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My comments on Sukkoth
We speak of the lulav and etrog as the quintessential symbols of Sukkoth in the Torah (along with the sukkah building!) I will review some of their symbolism. Some of these may sound familiar, but I am hoping you learn at least one theory that is new.
A Midrash tells that the lulav and etrog remind us of the features of the human body, which we must consecrate to God, The lulav is the spine, with its myrtle shaped like the eyes and the willow shaped like the lips. The etrog is shaped like the heart and so it reminds us, in shaking, that we must stir ourselves in heart, eye, and lips to see the wonder and miracles of God, and we must stand straight and proud in our Judaism.
Another Midrash, which I always find confusing, reminds us of each item having or not having fragrance and taste. Fragrance stands for good deeds and taste stands for study. The palm has taste but no scent, the myrtle has fragrance but no fruit, the willow has neither and etrog has both. Thus, these are the four different kinds of Jews–the scholar with few deeds, the doer with little study, the nebbish Jew with neither learning nor deeds, and the person with both learning and good deeds. On Sukkoth, when we bring all these species together as one, we band all Jews together to meld together one another’s strengths.
The Sfat Emet, a Hasidic commentator, tells us that there are masculine and feminine sides of God in the symbolism of these objects. The lulav represents the male and the etrog, the breast– the female side of God! When we shake it 18 times we are enlivening the sacred union between masculine and feminine aspects in God and restoring the proper balance of justice and mercy... Now I bet you didn't know that one!
Here’s another one: Each object represents a letter in the name of God. The etrog is the yud, the lulav is the vav, the willow one heh (think of the two branches bending) and the myrtle, another heh (three branches bending but the last one is a period). Thus, we are grasping and attaching ourselves to the name of God.
Finally, Adam and Eve also held a lulav and etrog, but for all the wrong reasons. The sin they committed with the tree of knowledge was none other than the etrog tree! After Yom Kippur, every Jew has five days in which sin is not accounted of us in the new year. Each free day is allotted for a service, with five services counted from Yom Kippur. But on the sixth day, Sukkoth, we become accountable again. What better way to come before God with same fruit Eve and Adam sinned with, but this time to consecrate the branch and fruit in a mitzvah before God at Sukkoth.
When we absorb all of these associations we understand it as the refinement of two things. On one hand, the refinement in the God head itself. The other is the refinement of the soul within us. I am not big on how we can influence and control the God Head. But I am hopeful that we will internalize those interpretations that advise we refine our heart, mind, lips and eyes; that we try to balance both learning and good deeds, and that we aggressively take on the 'evil inclination' of the snake within us to become better people.
Come on out to shake the lulav and etrog this year! Shake yourselves up! May the lulav and etrog stir us and awaken us to these challenges and let us say: Amen
B'EZRAT HASHEM–WITH G-D'S HELP
As the High Holiday season quickly approaches, the ENJC is extremely active preparing for this holy and meaningful time in the year as we welcome Rosh Hashanah and our Jewish New Year.
Many Jewish people, especially those who are somewhat more traditional, will often use the two Hebrew words above in the course of a conversation. For example, if one is making dinner arrangements with a friend, arranging the time and place, they will say, "I will meet you, B'ezrat Hashem at..." Thus, these arrangements will be fine "with G-d's help." The obvious intent of mentioning these words is the fact that our lives do actually revolve and evolve based upon G-d's wishes. This is most certainly reiterated in our High Holiday lithurgy and prayers as well. We, as G-d's chosen people, beg and ask G-d for a New Year filled with only s'machot–celebration, good health and prosperity for all.
Rabbi David Goldwasser, a very traditional and modern halachik commentator, offers an understanding of these words. In good and unfortunately challenging times in our lives, we always have to remember that it is imperative to keep in mind that we must remain steadfast in our Jewish beliefs, customs, the Torah and Jewish traditions, and that by so doing, our lives will be enriched and we will have the capacity to meet all challenges along the way, and certainly enjoy all of our celebrations as well.
With this idea in mind, let me extend to the entire congregation the following High Holiday greeting this year–
B'EZRAT HASHEM, LET'S ALL HOPE AND PRAY FOR A NEW YEAR FILLED WITH SWEETNESS, HEALTH, HAPPINESS AND PROSPERITY!
SHANA TOVA OOK'TOOKA TO ALL! Read More
Below is Frank's Yom Kippur Appeal:
I was recently out for dinner with friends and we all ordered drinks. After the toast I said, “Good Health- that is what is really important.” Then I turned to Meryl, my wife, and said, “I have become my mother.” That is what my mother always says. Mom is 89.
I have learned, in the last 6 months, between dealing my in-laws' health issues, Chazzan’s battle with his illness, and not being able to attend services on the second day of Rosh Hashana myself, that a wish for a “HEALTHY NEW YEAR’ is most important.
When I realized that I was not going to be able to atttend services, I was at first, concerned, but quickly realized that I shouldn't worry–“Team ENJC” would handle things. As a team, we ar able to accomplish anything. We all miss listening and singing along with Chazzan Nussbaum, but fortunately the team was able to have Chazzan Epstein join us and lead our services this year.
I am glad that Chazzan Nussbaum and his family are with us and looking forward to a full recovery and leading us next year. As my mother says, “Good Health – that is our New Years wish.”
The health of the East Northport Jewish Center has never been better ! We have, 20 new members this year, after 17 last year- THANK YOU for choosing ENJC. This is truly an incredible fact, when all you read about is decling membership in Conservative synagogues, especially in Suffolk County.
I say – Thank You Team ENJC
Prior to my involvement in synagogue life, I coached youth baseball, soccer and basketball as well as a Men’s softball team. In my business, we have a sales rep team of 25 strong. In all that I am involved with, there must be a team effort. WE, at the ENJC, have a winning team of talented individuals. It is a pleasure to work with this amazing group of intelligent people. I know that there are more talented members with skills that we can tap. Please get involved– our team can always use more players.