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Who is the best Jew? - Sukkot

Wednesday, 30 September, 2020 - 9:28 am

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There is a special Mitzvah on Sukkot: hold together and shake the 4 Species: The Etrog (citrus fruit), the Lulav (palm frond), the Hadasim (myrtle branches) and the Aravot (willow branches). Each one of those has different characteristics: one has a good smell (myrtle), the other has a good taste (date, the fruit of the palm), the third has both taste and smell (citrus) while the last one has neither smell nor taste (willow). Yet, to fulfill the Mitsvah, we need all four species, none can be missing.

Our Sages explain that the 4 Species symbolize the Jewish people. There are those who learn Torah, and nurture themselves with its wisdom, thus, they have a “good taste”. There are those who do good deeds, thus they have a “good smell” and everyone wants to be near them. Some have both qualities, and some have none: not the study nor the good deeds. We could think that the last ones are not good and significant Jews, and that we can ignore them. But this Mitzvah teaches us that even those are part of the Jewish people and that each one is needed.  

This is one of the unique characteristics of the Jewish people which I appreciate a lot.

Whether you are a Jewish journalist, taxi driver, employee, minister, merchant, or tailor, you are not worth any less that the most important rabbi. Everyone needs to study the Torah, observe the Mitzvot and pray to G-d. Everyone needs to get married, have children, and have a positive influence on the world. Of course, G-d’s expectations depends on the different qualities of each person and his or her lifestyle. If you have more intelligence, free time, patience, or other talents, you need to do even more than others. G-d wants us to utilize all the talents He has given us for a good purpose. But generally, the basic requirements are the same for everyone.

This gives a different perspective to many subjects, such as the prayer or the synagogue. Every one is able to pray to G-d from wherever he or she is located. The communal prayer has even more power than the individual prayer, this is why certain prayers can only be said in the presence of a Minyan (10 Jewish men), for instance, reading from the Sefer Torah or reciting the Kaddish. These gatherings for prayers usually happen in the synagogue but it is not required. I have assisted to prayers in someone’s living-room, in a stadium, in a parking lot and even in the kitchen of a plane (with the permission of the staff). Especially now with the COVID-19, we see even more prayers happening in various outdoors locations. The person leading the prayer, the Chazan, may be a Rabbi, but it is not required. Any Jew that knows the prayer can lead it. In other words, going to the synagogue is not like assisting to a show where you come to hear a cantor pray without doing anything yourself. G-d is waiting to hear everyone’s prayer, according to their knowledge, in Hebrew or in translation, in the words of our Sages or in their own words.

The center of our religion is not the synagogue nor the rabbi, but each Jewish person and his or her home. The rabbi teaches us, guides us so we can do things in the right way, he inspires and encourages us but this cannot be a substitute for our own study, our own Mitzvot and our own relationship with G-d.

Even if it seems difficult this year, let us try this Sukkot to shake the 4 Species ourselves*. As we shake them, let us remember that each Jew is significant and that no one is superfluous. G-d awaits each and every one of us.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,

Hanna

* Whoever does not have his own set of the 4 Species can contact Chabad of Greece. As we explained above, the rabbi is here to help and will come to visit you so you can perform this Mitzvah.

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