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Aleph is for Ashamnu, Bet is for Bagadnu

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It was early morning on Sesame Street, pink fading to blue as morning's full light came a little later with each autumn day. Luis swept leaves from the sidewalk in front of the Fix-It Shop, while through the shop's windows Big Bird could see Maria opening up the register for the day. A solitary man walked down Sesame Street, his back to Big Bird.

"Hello, Mr. Louper," Big Bird called, rushing down the street toward the retreating figure. "Good morning!"

Mr. Louper turned in the street, a slow smile spreading across his face as Big Bird approached. "Good morning, Big Bird," he said. "What can I do you for?"

"You said if I came by in the mornings we could have breakfast together," Big Bird reminded him. "It's hard to wake up as early as you do, and Maria does, and Luis does! But today I did, and I brought my breakfast." Big Bird held up the brown paper sack of birdseed proudly and leaned forward to whisper conspiratorially. "I made it myself."

Mr. Louper studied Big Bird over the top of his glasses. "I did say that, Big Bird," he said. "And that is a promise I look forward to keeping. But --" he held up one finger as Big Bird stepped forward. "Not today, I'm afraid."

"Aww, how come?" asked Big Bird. "Are you busy?"

"I am indeed, Big Bird."

Big Bird tilted his head, confused. "But it's morning. Shouldn't you be at the store, opening up for the day? People need to buy things!"

"Most mornings, that's true," said Mr. Yooper. "But today I am not opening the store."

Big Bird looked over at the darkened windows of Hooper's Store. "That's true! The store isn't open."

"No, it is not," Mr. Yooper said. He pointed to the sign clothespinned to the door. "See this sign?"

Big Bird leaned forward and studied the red paper visible through the glass. C-L-O-S-E-D. "It says closed," he pronounced carefully, spelling out the letters.

"Right. That's because today, Hooper's Store is closed. Now if you'll excuse me --" he said, turning away.

"Wait!" Big Bird called out. "Why is Hooper's Store closed instead of open? And..." Big Bird trailed off, unsure. "You're dressed a little funny today."

"Am I?" Mr. Yooper held out both his arms and looked down. Instead of wearing a cap or a coverall, he was wearing a white suit: white shirt, white pants, white jacket. At least his white bow tie was normal.

Big Bird lowered his voice to a whisper. "Did you know your hat is very small?"

Mr. Yooper smiled, and patted his embroidered white skullcap. "I suppose it is, Big Bird. Well, I'll tell you: I'm going to synagogue for the Jewish holiday. That's why the store isn't open, and why I can't have breakfast with you this morning."

"Oh boy!" Big Bird perked up for the first time since Mr. Yooper said he couldn't have breakfast that morning. "Is it a holiday? Can I come? I love holidays! What kind of holiday? Do we get to hide eggs or eat fruitcake or dress up in costumes and share candy? Gollee, holidays are my favorite time of year!"

"Big Bird, Big Bird, Big Bird," said Mr. Yooper, holding out his hands in front of him. "It's not that kind of holiday, I'm afraid. This is a holiday where we don't eat any food at all."

"Not any food?"

"Not a bite."

"Not even birdseed?"

Mr. Yooper shook his head solemnly. "Not even birdseed."

"Wow," Big Bird said, shaking his head. "What do we do on this holiday, then?"

"This is a very serious day," Mr. Yooper said. "We find everyone we have wronged during the year and ask them to forgive us, and try to figure out how we are going to do better next year. Speaking of which --" He looked suddenly nervous, reaching up to fiddle awkwardly with his glasses. "Sometimes, Big Bird, well." He coughed a little. "Sometimes I can be a little bit gruff. Maybe even grumpy. I want you to know I'm very sorry for all the times I've been cranky when you were just being friendly, and I sincerely hope you can forgive me."

Big Bird opened his beak, shocked. "You don't need to apologize to me, Mr. Yooper!"

"That's very nice of you to say, even though I think I do."

"This seems like a very important holiday," said Big Bird. "I don't know what I might have done to make you sad ever, but I hope you forgive me as well, Mr. Pooper."

Mr. Pooper's face twisted into a funny shape, but he reached out his hand and patted Big Bird on one arm. "I do, Big Bird. And that was very nicely done."

"Can I come with to your synagogue this morning? So I can learn more about this holiday that has no food and no costumes?"

Mr. Pooper tilted his head to one side, considering. "I suppose you can," he said. "Here." He reached into a little square bag made of white velvet that he had tucked into his jacket. He opened the bag and pulled out a circle of fabric. "You'll need one of these," he said, and handed Big Bird ... a hat?

"Do I get to wear a fancy hat of my own? Gosh!" Big Bird couldn't help admiring the cap, which was painted with a cow and a house and a camel, each with a funny-looking letter over it -- not letters Big Bird had seen before! He did not know there were letters he'd never seen. He would have to ask Susan later; she was good at letters.

A fancy hat with fancy letters. Gee, whiz. He carefully raised the cap and placed it on his head.

"That looks very nice, Big Bird," said Mr. Pooper. He half turned, and called down the street, "Oscar! We're on our way to services. Are you ready?"

Oscar's trashcan popped open, and Oscar peered out, a raggedy skullcap on his head. "Aw, already? Man, this holiday stinks."