Thank G-d, this year we had an improvement in weather over the last three ones, the first rainy night non-withstanding (another hint?)
Personally, I had a very enjoyable Holiday, highlights of which include:
A very enjoyable first meal with great friends, where I met another couple who, of course, knew my sister. It's amazing, but usually when I introduce myself as "Sally's sister", it works about ninety five percent of the time, and everyone knows what I am talking about and immediately claims to see the resemblance. We started an evening with champagne, which turned out to be a little mistake, as overtired ladies became slightly sleepy, but it did not really diminish our enjoyment at all. Aside from great food, there was a great conversation and a lot of jokes. Plus, ladies got a chance to entertain themselves by observing the gentlemen, who, after being politely begged not to discuss politics, switched to wine and steaks, which they discussed with great enthusiasm for about an hour; after which they switched to matters concerning human anatomy and physiology.
First morning brought a chance for an extra bonding experience with Mini Not Me. I came in early (for a Yom Tov) to assist the beloved sibling in taking her beloved progeny for Birkat Kohanim. Mini Me was not in the best of moods; and finally I was dispatched to the place of worship with Mini Not Me (in case they would actually do everything according to schedule). Sure enough, beloved nephew and yours truly walked in just as Kohanim were saying "Baruch Ata..". We made it by the skins of our teeth. In the absence of the older sister, Fluffy behaved admirably, and answered "Amen" very sweetly (and when he was supposed to). On the way back we took a little detour in order to walk around our glorious neighborhood and look at the "beautiful flowers". It was also an opportunity for Mini Me to have a little bonding time with Mommy (who was obliged to take her to a different place of worship).
Then it was a great lunch with different friends. The food was also fantastic, and the company delightful and blessedly devoid of annoying people. Plus, LPC was there, and we were very glad to see one another. The general conversation was very pleasant in general due to the above mentioned absence of idiots.
The rest of the meals were spent with family and accompanied by usual family scene.
The recurring amusement of the hour was connected to my shoes. In case I did not mention it before, I am an epicurean when it comes to clothes and shoes, as in they need to be comfortable first and foremost; all the other considerations come after. In lieu of this, I usually wear flip-flops for about eight months out of twelve. High degree of comfort is paramount when purchase is contemplated. Price usually comes as a second consideration - necessary evil. Cuteness comes third (but still important). So, thanks to e-bay, I was in possession of a very comfortable and extremely cute pair of Vera Wang flip-flops (and I swear, the fact that they were Vera Wang had nothing to do with my acquisition). They looked quite ordinary if not for one important detail: they were decorated with fair imitation of the De Beers diamond. The amount of stares I got! Apparently, not only is it pass nicht to wear flip-flops in the Heilige Flatbush, those jewels basically slaughtered everyone I have encountered on the streets.
And, just to add additional excitement to the Holiday, George went after my Shavout bouquets - poor kitty was nutritionally deprived and decided to supplement his diet with fresh vegetation.
On the serious and sober note, I kept thinking about true meaning of this Holiday, how we perceive it, and there are we really on the spiritual level. That thought actually entered my mind few days before; it was supplanted for a little while with the usual excitement and a sense of peace that always comes with finishing all the preparations and lighting the candles; but then it came back. We are chosen by The Creator for a very special and unique mission; and on Shavout we re-experience the time when we were given "tools" to fulfill that mission. But where are we today?
Most of our brothers and sisters are non-observant; moreover, have little desire or inclination of even exploring the rich and unique treasures for observance and preservation of which their ancestors were brutally slaughtered by tyrants and angry mobs again and again. Our communities are full of, not to put too fine a point on it, shettel mentality. The situation in Israel brings tears whenever you try to dwell on it, and most of it is the result of Jewish actions, not our enemies’. Our religious educational system is thoroughly corrupt and rotten to the core; and the latest pedophile scandals are just one of the bitter examples. Our youngsters, imitating their arrogant, uneducated, and narrow-minded parents, themselves are narrow-minded, uneducated, and full of chutzpah. There are way too many single people and way too many divorces - and this time, you cannot blame feminists for it; the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the so-called community leaders, who turned a seemingly natural process into a circus of monumental proportions. There is constant strife between different religious factions other the matters of absolutely supreme importance - like who wears a hat and how. The communities and individuals who are supposed to educate and lead the next generations to Torah are, again to put it mildly, not up to the task. And, the most painful of all, we are plagued by the curse that landed us in this exile to begin with - there is too much baseless hatred. Maybe we are supposed to fall to the 49th level of tumah again, like we did in Egypt, before the ultimate redemption comes? May Our Heavenly Father show us the way! L'Shana Ha'Baa be Yerushalaim!