Shake Shake Shake!

Sukkot is without a doubt my favorite holiday. Having spent 8 amazing years living in Jerusalem, and seeing the Sukkahs everywhere and Jews of all stripes shaking Lulav and Etrog, the holiday definitely left its mark on me. It is ironic to me that so much of the unity I observed in its observance actually finds its roots in the 4 species themselves – the Lulav (palm frond), the Etrog (citron), the Hadas (myrtle) and the Aravot (willow) together represent both the parts of the body which we are hoping to unify in our service of Hashem, as well as the types of people we have in this world.

Notice how the Lulav stands upright much like a spine, the Etrog is the same size as a human heart, the Hadas leaves representing the eyes, and the Aravot taking the shape of our lips. While one shakes the 4 species he is declaring, “Creator of the Universe, I seek to worship you with my entire self. I want to stand upright in my dealings with others, to put all of my heart into my faith, to make sure my eyes see only pure things, and my mouth not utter a word of gossip.”

We are at our finest when we invest our entire selves into any given task and that includes expressing our Judaism. Sukkot teaches us the necessity of taking all of our gifts and strengths and applying them towards our quest to become better people and better Jews.

What’s this got to do with unity?

Notice how the Lulav produces fruit that has taste, yet no smell. The Hadas has a wonderful smell yet no taste. The Etrog has both a fragrant essence and a delicious taste. The willow has none of these two qualities. The four species correspond to the four types of people in this world.

There are those with wisdom, and those with kindness. Those with both and those with neither. On Sukkot we put the labels aside and shake all 4 species in a statement to Hashem letting Him know that we are united in our service to Him and attempting to unite to the best of our abilities. The greatest comfort for a parent is seeing his/her children getting along and protecting each other.

Our parents on Earth feel this way, and so does our Parent above. Wishing all of you a Chag Sameach!

About the Author
Rabbi Johnny grew up in Toronto, Canada in a French Sephardic family, the eldest of six boys. The schooling system and community prompted him and his family to take on greater Jewish observance, eventually leading Rabbi Johnny to enroll in a full-time Yeshiva in Jerusalem known as Kol Torah. In 2010, after studying in the Yeshiva for 5 years, Rabbi Johnny married Devorah Lugassy, also from Toronto, after which the couple decided to move back to Israel and invest the first few years of their married life into Jewish learning and education. Upon culminating an intensive 3 years of Rabbinical study at the Jerusalem Kollel led by Rabbi Yitzchak Berkovits, Rabbi Johnny received his Rabbinic ordination and was offered a job in Houston, Texas to serve as Assistant Rabbi for Congregation Beth Rambam, and Director of Young Professional Outreach for TORCH. After 5 and a half years at TORCH, Rabbi Johnny transitioned into a full-time marketing and outreach position with Congregation Beth Rambam and founded J-HYPE - Jewish Houston Young Professionals Experience.
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