A Sunny Easter Sunday

April 12, 2009

The Easter Parade is a long-standing New York tradition. From 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, the city closes Fifth Avenue from 49th to 57th Streets so that New Yorkers wearing wacky hats can stroll along, pose and be admired. As always, the hats were colorful and creative, the photographers were plentiful and, after a week of rain, the sunny day ensured that spirits were high.

Azalea bush girl

Man in flower pot hat

Eggs perched on the brim

Girl with a hot dog

Girls in bunny ears

Sunflower with a view

A hat topped with fresh tulips

Vintage pillbox hat

The Brooklyn Bridge made of MetroCards

Fluttering butterflies

Overturned Easter basket as a hat

A real, live bunny

Dog in bunny ears

The World is Safe for Another Year

April 11, 2009

Long before the invention of Freecycle, Kijiji, Bookcrossing and Craigslist, Brooklynites created a way to pass useful but unwanted possessions along to those who desired them. The Brooklyn system is simple, direct and low-tech: just place the goods on a stoop where passersby can help themselves to your castoffs. Something left at the curb is likely to be trash, but an item sitting on the stoop in  Brooklyn is nearly always a treasure waiting to be discovered.

This morning I was hurrying through a cold, pouring rainstorm when I noticed a small cardboard carton growing soggy on a brownstone stoop. The top of the box was open and I couldn’t resist peeking inside, where, to my surprise, I saw a colorfully painted wooden egg.

I picked it up and realized that the box, more than half-filled with water, contained a typical assortment of items left out for passersby to claim — broken crockery, the top of a tea pot, a crude, clumsy clay vase, a rusted tin box. But jumbled in and among the dented and cracked castoffs I spotted more painted wooden items. It was raining too hard to look closely, so I just grabbed them all from the box and took them with me.

Hours later I got home, inspected my haul and I realized that I’d snagged six painted eggs, six egg cups painted with strawberries, and a matching tray on which to display them. A bit of googling helped me identify the jewel-toned wooden items as works of Malyovanky, a variation on Psyanka, the traditional Ukranian craft of decorating eggs. According to Wikipedia, residents of the Carpathian Mountains believe that the fate of the entire world depends upon such eggs.

As long as the egg decorating custom continues, the world will exist. If, for any reason, this custom is abandoned, evil––in the shape of a horrible serpent who is forever chained to a cliff–– will overrun the world. Each year the serpent sends out his minions to see how many pysanky have been created. If the number is low the serpent’s chains are loosened and he is free to wander the earth causing havoc and destruction. If, on the other hand, the number of pysanky has increased, the chains are tightened and good triumphs over evil for yet another year.

And so it was that, the day before Easter, I participated in a serendipitous Easter egg hunt, and — by saving the eggs from a watery fate — have helped ensure that the world will continue to exist for another year. Whew.

Black egg

Red egg

Blue egg

Tan egg

Green egg

Tray painted with strawberries

Strawberry painted egg cup

The full set.

Wikipedia: Pysanky and Malyovanky
Suma Store: Pysanka

Birkat Hachamah: Blessing the Sun

April 8, 2009

God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night . . . And it was evening and it was morning, a fourth day.
—Genesis 1:16, 19

One who sees the sun at its turning point should say, “Blessed is He who reenacts the works of Creation.” And when is this? Abaya said: every 28th year.
—Talmud, Tractate Berachot 59b

It happens once in a generation: The moment when, according to Talmudic tradition, the sun returns to the same position, at the same time and day, that it appeared at the beginning of all creation. Observant Jews mark the occasion, which occurs every 28 years, with a special blessing called Birkat Hachamah, the sun blessing.

Today, Birkat Hachamah ceremonies large and small were held around the world. This one, organized by Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin of Congregation Bnai Avraham and Chabad of Brooklyn Heights, took place on the steps of Borough Hall.

The crowd began to gather early

Copies of the blessing were distributed

Children read aloud

A brother and sister reading

This kid reminds me of Kenny from South Park

This girl wasn’t camera-shy

The wind blew, but she didn’t lose her place

Among those reciting the blessing was Borough President Marty Markowitz (right)

After the blessing, singing …

.. and dancing

The women danced together

The men formed a circle

Friends laughed together

The rabbi kicked up his heels

Congregation Bnai Avraham
Chabad of Brooklyn Heights
Birkat HaChamah, The Blessing of the Sun, 2009
NY Times: For Jews, Another 28 Years, Another Blessing of the Sun
Bless The Sun
Chabad: Thank G-d for the Sun
Kenny from South Park

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