Three Lessons of Sukkot

1) We shake the lulav and etrog in all directions when we enter the sukkah. As a Hebrew school student, I learned that this is because God is in all directions, and God's blessings are everywhere. We can feel God's blessing in every area of our lives. This is true, and a great lesson. But I like to think that another reason we shake the four species in every direction is to remind us that each of us can radiate blessing and goodness in every area of our lives. We don't have to wait for God to give it to us. We can give it to the world.

2) In a Sukkah, you have to be able to look up at the stars. This means that the roof is porous, and we feel the elements, which this week has been rain, rain and rain. But that's the point - we are meant to build something that is safe, but not so safe that it prevents us from seeing (and feeling) outside. There is a difference between safety and comfort. We are meant to be safe, but Sukkot reminds us that we are not supposed to be so comfortable that we don't feel the elements, that we don't hear the cries of the pained, that we don't respond to the call for justice.

3) There are four species that we put together and shake when we dwell in the Sukkah - the myrtle, the willow, the etrog, and the lulav. The Kabbalists say that the four species of the Lulav represent four different types of Jews:

The Esrog has a good taste and a good fragrance. It represents a person with both wisdom (Torah learning) and good deeds.

The Hadas (myrtle) has a good fragrance, but is inedible. It represents a person who has good deeds, but lacks wisdom.

The Lulav (date palm) is edible, but has no smell. This represents the person with wisdom, but without good deeds.

The Aravah (willow) has neither taste nor smell. It represents a person with neither good deeds nor Torah learning.

Sukkot reminds us that each of the four species is a vital part of blessing and holiness. Just as Passover teaches us about the four sons, we see here that each of the four blessings is a crucial part of the whole.

This is the last lesson - each of us is an invaluable part of a larger community. I hope that this holiday of Sukkot inspires us to continue to radiate our blessings in every possible direction.

In a Place Where There is No Man, Become One (Noah)

We are the Ever-Dying People (5776)