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Two Minutes of Torah: Sukkot Special

Most of our Jewish festivals have some symbols that we associate with them.  On Sukkot, in many ways, we actually have five.  On the one hand, we have the Sukkah, the temporary dwelling place that we build, reside in, and eat our meals in during the festival; but then we also have the Lulav and Etrog, really the arba'a minim - the four species, which are necessary for the performance of various Mitzvot associated with Sukkot. 

The arba'a minim which consists of the Etrog, the Palm (lulav), the Myrtle (hadas) and the Willow (arava) are shaken around ourselves on each day of the Festival.  It is the part of the festival that always seems to engage the young people as they have the opportunity to shake the Lulav and Etrog in all different directions. 

There are many interpretations of the symbolism of these four species.  Some associate them with parts of the body, others with the elements, but my personal favorite is the one which associates them with different members of the community of Israel. 

The Etrog, the Lulav, the Myrtle and the Willow  are divided by some according to taste and smell.  In this way the Etrog has taste and smell, the Lulav has taste, but no smell, the Myrtle has smell but no taste and the Willow has neither taste nor smell.  This is associated and said to represent, Jews and our wisdom and our good deeds.  Some Jews have wisdom and good deeds, some Jews have wisdom but no good deeds, others have good deeds but no wisdom and some Jews have neither wisdom nor good deeds.

But, to perform the Mitzvah of the Lulav and the Etrog, we have to take all four species together and shake them.  Without each one of these four species the Mitzvah is incomplete.  And, so too, it is with our Jewish community. We all bring various levels of wisdom and good deeds but we are all necessary for the Jewish community to be complete.  From the wisest and the most  righteous to the least wise and the least righteous.  Each one of us needs to be present and involved and engaged for the Jewish people to flourish.

Sukkot, coming on the heels of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippurm can sometimes feel like the poor relation.  The synagogue is packed over the High Holy Days and then there is an inevitable, and unfortunate, drop off into Sukkot.  And, yet, Sukkot is such a joyful festival filled with so much celebration that I often feel that those people who come for just Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur really miss out in not joining us to celebrate on Sukkot and as the arba'a minim, the four species remind us we need everyone to be present.

This Sukkot may we open the doors of our Sukkah to welcome all Jews in, whether they are like us or different so that we as a community can be complete

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
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