Monday, October 03, 2011

Four Species as One Unit

The chill in the autumn air escorts us into the Succot holiday. As we spend much of our time under the outdoor Succah branches, we'll have to cope with rain, shine or chill. The fact that this commandment beckons during these cool days and not on nice, warm summer days, augments the evidence it is God's commandment and not one we decided for ourselves.

A unique aspect of this holiday, which it shares with Passover, is its gesture to unify all of Jewry into the holiday's orbit.

Of the four types of Jews, the Etrog symbolizes one who has Torah knowledge and fine character, as this fruit's taste and smell signify. The Lulav symbolizes the Torah scholar without fine character, for the Lulav (Date Palm branch) signifies a tasty fruit, but one without a smell. The Hadassim (Myrtle branches) that have fragrance but bear no fruit signify the Jew with fine character who lacks Torah knowledge; While the Aravot (Willow branches), which have neither taste nor smell, represent the barren Jewish condition.

But should any one of these 4 species go missing, the mitzvah of Lulav-shaking in the Sukkah cannot be accomplished; All 4 are mandatory and mutually inclusive!

The "4 sons" Torah alludes to, which we recite in the Haggadah, also are all invited to participate at the table during the Passover seder.

One point the mitzvah of the 4 species comes to teach is that Jewish people comprise, collectively, one body; Jews are comprised of "brain" and "brawn", either "smooth-hewed" or "crude", and each is as critical as the next - because inherent in each Jew is the equalizing "spark of God" that animates his soul. For some this light shines through to influence his character, whereas for others the bodily cloak of desires still needs refinement before the light can penetrate.

Here's the same point from another angle. Let's take the concept of "Penitence", a term relevant to these days before Yom Kippur. In English, or to Gentiles, this means something entirely different from its Hebrew term, "תשובה".

Penitence implies a resolution for correcting one's behavior after having done something wrong. What was done is done and now, having regretted his past action, the person goes forward with a clean slate, as if the past becomes irrelevant. The Hebrew term, on the other hand, teaches a different message.

The Hebrew word for penitence literally means 'returning to God'. The core of every Jew, which derives from a benevolent God, is also good and pure. That he did something wrong, for which he needs to repent, came as a result of environmental circumstances that shrouded his innate connection to God, which led him to err. As soon as he realizes he did wrong, he does "תשובה" - which means he returns, back to his original innate connection with God.

Instead of "penitence", a better translation of the Hebrew word would be "a Godly homecoming". The root of the Hebrew term, after all, means, "to return".

To further illustrate, the antonym of the Hebrew word for "penitence" is: "To return to doubts". This inherently implies that the truth of his essential bond to God, for the meanwhile, is clouded in his mind.

The Rebbe taught us there is a 5th son too these days, a product of our times. He's the one who does not even know about the Succot or Passover holiday. So powerful have been the forces of assimilation in recent Jewish history, that Jewish tradition of the past did not even find the need to address such wayward souls. These have been, for the most part, "kidnapped at birth", so to speak, because they grew up in a culture so foreign to Judaism, as is the American culture, or as that which Israeli governments have tried to infuse into their public school system and media, one that pushes to secularize and alienate the Jewish mind from tradition.

We Jews who know better must reach out to these people and teach them Torah values anew. Why? Because if the left hand itches, the right hand wants to relieve the itch.

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