Rabbi Yitzchok Katz of Leeds Kollel discusses how the festival of Sukkot reminds us to celebrate.
If you take a look at the modern militaries of the world, you’ll find they all have something in common. Every country, be it large or small, powerful or less so, has a military prowess made up of many divisions, each with a unique set of skills specific to the role they pay in the larger picture of its country’s defence. The army functions differently than the air force, as does the navy. They are all unique of one another, and an individual who trains as part of one division is by no means qualified to fill the role of another. However, they all follow one core mission statement and objective – to protect the citizens and wellbeing of their country.
This is true in many areas of everyday life too. For example, no large business operation can function or be successful without a dedicated sales team, cleaning staff, accounting, and HR departments and so on. The bottom line, however, is that they are united in the ultimate goal of ensuring the success of the core business.
On Sukkot we have the mitzvah of binding and shaking the four species; all four of which have different characteristics. The etrog (citron) has both smell and taste, the lulav (palm branch) has only taste, the haddassim (myrtle branches) have only smell and the aravot (willow branches) have neither smell or taste. Pleasant taste and smell represent fine character and righteousness. The result of a census done of people based on these two factors would be a mix of all; no two people are the same and certainly not across a wide demographic.
As Jews we must appreciate that the fabric of our nation is made up of many different types of individuals. It is for this very reason that we take the four species and bind them together on Sukkot – to symbolise the unity of our nation despite our differences.
One of the beautiful things about the Leeds Jewish community is its acceptance and love for all, across the spectrum, despite its diversity. This is something that was palpable to my family and I from the moment we moved here.
This message ties beautifully into the other central mitzvah of Sukkot – dwelling in the Sukkah. One of the reasons we do this is to commemorate that during our travels in the dessert on our journey upon leaving Egypt to the land of Israel, we camped in huts.
It is noteworthy that we did not all camp together, rather every family stuck with their tribe. Each of the twelve tribes camped among themselves, however, there was still a critical formation that all the tribes followed – camping around the tabernacle. Indeed, even back then, there were many different types of Jews, each represented by the tribe and its unique flag and personality. But they were united in
the ultimate of goals – service of Hashem, beautifully signified in their formation centred around the tabernacle.
There is never a better time than the present, to remind ourselves of the beauty of a nation when it stands in unity despite any differences.
Wishing everyone a chag sameach.