I can’t believe the yomtov season is over – it feels simultaneously ages ago and only yesterday that I stood in front of the shul timetable and said, “Well we’re here (top of 1st column) and we’ve got to get to there (bottom of 2nd column)!”
It’s been a memorable three weeks – good davening, great meals with a wide range of guests and tremendous help from the children in preparing, serving and clearing up (thanks also to my mother who did loads of washing up!!) and some special highlights:
The highlight of my yomtov was lighting candles on the night of Shemini Atzeres and not davenning, as I have done for over five years, for Gilad ben Aviva to come home safely. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of the deal, no-one with a heart could fail to have been moved by the first glimpses of him returning to Israel, and conducting himself with such dignity. He must be a very impressive young man to have survived such an ordeal and cope with the public welcome in this way and kol hakavod/well done to the Israeli media who have kept their distance and given him and his family the privacy and space they need.
Other personal highlights – our annual simchas beis hashoeva, which was one of the best ever, and spending time as a family on outings. We went for a walk on Hampstead Heath, followed by lunch with friends, and visited Kew Gardens (no sukkah this year!) and Oxford, which the adults enjoyed more than the children! We paid a brief visit to the refurbished Ashmolean, which was very impressive. The younger children, who are still prepared to be intellectually curious, enjoyed it and even my husband, who wasn’t gripped by the content, said that the presentation was excellent. It was definitely better than our last vist there, about 9 ½ years ago, when the kids set off so many alarms that we had a team of staff watching us, until we felt uncomfortable enough to leave! Thanks to the Oxford student chaplains for letting us crash their sukkah for lunch.
Shul wise, it was a wonderful yomtov – we had a bris on Shemini Atzeres, (and another one on Isru Chag), and a great problem – not enough space: the men found it difficult to shuffle round for hoshanas, there were so many of them; the tea to honour the chassanim and neshei chayil was overflowing, and so was the Simchas Torah lunch. I particularly enjoyed the tea this year for the wide range of speeches – where else apart from our shul would you have the child honorees talking about the meaning of the shofar, the second day of Rosh Hashana in Israel, the kashrus of whisky and “L’Dovid Hashem Ori”, while the adults gave presentations on the life of Rashi, Jewish themed opera and Methodists??
Now back to real life – tomorrow a bris and a wedding, followed by making sheva brachos on Monday night, which I agreed to do without considering the logistics of a 3 day yomtov followed by a wedding and a work day…should be fun!