In Talmud, Masechet Sukkah page 37b, there is a story about waving the lulav.
It says, "In the West, Eretz Yisrael, they taught it as follows. Rabbi Ḥama bar Ukva said that Rabbi Yosei, son of Rabbi Ḥanina, said: He moves them to and fro in order to request a halt to harmful winds, storms and tempests that come from all directions; he raises and lowers them in order to halt harmful dews and rains that come from above." (translation taken from Sefaria)
Sukkot is a holiday of great joy. Like a queen, it is resplendent in its luscious scents, sites and tastes and the simple act of sitting in the sukkah, of taking the time to just sit and enjoy is a gift.
One of the mitzvot of Sukkot is blessing on the lulav. The action of blessing, of shaking the lulav cluster, the lulav promenade are mysterious and so foreign to us. I often have asked myself to imagine someone from another planet coming to a synagogue on Sukkot. What would that person see? What would be the questions that she asks?
We are indeed a community of questions and questioners. The Talmud is full of questions. The central theme of the Passover seder is asking questions. I think that the theme of this poem is the momentary cessation of questions in order to simply wave the lulav. Just for a moment, hold the lulav in your hands and do what we have always done. Shake and bless, bless and shake.
Whether shaking the lulav helps us to avoid bad winds or rains that are destructive, or it is merely bringing us back to a time where we lived closer to the natural world, we can still shake, we can still wave, just for the sake of waving. It's that simple. Maybe on your own or maybe with others. Maybe the action is about mysticism, maybe it is about agriculture and maybe neither of these, but does it really matter? Maybe we are changing the course of history and maybe we are not. We can still shake; just for a moment joining with others in small action that is much bigger than ourselves.
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom.
Shake because you once learned how.
Shake because you are curious.
Shake because you are inspired.
And the waves create currents
that slowly expand upwards
slowly at first
but gaining in power.
Each wave of the lulav
like the wings of a bird,
the heart of the bird beating in its chest
your heart quickening as you wave.
And you ask yourself, "Why?"
Shake because it is different than anything you do.
Shake because it is a privilege.
Shake because you are on the wings of history.
Shake because, who knows,
you could make a difference.
And the waves create energies
that slowly expand upwards
You hear the sound in your ears
You feel the movement between your palms
An instrument of rigid date palms
the silence of the willow and the dance of the myrtle.
And you stop asking why and you start doing.
Perhaps this is the answer.
Shake now to make change.
slowly, one change at a time.
Shake now for the rain
to gently fall, to nourish, to give life.
Shake now to chase away bad winds.
for to shake is to pray,
a prayer that moves and rattles.
Shake now to remember.
Shake now for the future.
Shake because you can.