The Ultimate Weapon

Succos

One of the many commandments on the Yom Tov of Succos is the Mitzvoh to wave a Lulav and Esrog on Succos. We find in the Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 30:2) an interesting parable that illuminates the deeper meaning behind this Mitzvah.

Two people came to court to have their case judged. After the ruling had been handed down it wasn’t obvious to the observers who came out on top and who was defeated. However when one party came out of court carrying a cudgel – an ancient historic method to symbolize the victor – we are now aware who is the winner, and who is the loser.

This allegory represents the Jewish people who undergo trial on Rosh Hashanah, and when the verdict is issued, it is not clear who was victorious, perhaps Satan has triumphed or, hopefully the Jews have. When Klal Yisroel parade around with their Lulavim and Esrogim – the javelin like cudgel – it is now clearly discernible who won the case.

Question

The custom of handing a weapon to the vindicated party is understood: armaments imply power and control, and this shows everybody that he is the winner. But how does carrying a Lulav parallel the cudgel? Surely it is not the fact that it has a spearlike shape, what deeper symbolism is conveyed by brandishing a Lulav?

Answer

The Kabbalists teach us that the four species correspond to the four lettered ineffable name of Hashem – the Tetragrammaton. (See Story Below). By combining the four species into a bouquet we are combining elements that represent the Name of G-d. This holy name which we dare not pronounce, describes how Hashem gives everything existence past present and future. When conveying that G-d is the source of everything, we have naturally implied His omnipotence.

When a Jewish battle is fought, their tools differ from those of other nations, it is not by our superior firepower that we win wars. When David approached Goliath, he told him “You come with a sword, spear and javelin but I come with the name of G-d Furthermore king David wrote in Tehillim “Those with chariots and those with horses but us, we mention the name of G-d” (Tehillim 20:8). Perhaps the Jewish win will be physically perceived as effected by possessing greater military prowess and superior strategies, but in essence the battle is won by our prayers and dedication to Hashem.

Thus on Succos, after having undergone trial on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it may not be blatant who won the case. The Jewish people march around, with the most potent weapon in their arsenal, the name of Hashem represented in the four species.

Lesson

While it is appropriate that we arm ourselves adequately to defend ourselves, ultimately our true strength is when we war with the Name of Hashem. 

Story

Rabbi Menachem Recanati (1250-1310) was an Italian rabbi who devoted the chief part of his writings to the Kabbala. Rabbi Menachem wrote a Kabbalistic commentary on the Torah, a commentary on the siddur, and discussions of the commandments (his only Halachic work are the rulings collected in Piskei Recanati).

The Recanti was hosting a righteous German Jew by the name of Reb Yitzchok over the Yom Tov of Succos. Whilst the Recanati was sleeping on the first night of Succos, a heavenly dream was revealed to him. In the dream the Recanti saw that Reb Yitzchok was writing the Divine four letter name – the Tetragrammaton. In doing so, Reb Yitzchok was penning the second heh – which is the final letter – at a distance from the other three letters.

In the dream the Recanti said to him “What have you done?”  

Reb Yitzchok  replied “This is the custom in our locale” (Germany).

The Recanti remonstrated with him and wrote the name out in full – without any gaps. On awaking he was stunned and puzzled at the vision, and could not comprehend its implication.

The next morning the first day of Succos, the Recanti saw that Reb Yitzchok was only shaking the Lulav bound with the Hadasim and Arovos, but he was not shaking the Esrog. Instantly the Recanti understood the meaning of the previous night’s dream. The four kinds: the Lulav, Esrog, Hadassim and Arovos all allude to Hashem, and therefore the Mitzvoh of waving the Lulav should be fulfilled with all the species. 

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