Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Lessons From the Lulav and Etrog Bundle: Be Like the Willow

Every year I hold the Lulav and Etrog bundle  and marvel at the lessons they can teach. This year's insight started ruminating months back when I watched this video. The video concerns the plainest member of the Lulav and Etrog team: the willow branches.

In the past, I hadn't given the willow much thought. They lack the exotic splendor of the other species and always seem to dry out or decay first. Even the Rabbis gave the willow a bit of a hard time, noting it has no taste and no smell, and represents those without virtue in the community. It's not all bad news for the willow, however, as it is used on Hoshana Rabba for one of our most fascianting and fun traditions.

My fresh appreciation for the willow comes in response to this question: how do you grow a willow tree? The answer, which I wouldn't believe unless I'd seen it in video, is: (1) you take a willow stick, (2) plop one end in wet mud, and (3) there is no third step.

Perhaps this is common knowledge, and I'm showing my botanical ignorance here. But I find it remarkable that you grow a willow tree the same way a 5 year thinks you grow a willow tree; by jamming one of the tree's sticks in dirt.

I marvel just how resilient and robust this makes the willow. They need so little to grow.

And that's my insight this year, made all the more meaningful by the current Covid-19 crisis.

This past weekend, I celebrated Simchat Torah over Zoom. I belted out hakafot and toasted l'chaim to little boxes on my monitor. It was surreal and far from the ideal, but I made it work.

In short, I channeled the spirit of the willow tree: asking for little, and trying like mad to grow no matter the circumstances!

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