Sukkot is our Jewish festival of thanksgiving. And as we come together tonight and hold our service in our beautiful Sukkah, every person will have the opportunity to fulfill the commandment of waving the lulav and etrog. For those unfamiliar with this ritual, in speaking about the festival of Sukkot, the Torah tells us: “And ye shall take you…the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.”
Our early sages suggested that these different species each represent a part of our bodies. The etrog (which looks like a lemon) refers to the heart, and the place of understanding and wisdom in our lives. The palm refers to the backbone, and our standing upright for the values and ideals that are important to us. The myrtle leaves correspond to the eyes and represent enlightenment. And the willow leaves symbolize the lips and the prayers that we utter.
All of these are held together and waved in all directions as an expression of gratitude for the blessings of our lives. At this time of both recognizing those blessings and seeking blessings for the coming year, I am reminded of the words of Bob Dylan as they convey the sentiments of Sukkot:
“May God bless and keep you always.
May your wishes all come true.
May you always do for others, and let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars, and climb on every rung.
May you stay forever young,”
I hope you and your family will join us this evening as we celebrate Sukkot, “the season of our rejoicing.”
Rabbi David Greenberg