This is decadence: golden forkfuls of custardy bread pudding with chocolate chips and a tart glass of Shiraz. The bread pudding is an artifact of the Jewish holiday season that was, made with Zadie's challah. Zadie's produces the greatest baked kosher food in creation, specifically their pull-apart challah which is eggy and dense and sweet. I just learned that my cousin's son, Eric, moved to an apartment down the block from Zadie's Bakery in Fair Lawn, NJ. I had no idea that there was an actual retail outlet where these amazing baked items could be procured fresh from the oven. I just assumed there was a factory, an assembly line, something tucked away off a highway somewhere. The fact of a neighborhood shop is uplifting news, a hopeful sign in an Occupy Wall Street world.
After a seemingly interminable stretch, the Jewish holidays are finally at an end, having departed at 6:51 p.m. We are now in that longed-for period called Acharei Ha-Chagim -- literally "After the Holidays." While the whole megillah began on the eve of September 28th, with Rosh Hashana, I am already nostalgic for them, especially after this final stretch of Simchat Torah/Shabbat.
Between the mosh-pit-like madness of BJ (Bnai Jeshurun) on Thursday night, with its hour-long wait to get in and sweaty, joyous dancing/davening/Torah reading/socializing, my subsequent wanderings afterwards (which landed me at a party at a posh highrise on Columbus Avenue where scores of drunken twenty and thirty-somethings lolled around on the furniture)...and the following day's transcendentally spiritual Occupy Wall Street Simchat Torah celebration, I feel uplifted and armed for whatever life throws my way.
While they were here, there was a sense that the Jewish holidays were an alien spaceship that had invaded Earth, taking observant Jews hostage. "Omigod!" we kvetched loudly to each other. "It's just too much! It's impossible to get work done! It's so fattening! I'm spending so much money on food! I don't know what day of the week it is anymore!"
Within the cocoon of the chagim, we rolled from Rosh Hashana to the surprising ease of Yom Kippur to Sukkot to this last mishmash of Hoshana Raba/Shemini Azeret/Simchat Torah, which was of course accompanied by Shabbat...as all the days of observance were this year, creating the Triple Whammy effect (see my previous writings about Triple Whammies).
We said we felt trapped and removed from the outside world...and we were, to a certain degree. We complained we were cut off from real life, shuttling between home and the synagogue. For those of us who eschew computers, televisions or other modes of communication during these days, we found ourselves in a news blackout. For those of us who shun work and the marketplace, we found ourselves in an office and store-free world; there were numerous days we left home without Metrocards, credit cards, cash, iPod, laptop or mobile devices of any kind.
It felt like a prison of sorts or at least a holding cell and we said we longed for the moment we would regain our access to the real world. My Friday afternoon excursion down to the Simchat Torah celebration across from Zuccotti Park bridged the divide between the insular holiday observance and the world-at-large, enabling me to observe the holiday while also being at the epicenter of a huge global news story and social happening.
And now, the holiday-free zone has arrived. HOBB is sleeping. Middle Babe is at her best friend's party and Little Babe has just gone to bed, having shown me some rare Red Hot Chili Pepper concert clips from Off the Map. I sit at my dining room table with an wine-stained goblet. The bowl that recently held my Zadie's challah bread pudding is empty but the taste of custard lingers in my mouth. I long for the precious period that has just ended because I just remembered that real life is vastly overrated.