Lulav is All You Need?: Emor 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What do you do when you’re happy? Do you celebrate with other people, or do you tend to be joyous privately? Does it ever make you uncomfortable if people “overshare” their good fortune? Is it even possible to “overshare” good fortune?

While this week’s Torah portion reminds us that Sukkot is the festival of our joy, there are different ideas of why we’re supposed to feel so joyous:

The Pitch: “Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to Adonai, to last seven days. The first day shall be a sacred occasion: you shall not work at your occupations; seven days you shall bring offerings by fire to Adonai. On the eighth day you shall observe a sacred occasion and bring an offering by fire to Adonai; it is a solemn gathering: you shall not work at your occupations.” – Leviticus 23:34-36

Swing #1: “The Yemenite Jews place great emphasis on the commandment of the Four Species because of its aesthetic requirement, as Rabbi Shlomo Korah wrote [in Arikhat Shulhan]: ‘Even though by the strict letter of the law an etrog need be no larger than an egg, the larger the etrog, the finer; likewise with the length of the lulav, myrtle and willow, people take pride in larger and longer branches.’” – Dr. Aharon Giamanti, “The ‘Four Species’ in Yemenite Tradition”, from A Divinely Given Torah for Our Day and Age, Volume II

Swing #2: “The expression of rejoicing occurs three times in connection with Sukkot. … But no such expression occurs even once regarding Pesah. This is because the fate of man’s crops is still in the balance on Pesah, and he does not know whether there will be a yield or not. Similarly, on Shavuot, only one expression of rejoicing is mentioned. … This is because the corn has already been harvested and gathered in the barn. Two expressions of rejoicing are not mentioned, because the fruit of the trees have not yet been picked and their fate is still in the balance. On Sukkot, however … when both the corn and fruit are already stored inside, three expressions of joy are justified.” – Yalkut Shimoni

Swing #3: “‘To make atonement for the first sin’ (Genesis Rabbah). Which first sin is being spoken of here? In Midrash Rabbah, Parashat Bereshit, in the verse ‘And there was evening and there was morning, one day,’ meaning one that says ‘echad.’ This is Yom Kippur. Which is to say that the first day of the six days of creation was Yom Kippur. This means, consequently, that the sixth day was the day on which Adam HaRishon, the first human being, was created, and [therefore, also] the first day of Sukkot, and on that very day, according to the reasoning of the sages, Adam ate from the tree of knowledge. So therefore, ‘And on the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees (etrogim)  … to make atonement for the first sin.’” – Kol Kol Yaakov

Late-Inning Questions: According to our commentators, why should one feel joy on Sukkot, and how should it be expressed? If we’re not feeling particularly happy around the time of Sukkot, how can we be expected to express it? How does a joyous time on our calendar contrast with simple moments of everyday joy?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: It isn’t too late to have three chances to win! Our Spring Fling will take place this Sunday from 2:00-4:00PM, where we will draw our three winner of Pennies From Heaven raffle. Plus, I’ll be in a dunking booth …

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of joyous expressions, more and more batters tend to flip their bats in ecstasy after hitting a home run. To some, this kind of enthusiasm adds a colorful element to the game. To others, it is a form of taunting opposing pitchers. Which opinion do you find more compelling?

Shabbat Shalom!