Dear little me:
You never will stop having fun on Hoshana Rabba when you klapp shanos, even when you grow up and so many minhagim and rituals which once seemed so magical lose their shine and glamour.
When you’re fifteen, when you’re nineteen, when you’re twenty-five – you’ll still feel that rush of joy when Mommy interrupts the frantic pre-second-days cooking and baking to ask “did you klapp shanos yet?” You’ll still feel that excitement when you leave the dishes in the kitchen, when you pluck the bundle of leaf-filled willow branches from the cut-glass vase on the dining room table where Tatty set it up in the morning. You’ll still feel victorious satisfaction as you go out onto the back porch and smack the leaves against the concrete five times.
You’ll still sneak a few more smacks in above the mandated five, because not all the leaves are off the branches yet, and because what the heck, it feels good. You’ll still try to hold the ends of the branches, just above the rubber band holding them together, in precisely the right way so that the bundle flies high as you pitch it onto the s’cach over the sukkah. (Despite your constant failures to land it any farther than the edge of the roof, don’t give up – it’s still so much fun.)
You never will actually understand why we do this, what the meaning of this practice is. And it’s not the kind of thing you learn in school – the end of Succos is too far away in the days when teachers are rushing to cram in information about Yom Kippur, after all. Over the years, you’ll come to associate it with tashlich (stripping yourself of aveiros as the branches become stripped of leaves), with vidui (klapping your guilt), with leaving the bad gezeiros behind…
Mommy will explain it to you a few times, but you’ll never quite get it. Something about the multiplicity of “shanos,” those tefilos for god to save us… But still, why the leaves? Why the smacking? Why throw the stripped branches on top of the sukkah? Whywhywhy?
But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what explanation anyone may give for this minhag. In a world and a life that will become increasingly stifling and suffocating and joyless, you will continue to take joy in the simple activity of smacking willow branches against concrete and watching the drab grayness become covered in dark green leaves.
Dear little me:
That matters too. That matters more.
…א גוטן קוויטל