The shofar has sounded. The fast is over. The new year has begun. Yet, for many, the themes that fill the holiday, including the dictum that “Repentance, prayer and charity avert the severity of the decree,” linger.
No matter your beliefs, the liturgy reminds us that we are responsible for our actions and deeds. In these times when civil discourse is in short supply, one might find it helpful to return to these words during the year – and not just on the High Holidays.
Sukkot, the seven-day holiday where Jews sit in temporary huts and contemplate the wonder of our existence, begins Sunday night, and serves as an ideal period to follow up on all that rushed through our minds over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The holiday also includes waving a lulav, a closed frond from a date palm, while holding an etrog, a yellow citron. According to Sefer Bahir, a kabbalistic work dating back almost 2,000 years, the lulav and etrog represent parts of a human being: the etrog represents the heart, the base of our emotions; the hadas (myrtle) has leaves shaped like an eye; the lulav, or date palm, symbolizes the spine, from where our actions originate; and the aravah, or willow, represents the lips, or our speech.
Holding a lulav and etrog and sitting in a sukkah is a mystical experience. If you don’t have a sukkah, and have never experienced the holiday, ask your local rabbi if you can visit the temple’s sukkah. Best to leave your cell phone or iPad outside of the sukkah and allow your soul to embrace the moment. It is an opportunity to clarify one’s priorities in life and for the new year – while dwelling in nature.