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Whatever your Jewish educational background, from beginner to advanced, whether you can read Hebrew or not, these services will be accessible to all, with soaring music and prayers, meaningful commentary and a warm sense of community. You will leave infused with the spirit of the Shabbat and Holidays.
Thoughts on Sukkot
In addition to sitting, eating (and if you can, sleeping) in the sukkah, we are commanded to use four species- the lulav--a closed frond from a date palm tree, the hadass- myrtle, aravah-willow and the etrog-citron. We bind the aravah and hadass to the lulav and then we hold it together with the etrog. We make the bracha and we wave it in four directions, up and down as a symbol of Hashem's dominion over the whole earth.
The kabbalists connected each species to an aspect of our bodies--the lulav recalls our spine, the hadass reminds us of our eyes, the aravah, our lips and the etrog represents our hearts.
The Midrash (Vayikrah Rabbah 30:12) looks at the lulav and etrog as a metaphor for our lives and community. Just like the citron-etrog has taste and has smell, so too Israel has among them people that have Torah and have good deeds.
"The branches of a date palm" - lulav-these are [referring to] Israel. Just like this date, which has taste and has no smell, so too Israel has among them those that have Torah but do not have good deeds.
"And a branch of a braided tree -a myrtle" -hadass- these are [referring to] Israel. Just like this myrtle, which has smell and has no taste, so too Israel has among them those that have good deeds but do not have Torah.
"And brook willows" - the aravah- these are [referring to] Israel. Just like this willow, which has no smell and has no taste, so too Israel has among them people that have no Torah and have no good deeds.
And what does the Holy One, blessed be G d, do to them? To destroy them is impossible, but rather the Holy One, blessed be G d, said "bind them all together [into] one grouping and these will atone for those.
This midrash is a reminder that despite our differences and even at times our failings, we all are bound together and need to be there for each other. As we sadly know and may personally experience, our Jewish community is often so fractured that using the lulav and etrog should "shake us up" into figuring out how we can create more unity within our community.
Click here for the relevant brachot for the holiday as well as the texts welcoming Ushipizin and Ushpizot.