Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Disasters Known as My First 3 Day Holidays

This was my first year being Shabbat observant. My luck being what it is, this was also the year of the 3 Day Yontif.

Rosh HaShanah and both Shabbats around Sukkot had 3 days of Shabbat and Yom Tov prohibitions. This means Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of each of those three weeks (within 1 month!) could involve no school, no work, no studying, and minimal bathing. The High Holydays left me behind in school for weeks. "Holiday" definitely doesn't have quite the same meaning for orthodox Jews as it does for mainstream American society! Let's just say that it wasn't pretty, especially the first 3 day yom tov: No one bothered to tell me I could still wash my hair and portions of my body on yom tov (and with hot water, no less!). That's right. I didn't bathe for three days. I was moody and disgusting by the end. That was not a positive experience!

And it got worse! Yes, worse than being that disgusting. This year, I was the High Holyday Fire Alarm Curse. It began simply enough. My friend smartly thought to tell me about keeping a large candle lit during yom tov because you can transfer fire, though not create new fire. This way, you can still light Shabbat and Yom Tov candles once the yom tov starts. Sure enough, I came home from Rosh HaShanah services to the sweet sounds of my fire alarm going off. I have no idea how long it was going off or why no one had called the fire department. After much observation, I discovered that it had to be related to the candle, but I'm still impressed by the sensitivity of my fire alarm. Of course, you also can't extinguish a fire on yom tov or Shabbat, so I couldn't just blow the candle out since it didn't actually threaten to burn down my house. On the bright side, this resulted in my gross self not leaving the house for the rest of that first yom tov because I was afraid the candle would make the fire alarm go off again while I wasn't home. I certainly can't afford a $500 bill for an unnecessary fire department visit! But even better, it means that no one else got to experience the level of my grossness. I seriously wondered why anyone would be observant if it resulted in this.

I thought Yom Kippur would be better. It was, marginally. Of course, it was better simply because it was only one day and was already on Shabbat, meaning no tricky three day yom tov! However, being the fire alarm curse that I am, a child pulled the fire alarm at the beginning of the repetition of the amidah during shacharit. Being the available Shabbos goy, I was drafted into dealing with the alarm company and fire department. At the time, I was happy to be of service because I can still violate Shabbat, so no one else had to. Later, it did hurt to have yet another reminder of the long road ahead of me. I also missed most of the remainder of the service.

Take 3! The first two days of Sukkot! By this time, I knew I could wash myself, so I was not disgusting. You know, not any more disgusting than normal. This yom tov went pretty smoothly, but I opted to not have a candle this time because I was still afraid. Things seemed to be on the upswing.

The home stretch! I flew to NYC to spend the last 3 day yom tov (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah) with my good friend. On one hand, I was glad to have gotten a lot of mistakes out of the way at home so that I didn't seem too stupid in front of my friend. However, if I had visited her earlier, perhaps I never would have made the mistakes to begin with! But wait...what's that lingering in the shadows? Oh, yes, the fire alarm curse! A seemingly innocent food spill in the oven turned into the worst apartment fire alarm issue I've ever seen. It was so bad that we had to leave the apartment to let it air out! It was unfit for human occupation. I felt really bad for bringing my curse into my friend's home. I'm lucky she's amazing.

Thankfully, I survived, and I was more than thankful to see the end of the 3 day yontif!

Being the eternal optimist, it's going to be pretty hard for next year's High Holydays to be worse than this year's. But knowing my luck, it'll give me a run for my money.

Builds middos, right?


  1. Oh man, but the fire alarm at my house made an awesome story! It was totally my fault. I really should have investigated properly after I saw the first spill of margarine. At least we ate the hens on Shabbos and they were delicious, right?

    I am very lucky that I never did any yontiff by myself, only with Danny's family(and other families). Although I do remember at the first bar mitzvah I went to with Danny's family, the first weekend in NYC, Danny grabbed my challah roll to make motzi(for lechem mishna) and I totally didn't get it, yelled at him and tried to grab my challah roll back in the middle of his blessing because I thought he was stealing my roll. Oh, it's sometimes fun being a

  2. I came across this post while frantically researching how to survive a 3-day Yom Tov after the disaster of grossness that I was over Rosh Hashanah. Thank you very much for this witty and informative piece! Although I am alarmed that this was only a year ago as I was hoping a 3-day Yom Tov was a relatively rare occurrence. Looking it up it appears not. Oh well! At least I am prepared now unlike last week. Could I ask you to explain your basis for showers/washing being permitted as I was under the impression this was totally not allowed. (Not challenging you, just curious!) Anyway I hope you see this comment as this is quite an old post, but thanks very much for writing it, hugely beneficial for me and my ongoing halakha vs hygiene struggle.

    1. Originally posted: October 12, 2011 at 12:27 PM

      I hope you get this in time!