Moadim L'Simcha - A Joyous Holiday!

There are many mitzvoth and customs associated with the Festival of Sukkot. We are taught in the Torah to build and dwell in the Sukkah, and we are also commanded to gather together the four species, our lulav and etrog. The Torah tells us why we are to dwell in the Sukkah and its symbolism; however the Torah never tells us why we are to gather the lulav and etrog, what they are about, or what to do with them. This became prime material for our rabbis and sages, and they taught many insightful lessons on the meaning of the lulav and etrog. I'd like to share with you one that I learned, (and teach), that I find particularly meaningful. Several classic midrashim compare the lulav and etrog to different parts of our body. The lulav, composed of the palm, myrtle and willow, represents our spine, eyes and mouth. The palm is a symbol of our spine. It reminds us to stand tall for our ideals, dreams and values; to stand up for what we believe in, for what is good and just and right. The myrtle is a symbol of our eyes. It is a reminder to see the beauty of our world, and the many blessings that surround us. But it is also a reminder that when we see a person in need, and a world in need of repair and transformation, we must not turn away. Standing tall and seeing, however, are not enough. The willow represents our mouths, our lips. It reminds us to always speak words of love, kindness, beauty and blessing. But we also need to remember to speak up when others need us, and to speak for those who have no voice, for those whose voice and cry have been ignored, or for those whose voice cannot be heard. We must speak for justice and hope. Our final symbol is the etrog. It has a delicious fragrance and represents our heart. The etrog is an interesting citron. Left outside, (or hidden in your refrigerator long enough), it does not rot; it becomes hard like a rock, it petrifies. If we do not stand tall, see those in need and speak on their behalf, if we do not engage in acts of Tikkun, our hearts are in danger of becoming hard like the etrog. May we be blessed in this New Year, through our work, to bring our world one moment closer to redemption. Moadim L'simcha!