In stores now! This Side Up!

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer, which means that he’s available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and any event where you want your guests to sit around and watch someone write.  He can also write speeches for said events, as well as various other copies for businesses, entertainment purposes, and personal use.    He spends a lot of his time standing in front of a classroom and trying to convince high school students to let him teach them to write.  Mordechai is also the author of the books, Don’t Yell “Challah!” in a Crowded Matzah Bakery,  A Clever Title Goes Here, and a brand new release, This Side Up! which can be purchased online by clicking here.

Here’s an excerpt to enhance your simachas Yom Tov:

Sukkos Gelt

 We are lucky to live in an age (29, if anyone asks) where we have tons of inventions to make Jewish life easier, such as shtenders and Havdalah candles and seedless watermelon.  We also have gefilte fish, which was created so that people could avoid picking out bones on Shabbos.  I think that’s amazing.  I mean, people didn’t like picking seeds out of the watermelons either, but no one decided to take them apart, pull out the seeds, grind up the rest and serve them in loaves with a piece of carrot on top.

Sukkos, in particular, has a lot of inventions associated with it, and they come out with ten new ones every year, kind of like they do on Pesach with Haggados.  Also chumros.

Take s’chach mats, for example.  This was something we didn’t even know we needed.  For years, everyone used bamboo for their sukkos, and everything was fine, except for the occasional pole coming through a window.  You bought the poles at a sukkah outlet, and you tied them to the roof of your car and drove home very carefully, with one hand on the roof, just in case.[1]  But poles were versatile, and it was easy to hang decorations from them, like fake fruit and bee traps.  (Bees love honey, so bee traps are another great invention, although they’re a lot more effective if you put them OUTSIDE your sukkah.  The same goes for bear traps.)  But then someone came up with the idea of s’chach mats, where you stand at one end of the sukkah and just roll the whole thing out like a tablecloth, and voila – it sags all over the place.  Especially when you try to hang heavy things, such as bee traps.  Also, if you don’t tie the mat down, it catches the wind like a sail and blows off down the street.   

There are also new innovations in the field of lulav and esrog transport.  When you buy your lulav, it generally comes in a tall plastic bag, but the first time you drop your lulav into the bag in a hurry, it punches a hole straight through the bottom, and you have to spend the rest of Sukkos constantly stopping on the way to shul to push it back up into the bag.  Also, once you get to shul, you can’t lean it against a random wall, because everyone’s cheap plastic bag looks exactly the same, and has a hole in exactly the same place.  But nowadays, there are zipper bags and big green holders that open in the middle, and there are even lulav cases that come with shoulder straps, so that you don’t have to put them down at all.  You just have this big thing sticking out from under your tallis.

They also changed the way esrogim are transported.   Esrog vendors used to sell them wrapped in this yellow flax that no one but the vendor knew how to properly use.  Whenever you tried wrapping it you ended up with a loose mess, with the esrog poking through in at least two places.  Also, the longer you wrestled with your flax, the more strands of it came off and stuck to your suit, so that by the time you were done, you looked like you were attacked by an elderly sheep.  But now they just give you a piece of foam with a hole in the middle in the shape of an esrog, and the only people hurt by this are the ones who have upright esrog holders, and have been using the same aging piece of flax for about ten years now.

Another great Sukkos invention is the Hoshanos card.  For hundreds of years, people doing Hoshanos had to walk really slowly in gridlocked traffic with their esrog in one hand and their lulav in another hand and, in their third hand, they had to hold a heavy English machzor (the Sukkos Hebrew-English machzorim are always like 10,000 pages long).  And then they would have to figure out how to turn the page.  Some people bought small esrogim for just this reason.  So now someone came up with a Hoshanos card that you wear on your sleeve, like a bracelet.  The next step is to invent a shtender that straps onto the back of the guy in front of you.

Of course, some Sukkos inventions, such as storm windows, are not as inspired.  (“Can you please close the window?  It’s freezing!”)  Another uninspired invention is esrog jelly, which no one ever eats.  (“Is that a pitam?”)

Nevertheless, there is still a market for new inventions, such as an instructional card on how to make lulav rings.  Every year I forget how to do it, and every year I ask the same guy to teach me again.  He’s very patient.  He says, “First you have to hold it like this.”  And I say, “Like this?”  And he says, “No, you’re holding it backwards.”  Then he makes a neat little circle, and I make a weird pretzel shape.  You can actually see mine unraveling right there on the spot.  So he makes me an extra one, and then, when I’m out of his line of vision, I take it apart to see how it’s done, and I commit it to memory, and then the next year I need him to show me again.  So I think the yeshivos should send out some kind instructional card in the mail every year.  I would send money.  It has to be better than that charoses-in-a-box that they send out that everyone’s afraid to open.

We also need some kind of definitive invention for protecting sukkos from the rain.  Everyone comes up with a different way of covering their sukkah, and with most of them, you invariably end up on a stepstool in the dark, trying to roll up a tarp and having five gallons of water cascade right down your arm, while the person on the other side of the sukkah, who’s supposedly helping you, picks that minute to ask: “Do you have your side yet?  I’m all the way at the end.”

We also need a definitive way of preserving our aravos.  When you buy your wife flowers for Shabbos, they sometimes last all the way to Tuesday, but for some reason your aravos are always a laughingstock by the time Chol Hamo’ed comes around.  Sometimes they even die before you get them home from the store.  The typical guy has no real idea what to do about this, but we each have our own method of preserving our arba minim that’s been handed down to us from our fathers and that’s never actually worked perfectly all the way through the end of Yom Tov, but we do it anyway, because apparently it’s our minhag.

Some people wrap their aravos in wet newspaper and try to stuff them back into their flimsy plastic, while some use silver foil and put them in the fridge, like they do with their Shabbos leftovers.  Like they’re going to come across them while they’re rooting around in the fridge Chanukah time and open them up and have no idea what they are.  And some people follow their wives’ flower example and put them in a vase with some plant food.  But by the end of Yom Tov, all their aravos are brown and missing leaves.  Occasionally you see someone with perfectly green aravos on the last day of Yom Tov, and you wonder how he did it.  Here’s how: he bought new ones.

So if you have any ideas, you should definitely let me know.  I won’t be able to help you fund it, but for a percentage of the profits, I’ll make fun of it in an article.

[1] Like if all the ropes you used suddenly come lose, you’re going to be able to hold it all one with one hand while driving.

One Response to In stores now! This Side Up!

  1. AE says:

    A good read when your fealing a bit upended, so bottoms-up!

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