Here are some last minute things you can do to make the holiday run a little more smoothly:
1. Draw some water. Rather than referring to the Water Pouring Ceremony that took place during Temple times, this is about drinking water for the table. Collect drinking water in large covered containers and keep it in the sukkah. If you serve water with ice in a pitcher at the table, you'll only have to bring out the pitcher with ice, and it can be filled outside.
This speeds up the serving time, minimize trips back and forth, and prevent spills. The empty containers should be refilled as they are used during the meal.
This is our water dispenser, that we keep filled with water throughout the holiday week:
2. Draw more water. If many guests are expected for the Yom Tov meals, the traipsing back and forth between Kiddush in the sukkah, washing hands in the house, and HaMotzi back in the sukkah seems interminable. Each trip is a fresh opportunity to track mud and leaves back into the house.
We avoid this by making a washing station outside.Many years ago, I ...
Any small table (or large cardboard boxes weighted with bricks or large vegetable cans) will do.
It's helpful to mark the path to the sukkah well, to avoid losing or frustrating guests.
I made this "Baruchim Habaim" ("Welcome") sign with day-glow paint, which does a passable job of showing up at night. I had hoped it would almost look illuminated with the phosphors in the paint, but that was a pipe dream.
(Don't forget to turn on the outdoor lights to help the guests find their way.)
4. Use trays.
5. Plug in any devices that are needed for Shabbat if you live outside of Israel, where it is a three day holiday this year. Set up the blech, hot water urn, and any other heating device needed for cooking on Shabbat, but not needed for Yom Tov.
6. Use real food for the eruv tavshillin. This is probably obvious to everyone else, but it took us twenty years of marriage to figure this out.
We used to use a piece of matza and a boiled egg. It was only a few years ago that we learned we were obligated to actually eat the eruv tavshillin foods. Since then, when we made eruv tavshillin, we'd pass around the matzah and three-day-old boiled egg, in a scene reminicent of eating the Afikomen at the end of the Passover Seder.
Just this year, when I asked my husband to open the box of matzah, he held up one of the dozen round loaves of challah I had just baked, and asked, "Why don't we just use this?"
It was a "duh" moment, for sure. Why not, indeed?
Shortly thereafter, when I set about to boil the eggs for the "cooked food" needed for the remainder of the eruv tavshillin, I realized that gefilte fish is a cooked food.
Thus we've come full circle. Not only are we setting aside real foods prepared for Shabbat and Yom Tov together, but they're the foods we actually planned to, and want to, eat! What a relevation.
(Stay tuned for the next episode of "The Dense and the Obvious", where we'll watch our heroine discover that if you write menus in pencil, they can be erased...)
7. Let go. I fall short my ambitions every Yom Tov (and every Shabbat, too.) I have banners left undone, blog posts about sukkot art projects I never finished, recipes I meant to prepare, clutter piles unsorted....
I have to remind myself prioritization is the defining manifestaion of free will, which is humanity's distinction and its gift. I did my best, even when that meant going to bed last night without baking that extra cake.
Submitting to the reality of time as a finite resource is difficult. Once I do, and admit to myself that certain expectations and flourishes must be discarded, I usually experience a cathartic release of nervous tension.
All those unrealized plans will be a head start for next year. We're not behind schedule; we're a full year ahead, see? That's my story and if we all stick to it together, it might as well be true!
I wish those celebrating Sukkot a chag sameach
For more Sukkot projects, click here.