We are Bound as One


We are Bound as One

From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon

Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays. It’s part of the season called Z’man Simchatienu, the “Season of our Joy.” Sukkot is purposely joyful to follow Yom Kippur’s solemn mood. In Leviticus 23:40ff, we learn to spend time in a sukkah, take up the four species (etrog, palm, willow, and myrtle) and “rejoice before God.”  

Each of us is instructed to take up the four species and participate in the celebration. In their teaching, the rabbis help us see ourselves in the celebration, too. After all, the holiday isn’t about tree branches. It’s about celebrating our relationship with God. By way of an analogy, the rabbis equate Torah knowledge with edible fruit, namely, palm and etrog; and (mitzvah) good deeds with a sweet aroma, namely, myrtle and etrog. Only the willow branch has neither edible fruit nor sweet aroma. And, they taught, there are four kinds of people: those like the etrog, who have Torah knowledge and good deeds; the myrtle, with good deeds, but no Torah knowledge; the palm, with Torah knowledge, but no good deeds; and the willow, with no Torah knowledge and no good deeds.

At our best, we are like the etrog, with Torah knowledge and good deeds. And, yet, in the same way that we hold the four species in a cluster, we also bind ourselves to a community of people. The rabbis teach us that the Jewish people can never be destroyed as long as we’re bound together. The best among us may support those who have not yet found their way to Torah knowledge or even good deeds.  Weakness is balanced by strength; transgressions are balanced by good deeds. Together, we overcome and prosper.

When we live in a community and bind ourselves to others, we find the strength we need to overcome almost anything. In addition, our rabbis assure us that when we are part of the community, we can master our worst inclinations and derive benefit. Therefore, wholeness and goodness are possible. Repentance at this season is complete. Not alone, but in company with others, we find our strength and our blessing.

Sukkot, a seven-day Festival (Leviticus 23:39ff), began on Tuesday, September 21st, and will conclude with Simchat Torah/Yizkor (memorial service), Tuesday, September 28th at 10:30am in the Gordon Chapel and livestream. On Sunday, September 26th, we’ll celebrate Consecration with our youngest children who are beginning their formal Jewish education in Sunday’s Miriam Browning Jewish Learning Center or Shlenker School.

Which part of the lulav are you? Be like an Etrnog and share Torah knowledge and good deeds with everyone who’s touched by your life. At this season of our joy, Z’man Simchateinu, we wish you Mo’adim L’Simchah, Happy Holidays!

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