October 19, 2014 – 25 Tishrei 5775

A note to my Esrog (citron)

My dear Esrog,

I owe you a sincere apology.

For your entire life you dreamed of the day when you would be purchased by someone who would perform with you the mitzvos (commandments) of the arba minim (the four species). Somehow you made your way from an orchard in Israel to Silver Spring with high hopes of fulfilling your singular mission in life. With your perfect features you were sure to have a once in a lifetime experience.

Your exquisite beauty caused you to be set aside as one of two possible choices for me to select as my esrog. As soon as I opened your box there was no question. You would be my esrog. Your color was radiant; your shape majestic; your skin spotless.

What a joy on the first day of Succos as I stood in my sukkah, unwrapped the cloth in which you had been packaged, coddled and kissed you, lifted you next to my lulav and began reciting the Yehi Ratzon and blessings. I so enjoyed shaking you together with the other species for the very first time.

At the appointed time we were off to shul together. I recited the Hallel with you in my hand; all the while admiring your beauty.

Then came Hoshanos.

Aveilus required that I put you down and instead of marching with you, hold the Torah so that everyone else could march with their esrog and lulav proudly in hand. You were left lying on a bench waiting for everyone else to finish Hoshanos. How disappointed you must have been. The day(s) you had been waiting for all of your short life, the opportunity to march with all the other esrogim, would never be yours. You, unfortunately, had been purchased by an aveil. You would never march during Hoshanos.

On Simchas Torah I experienced the pain you had been feeling throughout the Succos holiday. As everyone else circled the bimah during Hakafos and danced with the Torah I was a mere a bystander. I stood on the side, waited for several hours for the merriment of the day to conclude and musaf to begin, so that I could say kaddish.

As I waited, a thought crossed my mind. While you and I were both unable to join in the outward manifestations of the holiday, perhaps, we were nonetheless engaged in an important exercise. For how can public demonstrations of holiday joy and love of the Torah be meaningful without private individual commitment to Torah and mitzvos? Isn’t that what all the marching and dancing is supposed to be about?

Isn’t that what you and I were doing in our own very small way?

If I am right then we should feel an inner joy – even if this year it is wrapped in sadness.

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