I merited a unique peak behind the scenes a few years back that helped to concretize an old idea that I had been carrying around for some time. It was one of those rare snowy winters in Jerusalem. A remarkable eighteen inches fell in one day, and the most beautiful city was ever more elegant dressed in white.
Early the next morning was a feast for photographers. A friend of mine pointed out something I may have otherwise missed. The wet snow weighed down the large leaves of the palm trees, and there it was in the center, like a finger pointing to the heavens was a single LULOV.
Click! I took a picture and gained an insight. The letters of the word LULOV can be deconstructed into two words, LO- To Him (HASHEM) LEV-is Heart. This is the essence of what we hope to accomplish by taking the four species on Sukkos to dedicate, to point our hearts heavenward.
Each of the species, our sages tell us, represents a different organ of human anatomy. The Esrog resembles the heart, the Lulov- the spine, the Hadassim the eyes and the Aravos the lips. Not only is the year a new year but so are we. Therefore after begging for life on Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur we step out onto the soil of a brand new year with more than symbols picked from the garden of our inspiration, with a new heart filled with fresh feelings of devotion, and new spine focusing our newly found direction and with a clean eyes and pure lips with which to see and express ourselves.
The Mishne in Tractate Sukkah tells us that a Lulov that is stolen or dry is no good. A Lulov has to be yours as prescribed by the verse, “And you should take for yourself on the first day…” If it is somebody else’s devotion that we are emulating and it is not our own then it is lacking in authenticity. If it is dry, a mere leftover from last year, a frozen institutionalized remnant or a souvenir of better years it doesn’t qualify.
The Mishne continues to inform us that if is from a tree that was worshipped or a city that indulged in idolatry it is also invalid. If our new found inspiration emanates from a decrepit source, that also disqualifies it.
If the head is chopped off or the leaves removed it is invalidated. If the leaves are spread apart, a little scattered that OK but Rabbi Yehuda says that we should bind them from above. If we are acting without our heads altogether impulsive or compulsive or in a way that we are divorced from our source, those are sufficient grounds to disqualify but if our problem is a lack of focus that’s normal and passable but Rabbi Yehuda says, “Get it together!” We can learn an awful lot from its laws and its natural pose, but Most of all we can learn to love from the LULOV. Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.