Sukkot begins tonight. We build a Sukkah, a temporary hut, once a year, to commemorate the ancient wanderings of our ancestors, to celebrate the beauty of creation and to perform specific rituals prescribed by the Torah. One such ritual is shaking and blessing the lulav and etrog.
An etrog is a citrus fruit similar to a lemon native to Israel; the lulav consists of 3 species: a palm branch, two willow branches and three myrtle branches that are bound together. With these four in hand, one recites a blessing and waves the species in six directions (east, south, west, north, up and down).
Why these particular items?
The rabbi relate these to our senses: Taste represents learning and smell represents good deeds. The etrog has both taste and smell. The palm has taste but no fragrance. The myrtle has smell but no taste. And the willow has neither. Each represents a different type of person. Some individuals have both learning and good deeds; others have good deeds but no learning; some have learning but no good deeds, and still others have neither. But real community is found in all types of people being bound together and brought under one roof. May this Sukkot remind us to accept and embrace all types of people since we all make up the community of the world.