by Rachel Wheeler, exclusive to Mystical Paths
In Eretz Israel (in the Land of Israel) we just got out of Simchat Torah and we are still humming the tunes of THE SECOND Hakafot (an interesting custom has arisen in Israel of having a 2nd dancing with Torah’s celebration on the night after Simchas Torah, when everyone can drive and music can be played – this is called “Hakafot Shniot – the Second Hakafah”).
The visuals of Am Israel (the nation or people of Israel – meaning the Jewish people) dancing with the Torah is still fresh in the mind - young people with long hair (seems like the 70’s are back) dancing hand by hand with Chassidic guys with beards and hats, next to Separadi masorti next to a small knitted kipa guy with a big knitted kipa next to no kipa , people in the 20’s people in the 40’s , 60’s and 70’s there was even an old great grandfather maybe in his late 90’s. Everywhere you hearing Hebrew, English, Spanish, some Russian- and all together forming one circle of strength and unity (at least for that hour).
The sense of acceptance and true (brotherly) love is in the air, and it is not fake, it’s real!
I joined a women's circle behind a mehitza (separator for separate women’s dancing from men’s dancing) before the end of the Hakafos. The tune was about building the Beis HaMikdash, I joined them because I felt their strength and energy of unity. Most of them were very young, but then I realized that there were other women of different ages and different religious inclinations – and it did not matter. It felt that we are all united, it felt like being in Beis HaMikdash and just being one in front of Hashem.
The 4 species are still in the living room, the visual of blessing over them is still fresh, the visual of offering others to bless over your precious expensive lulav and esrog offering with love and being glad when they do it with love . And the message of being one along with the message of unity and acceptance is still there; of the Lulav (date-palm sprout branch), Esrog (citron fruit) and Haddas (mytrle branch) all accepting each others uniqueness and accepting the Arava (willow branch) as is, without conditions to change, without expectations – as is. (There is a lesson of the Lulav and Esrog where each component represents a type of Jew, one with Torah but limited mitzvot (performance of good deeds), one with mitzvot but limited Torah (performs many good deeds but learns little Torah), one with Torah and mitzvot, and one with little of either – yet all 4 must be brought together to make the blessing.)
I read about a Chabad Shaliach (a Chabad rabbi who runs a Chabad house) in Germany that got the Lulav, Esrog and Haddas but did not have a kosher ARAVA. The simple plant the grows all over by the waterways in Israel. He felt so frustrated that the expensive precious lulav and Esrog he succeeded to purchase but not the simple plain Arava. And without it, the 4 species are not considered a whole. He said that after acquiring the Arava he saw once again how Hashem is showing us that everybody in Am Israel counts (every Jew counts), even if he looks far and estranged. It is like a minyan, a minyan is not considered whole if there are only 9 Jews, even if they are all big Tzadikim, and the 10th is a simple Jew. Without him there is not whole.
With all these visuals, memories and sounds; and all the triggers for all the senses, I am departing from Succot and Simchat Torah and thinking how easy it became to accept the stranger who is different, and how difficult it is for us (religious and nonreligious Jews) to accept the brother or sister who is different. How come it is easier for some of the Israelis to accept and love and welcome the African refugees but not the observant Jew? Why it is easier to accept into our Sukkah or Seder table the barefoot Israeli with hair braided like Bob Marley, but not our brothers and neighbors or other religious Jews that have some different outlook? Has unity became a fake term? Are we hypocritical…? Or just lacking the distinction of acceptance versus agreeing. Maybe there is a fear that if I accept, it means that I agree with your views, and ways etc.
We can accept the person, his essence, his neshama (soul) and not agree with his views or ways. According to the same principle that will allow us to accept the braided hair barefoot person at our Shabbos table knowing that we would not even think of agreeing with his outlook of life.
Can we do it in the families, in the communities in our own circles?
It seems impossible to start the practice of acceptance and relating to those in our close circles we do not agree with. It seems beyond our ability. The truth is that many of us have practiced it already with all the strangers we related to, accepted, helped, although is was clear we do not agree with their outlook on life, so we have the know how we just need to apply it to the people in our close circles- family , neighborhood. etc...
Will we take the lesson of the 4 species into the year 5774?
May we take these fresh visuals with the sounds and smells to impact us during the year, and I pray for all of us to go beyond our acceptance limit to our fellow Jews, to be willing to look at our own hypocrisy and be willing to shake it . I am sure that a lot of light and sweet smells will fill the air.
Wishing everybody a Good Year, good marriages, great relationships and great friendships with real peace and much simcha (joy)!
copyright & by Rachel Wheeler – Lecturer, Writer, Consultant and Workshop Facilitator in the field of relationship and communication. Working with thousands of people both in the private and corporate sectors, including seminaries and rabbinical organizations. She can be contacted here.