I stand by the window half-asleep, the brachos wafting in with the wind
"Maaaa! The tatties are taking their shoes off already! Are you coming?”
“Coming, coming, zeeskeit.” I wash my hands and stumble to the front window, where my daughter is sitting on the back of the couch by the open window.
Her hair is wild and her velour pajamas tell of a self-serve breakfast. Thankfully, it’s only yogurt.
“They’re giving us a brachah, right, Mommy?”
“Right. Shhhh. And you’re not supposed to look at them.” She closes her eyes for a brief moment before sticking her head out the window again.
“You’re giving us a brachah, right?” she hollers to the men below.
I’m teary but can’t quite place the déjà vu. I run my fingers through her messy hair and down her back. My tichel is askew and my thin cotton nightgown is doing nothing for the wind wafting in.
“And after the brachah is all finished, it’s gonna be time for everyone to get dressed, right Mommy?”
My voice is too husky to reply.
I’ve been receiving this awesome brachah every day for over a year now, from the minyan that’s become a fixture in the parking lot of my building, on behalf of an immunocompromised older neighbor living on the ground floor.
I behold and am beholden. Every single day.
“Leah, are you ready? Chany, what about you?”
I’m standing in front of the upstairs bathroom, maneuvering my hair over the part so it looks less oily. Chany’s chin is practically on my shoulder, as she vies for real estate in the mirror while she redoes the bobby pins in her own hair.
“I need a shower!” I moan.
“I need akeup. I eel sho ale,” she replies, a bobby pin between her teeth.
“Any of you guys have two safety pins? My jumper straps keep falling to the sides, and I just thought of pinning it from inside to my shell.” Mindy is at the bathroom door, looking pretty in her suede gray jumper. I toss her a stray safety pin from the miscellaneous drawer in the bathroom.
“Don’t have another one.”
“Girls! Please hurry up! Bircas Kohanim is in around a half hour! Girls?! What’s taking so long?”
“In a minute, Ma!” I call down.
“I’m not managing my hair!” Chany wails downward.
“Okay, I’m leaving in a minute, whether you girls are ready or not.”
Finally, three primped and pressed teenagers stomp down the steps. One is whining about her hair. One deliberates over her choice of outerwear. And the third discovers that her machzor is nowhere to be found.
My mother is dressed in a prim black dress with an off-white cashmere throw over her shoulders. Her sheitel is freshly set for Yom Tov. It’s a 20-minute walk and we get to shul in time for Bircas Kohanim. Just barely.
We wave to our friends and then the three of us go to stand together in the back of the shul to look around.
“You have the same shoes as Yaffa Hess.”
“I can’t believe it! Everybody will think they’re from Marshall’s if she has them.”
“Look at Mimi Jacobi’s puffy dress. She thinks she’s seven.”
“Puffy is coming in, I think. I also saw it on the Weinstein girl and they always wear things one season ahead of everyone else.”
“SHHHHH!” My mother looks rather annoyed and embarrassed.
Yitzi Schonfeld is licking a lollipop in his mother’s hands. The sticky lolly gets stuck to Mrs. Schonfeld’s sheitel and hangs off the side like an ill-placed sticker.
Mindy nudges Chany and me, and we cover our mouths, trying not to laugh.
Chany discreetly points to Elisheva Furst’s tights, where a run has sprung down the back. “I feel so baaaaad for her!” she mouths to me. I nod. Of all people, Elisheva Furst had to get a run on Yom Tov in shul? Poor thing.
I count how many girls are wearing the new velvet headband with the pearls. Only four, not as many as I expected. I’d wanted to get it but was nervous about matching half the shul. No one’s hair looks oily somehow. Everyone’s makeup seems like it’s still on, aside for mine. How do they do it?
From there it’s a couple of Kaddishes before davening is over and we can go out and chat with our friends.
On our way home from shul with Ta and the boys, Ma is upset with us.
“Aside for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we literally come three times a year for Bircas Kohanim. It’s such a special brachah. Why do I have to hear you girls talking straight through?”
I smooth down the pleats of my new skirt and say nothing. Chany stops to give her toes a break from her stiff new shoes. Mindy moves the clasp of her necklace to the back of her neck.
We all shrug and exchange guilty glances.
It’s 7:55 a.m. again. I should know the yekkish schedule by now.
“Ma? Are you coming?” I hear a window opening in the dining room.
“Where are they up to?”
“They’re taking off their shoes now. They’re getting ready to give us the special brachah.” I join her at the window.
“It’s called Bircas Kohanim.” I tell her. “And you need to be quiet when they say the brachah.”
She shrugs indifferently. “I’m gonna ask my morah today.”
Almost like a reflex, I say, “shhhh.”
“But I wasn’t talking anymore!”
A woman in a floral nightgown that’s missing a button and a pair of Birkenstock slippers with a preschooler in burgundy princess jimjams. Absolutely stunning. What else is in style, folks?
It makes no sense how I receive the gift of Bircas Kohanim every single day with no drumroll, like mail in the mailbox.
I cry and don’t know why. We hold hands, my child and I, and for the briefest of moments, close our eyes.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 735)
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