Voices from the field

Preserving the Teachings of My Bubby: Sukkot

By Brett Kopin

Brett Kopin edited a volume in Jewish education for early childhood written by his Bubby, Marvell Ginsburg. This is the third post from Brett about his memory of her teachings.

In the section about Sukkot, my Bubby describes ways to discuss the sensory aspect of Sukkot, and the changing of the seasons:

“Do we find different fruits in the store during summer? Winter? If things don’t grow when there is snow on the ground, how do we have oranges and other produce in the stores in winter?"

This passage and this time of year – as we mark the change in season with the rituals of Sukkot – always reminds me of the story of my Bubby and her orange tree.

A few years ago my parents bought an apartment in Jerusalem. For my Bubby especially, the purchase was an overwhelming reality – a realization of a dream to return to Jerusalem, so vivid in her imagination, and in those of previous generations. As a housewarming gift, my Bubby wanted to provide something suitable to the occasion. 

“I want to give you a special gift – not just a mundane pot or pan, but something really special.” It should reflect some aspect of Israel.” After much thought and discussion we agreed on an orange tree. What could be more in keeping with Israel than planting a tree? Since we all loved to eat sweet, juicy oranges, especially on a hot day, that seemed to be the perfect gift. It will be so wonderful to walk out the door, pick an orange off the tree, and eat it while sitting in its shade.

My mom was in Jerusalem when Bubby passed away. Before flying back to Chicago, she went to the garden, and, lo and behold, the tree - which until then had stuggled to adapt to the climate - had grown a little orange! She plucked it off the branch and put it in her suitcase.

A few days later, standing at Bubby’s graveside in an early January snowfall, my mom took out the orange and told the story of Bubby’s orange tree. She then placed it in the ground. It was a tiny piece of fruit, the first from its tree, and it added a spark of color to an overwhelmingly white and barren landscape. That stark depiction of the difference between seasons charachterized my Bubby's teachings.

We were all glad that Bubby got the first fruit from her tree in Jerusalem, and just in time.

Chag Sameach, Bubby.

For other posts in this series, please see:

  1. Stamped With Her Voice: Preserving the Teachings of My Bubby
  2. Preserving the Teachings of My Bubby: Shabbat