Is It A Lemon? Is It A Lime? Try ... An Etrog
By Rabbi Moishe Kievman - Chabad Chayil
October 5, 2023
As the seasons change from summer to fall and families spend more time inside, the Jewish community of South Florida will celebrate the annual holiday of Sukkot by heading outdoors. Sukkot, also known as the holiday of booths, began this year on sundown on Friday, September 29th and will conclude on the evening of Friday, October 6th. The two day holiday of Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah immediately follows Sukkot, beginning the evening of Saturday, October 7th and ending on Sunday, October 8th.
During Sukkot, we remember G-d's kindness to us during our journey through the desert by dwelling in a sukkah--a hut of temporary construction with a roof covering of branches--for the duration of the Sukkot festival. For seven days and nights, we eat all our meals in the sukkah and otherwise regard it as our home. The temporary booths emphasize how the world and the Jewish people rely on G-d’s protection. Eating under the stars allows us to truly thank G-d and see the blessings that surround us. Sukkot is a wonderful way for us to continue celebrating and connecting with our Judaism after the High Holidays.
Another unique holiday practice is the gathering of four different species. The taking of the Four Kinds: an Etrog (a rare citrus fruit, originally from Italy, but now also commonly grown in Morocco & Israel), a Lulav (palm frond), Hadassim (myrtles) and Aravot (willows), tied together with Lulav leafs. On each day of the festival, except for Shabbat, we take the Four Kinds, recite a blessing over them, bring them together in our hands and wave them in all six directions. The Four Kinds represent the diverse types and personalities that make up our community, and whose intrinsic unity we emphasize on Sukkot.
Chabad Houses and many synagogues throughout Florida will be available to help each family plan a sukkah during the weeks leading up to the start of the holiday. They will also all be equipped with a Lulav & Etrog set for anyone to use, free of charge. Many Chabads will also have available Etrog and Lulav sets for you to order, as it is preferable to actually own your own set. They will be offering guidance and classes for all community members interested in learning more about the holiday.
Drawing from the gravity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot gives us the chance to celebrate the sweetness of nature and to thank G-d for His protection. Sukkot touches all five senses: the sweet smell of the Etrog, the feel of the palm branch and twigs in your hand, the sights and sounds of the sukkah around us and the taste of the festival’s feasts.
Sukkot, referred to as the holiday of rejoicing, comes just five days after Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. The group of four plants, including the Etrog fruit, are replete with symbolic meaning, including the fall harvest and gathering season, and the unity of the Jewish people.
We encourage you to contact your local Chabad or synagogue to celebrate the holiday. You’re of course welcome to join us at Chabad Chayil for a community meal in the Sukkah, Shabbat or any of the holiday nights. Reservations can be made via: (305) 770-1919. Or: www.ChabadChayil.org/High-Holidays - You can also use our Sukkah any time of day or night 24/7. We’ll leave the lights on for you, and keep a set of Lulav and Etrog for use any time during the day. To learn more about the holiday, or to order a Lulav & Etrog, visit: www.ChabadChayil.org/Sukkah
Rabbi Kievman together with his wife are the ambassadors of The Rebbe to Highland Lakes, FL. They are the founders of Gan Chabad Preschool, your local CTeen & CKids chapters, CHAP - an afterschool program for Jewish children in Public Schools and direct Chabad Chayil. He’s the Rabbi at The Family Shul and can be reached at: (305) 770-1919. Or: rabbi@ChabadChayil.org.