could find a seat near me but I wouldn't 'save' another seat. The spot I chose to sit for the upcoming dinner after davvening was the outer section of an outer facing table, so that I didn't have to squeeze in-between dozens of other seated people whom I didn't know. (Sort of like choosing an aisle seat at the movie theatre.) Because I was one of the first to arrive, I desired to have that choice. 

When the rabbi called us into prayer, I was happy to go into shul. (Passing the memorial board in the shul, I always give a 'kiss' to my husband Marcel's, z'l, bronze memorial plaque I had ordered for him, as I walk over to the women's section on the other side of the mechitzah/gender separatorMy husband had served as the Ba'al Koreh/Torah chanter at this Chabad for 18 years until he became paralyzed.) This was not any ol' shul in the neighborhood, but one where I regularly go for holidays with yiskors and for annual yahrzeit to say Kaddish, and I am always warmly welcomed by the rabbi and rebbetzin.

Prayers finished and I stepped outside as the sun was going down, surprised to find that in the large lit sukkah, it appeared all seats were already filled at the many tables with over a hundred guests who had never gone inside to pray. What had happened to my narrow folding chair and little humble table setting with napkin, plastic cup, plate, eating utensils including chopsticks? I walked to the far end of the long sukkah to where I had placed them before prayer. Where were they? I looked at the young lady still sitting at the table and asked her. My place setting was moved to the center of the table, pushed aside from where it had been. She pointed to the woman now sitting in 'my' seat. I had been displaced. Feeling my holiday joy diminished, I looked at the woman and directly asked why she had removed my table setting. The woman responded with clarity, "I've been sitting here for half an hour. No one saves their seat for half an hour!" I defensively and righteously responded, "I've been davvening in the shul for Sukkot." The woman repeated her situation and belief. With indignation, I repeated my statement. The man sitting next to the woman looked at her and then said, "She's right; she was praying."  At least I had that moral satisfaction of knowing that someone understood my unfair situation and agreed with me.

I've been bullied before with chutzpah (but not by a woman) and it does not feel good, and I've learned to stand up for myself and with truth, speak out. A couple next to the 'guilty' couple pointed to an empty seat squeezed between others across the table a few chairs further down. Everyone was already seated at the adjoining tables and I saw that the walk to that seat would be cumbersome like a NY subway car in rush hour, as it inconveniently turned out to be. Excusing my action, I reached over the woman and retrieved my place setting and replaced it across the table to hold that single seat, squashed between more strangers. Carefully and thoughtfully I held the plastic plate to fill at the buffet table when we would be called up to the buffet after kiddush. Conscientiously, I wasn't going to waste another plate by taking a new one at the buffet, nor was I going to sit and rise again from the tightness, when called for the meal.

This situation was disturbing to me because it was not mentshlikeit. It was negative. I wasn't happy with myself. While standing at my first setting and former seat, I thought to myself, "Ah, if the woman agreed to get up, where would she move to, leaving her partner alone?" Would I have even wanted that? Didn't happen, so I didn't need to be generous, and thoughtful is what I figured I would be, had 'Ms. Chutzpahdik' started to stand.

Ah, while I was standing not far from the beginning of the tightly packed buffet line, a woman with her plate of food, now outside the line asked me, without a 'please', to pass a fork (which I guess she had forgotten to take). I turned and in disbelief looked at the woman's face, laughing inside to myself-- this same woman just asked the wrong person. Not my usual behavior, pointing, I said to the unethical woman that the start of the line was 'thataway.' (I already had my fork! Too bad I forgot a spoon for my yummy warm mushroom barley soup.)

After getting food at the buffet table, and managing to make my way down a skinny tight table aisle while asking people to please try to make room for me to get through, a very kind person near me offered to move himself and partner a seat down, he said, so that "you can sit with your family." Grateful and surprised, I explained that I appreciated his thoughtful offer but that I didn't know the people where I had chosen to sit. "I'm here alone; my husband, z'l, is dead", I blurted out in additional response. Yes, it was a powerful and shocking statement (even to myself) to make and I had never before said that, but trying to make a point, it was how I felt particularly at that moment.  I have a feeling that neither Ms. Chutzpahdic nor her husband were happy sitting across from me.

This very same week, making a big decision (as arranged weeks ago), and emotionally feeling it in my heart, I had given away my family sukkah that my husband always built over the years (since our daughter was young) for us to have our 'temporary dwelling' for Sukkot. I had invited ushpizin/guests* to joyously share meals in our artfully decorated sukkah. They could shake our seasonal holiday lulav and etrog. I gave the wood beamed sukkah to a young family with two little girls, who belong to a local synagogue and are learning about holidays. I even joyously gathered up and brought to them, a van load of newly cut gorgeous long fronds (not easy to find) for their sukkah roof schach, to 'see through to the stars'. 

Since my husband died, sadly I had not been erecting alone our sukkah, and wanted another family to benefit and to have this mitzvah.  I had actually offered this sukkah to this same Chabad and to another shul but I guess to find a new home takes effort. On my own, I found a family (a friend of my daughter's) who could benefit from having a sukkah filled with lovely family holiday memories and for them to have their own celebration.  I now needed to find a sukkah where I could sit --no longer with my family, and make prayers and eat a meal. 

When I was seated, the rabbi, now finished with prayer in the shul, made Hamotzi prayer for all, and I had a little challah roll ready in my hand to make the blesSing. I saw a lovely couple directly in front of me who didn't have bread and I tore mine open and shared it.  The man sitting near to the inhospitable woman, responded out loud, "Thank you for sharing your bread." I then had a friendly couple to shmooze with over dinner. Small world; turned out that both of our children worked for the same agency in Washington, D.C. Our children on the other coast both also have their own rain flooded sukkahs.

Another woman showed up late to the table from a family memorial, and now with seating available for her and a couple more friends, I introduced people to each other. Being on the outside of the table, she easily brought more soup (with a spoon) to the table. I was able to share compassion with her for her loss, and answer her questions about traditional Jewish mourning rituals and honoring the dead because I am intimate with them. (That was a little uncomfortable for me because I don't believe in cremation for Jews.) I was grateful for the opportunity to be helpful.

A couple days have passed and I have in my own mind forgiven the woman for displacing me and my 'things'. She doesn't know me, nor my name, so can't find me to apologize if she finally recognizes the wrong. So I have given forgiveness, and also in my mind sent blessings her way, and now written this story and cathartically released myself from any leftover feeling. 

In retrospect and perspective, this unfortunate bullying incident was such a tiny unimportant issue (especially compared to others' situations) in our universe, and although wronged (and that place of memory inside me being touched), I wasn't hurt on purpose nor for personal reasons.

I look for some meaning in this little story. Like the sukkah, all our material possessions are only temporary. The sukkah clearly reminds us of our fragility, our vulnerability. Where is our security? Our own real protector is G*d. One's survival is contingent upon the grace of the Almighty. - Rashbam, Leviticus 23:43.

What a revealed blesSing that this Chabad was so blessed with so many people who wanted to come and celebrate with community in the sukkah on Sukkot. The concerned and hospitable rabbi announced right there, that next year the sukkah would be built even bigger. He even loudly asked us all, regarding the food, to be cognizant of the unexpected large crowd. Consciously at the buffet, I made sure to take only a chopstick full of the night's hand-made advertised specialty, kosher sushi.

What can I learn from this? How else could I have responded in this Zeman Simchateinu/Season of our Joy? In kindness, other guests nearby reached out to me, so I guess I gave them that opportunity to share joy in the sukkah.

With few guests remaining, on my way out of the sukkah I stopped to thank some event sponsors and the wonderful Rebbetzin who had organized the delicious Jewish Sukkot meal, and who could finally sit down in the sukkah at the end of the long warm and beautiful Southern California evening. No "rain drops in the sukkah soup" that night, as in Crown Heights, as her visiting father had cheerfully stated.

Additional visits to this same sukkah during Sukkot were filled with joy. Amayn.
~ ~ ~

* Schach definition (from Talmud): that which grows from the earth, and is no longer attached to the earth – e.g. fronds, branches, etc., as a covering on the top of the sukkah, allowing sky to be viewed.

·      Leviticus 23:40: “. . . you shall rejoice before HaShem your Creator for seven days . . . “
·      Deuteronomy 16:14: “You shall rejoice on your festival – you, your son, your daughter, ... 
·      Deuteronomy 16:15: “Seven days you will celebrate before HaShem your Creator in the place that G*d will choose, for HaShem has blessed you in all your crops and all the works of your hands, and you will be completely joyous!

~ ~ ~

Palm fronds from Joy's palm tree
cut down and dethorned to share with friends and rabbis as schach for their sukkahs.
© Joy Krauthammer 



Kiddush time at another shul on the following Shabbat, again I had to laugh to myself. What a blesSing to have so many people in shul.

As a lay leader at the shul, and moving 'service' items, I walked into the kiddush lunch area a minute before the congregation, and watched as another volunteer was placing a 'reserved' sign on four or five separate tables, each with a different sponsor's name, and at the very front of the dining area. I'd never before seen this happen at our shul and it disturbed me to think that members would have to go past all the front reserved tables to seek out a now limited seat.

I stopped the kiddush volunteer and she explained she'd been advised to do this and immediately I objected, as this involved about half the seating available. Quickly we transferred the signs to the back tables that made me feel better, but still not right.

I had chosen a seat for myself at a non-reserved table, and a sponsor of kiddush asked if I'd like to sit with them. (Clearly she had too many preferential seats.) I moved my things over making a space available and so others could sit together, and sat at new table. The sponsor then asked me to watch the table to "save the seats" as she looked for her guests entering the space.  In such proximity to the Sukkah 'displacement' issue, I was especially not comfortable being put in this position. 

During the long morning drive to shul from Valley through the mountain to LA, although early but with halted freeway traffic, I became concerned about having my 'reserved' car space available to me. Because I am temple musician I have many heavy large instruments to shlep back and forth from car to chapel, and I need that close space. The catering team arrived before me yet luckily, found a fine space but others were all taken. I arrived before the volunteer can put out my reserved auto sign.  (At a theatre party this next week, again I will arrive over one hour early to unload my music, to insure I have a space.)

At a large post-wedding party the same evening after the Kiddush story, I knew a guest would be arriving very late. At her assigned seat, I placed appetizers and a meal so that a meal would be 'saved' and waiting for the guest when she finally arrived.

A couple nights later, a dream distressed me. I was in a ship with rows of seats or beds all facing forward, as if a theatre. Without my permission, someone transferred my belongings to another seat from mid-ship left side to a dozen or so rows way in the back, right side, where my vision would be blocked from the presenter's talk and any front view of ocean. 

I ask myself: What does it mean for me at this time, to be involved in so many "save the places"?  What are we 'entitled' to? From what and why do we feel displaced?
If thoughtful and considerate to people, at what expense to others is 'reserved'?

~ ~ ~

© Joy Krauthammer