House of Simchas

Simcha: a celebration

At my cousin’s Batmitzvah last weekend, my aunt referred to the house that we were all standing in, family and friends, as the “House of Simchas”.

It all seems to start with a grandparent. You’ve all been forced to visit your grandparents. The vivid, thick smell of chicken soup, the smell of mothballs and the Persian carpets. The dreaded memories of your grandmother force feeding you too much food, frozen veggies and lipstick all over her teeth.

Oh no. Not this one. My grandmother, Meril, is a vision and a fucking legend in the true sense of the word. Her flawlessness, her humbleness and her love. Her ability to make you feel loved, welcome and invincible. The smell of fresh roast veggies, wholesome gravy-ey chicken that brings up only good memories; only happy thoughts. Throwing my feet on the couch and listening to stories of the past, present and future. Jumping on my aunt’s stomach when she was nine months pregnant and celebrating birth, celebrating milestones, celebrating achievements, all under one roof. One collective.

45 Kloof Road is what has recently been dubbed the “house of simchas”. For a total of 52 years; forty-five has housed a whirlwind of simchas.

My aunt’s Batmitzvah, my mother’s Batmitzvah, my aunt’s 21st, both my mother’s and aunt’s engagements, my grandfather’s 50th, my sister’s 21st and my cousin’s Batmitzvah. This is of course the ones that were given specific names, it does not include weekly Friday night dinners, fifty years of consecutive high holiday dinners and birthday parties. And might I add that a few babies were definitely conceived under that roof.

Being a traditional Jew is a funny thing, we sit at the shabbos table on our cell phones (which is not allowed), singing songs we don’t understand, eating food that is not kosher at all and thinking we are the greatest Jews in the world. This is Judaism in South Africa for you. And although it might come across as totally ridiculous; I feel very spiritual while do it. We all gather together, eat together and laugh together. It’s something about the togetherness that makes it a special evening. It’s the tradition of those who came before us. My grandmother speaks of her shabbos dinner in Worchester more than fifty years ago, where a once vibrant Jewish community stood. My grandfather and his family gathered in Maitland more than eighty years ago and said the very prayer that we say, every Friday night. And before my great-grandfather escaped Poland, he too gathered every Friday night for an important and delicious shabbos meal.

So yes, things have definitely changed, we might not strictly stick to the rules, I might ditch a Friday night supper for a party. But, the tradition is still there. The family togetherness, the love, the prayer and challah is still sitting in the middle of the table while we all eat together. And it’s all under one roof, forty-five. A true house of simchas.



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