Yesterday was a difficult day. Even’t if I hadn’t been accidentally woken at 5:30 am by an ill-timed Siri alarm, it still would have been a day filled with emotional extremes.
I attended the funeral of a beloved man in our community, and with those touching moments still fresh on everyone’s minds, we learned of the horrid terror attack in Israel against an innocent family and the baseless gun violence that happened in my own state of Oregon at Umpqua Community College. I was in tears watching the news when my daughter walked in the door from playing.
“Mommy,” she called as she walked in. “Let’s eat in the sukkah.” I gathered my tears and my strength for this beautiful two-year-old so she shouldn’t know my pain.
Ufros Aleinu sukkat shlomeicha. My favorite line of our liturgy. God spreads over us a shelter of peace. I meditated on this line as I joined her for a quick dinner in our own sukkah of peace.
I thought about the symbols of this holiday. While I love the sukkah, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the lulav and etrog. They feel pagan, phallic, and foreign to me. But I was determined to show my sweet, innocent two-year-old a world in which our discomfort pushes us to accept, to look beyond.
There is a rabbinic teaching that gives each of the four species of the lulav and etrog a body part, and this teaching helped me to find meaning even in my least favorite part of the holiday.
Hadas: the myrtle is for our eyes. I am grateful to raise my child with eyes that can see past discomfort and difference. I want to raise her with eyes that can see injustice and work to fight it, eyes that see human beings as valuable and worthwhile.
Aravah: the willow, the mouth. My daughter, and all of our children, should be blessed with mouths that speak love, truth, justice, and kindness. May her mouth be filled with words of peace, with words that are stronger than violence.
Lulav: the tall, strong palm, and the spine. May our children grow to be strong, upstanding human beings. May they stand firmly against injustice and violence, and only for peace, love, and what is good in our world.
Etrog: the citron. This is the heart. May we raise our children to let their hearts shine through. A world filled with love, passion, and understanding is a world that fulfills God’s promise of a shelter of peace.
This year, may your sukkah represent growth and understanding, peace and listening. The lulav and etrog represent the foundation on which we must raise future generations so that we may someday see an end to gun violence and hatred of all kinds. This is the blessing of our holiday.