EtrogDavid Moster

Why do Jews do what they do?

Many theological constructs, have misunderstood the Jewish focus on action. Some have even defined their own faith as liberation from the bondage and burden that Judaism represents. They have maintained that the Jewish involvement, with the legalistic and functional aspects of the Bible, was an attempt at achieving a level of perfection that would ensure acceptance in Heaven.

They have further contended that such a focus on functionality would prove to be inherently futile.

But the axioms that define their understanding are completely incorrect.

In traditional Jewish understanding, the fulfillment of the law is not seen as a prescription for perfection. Fulfilling the "law ( the Torah commandments is simply fulfilling the will of our Beloved.

There is no greater or more intimate gift that one can present to one’s beloved than the fulfillment of that beloved’s will and desire. That is so abundantly clear in one’s relationship with one’s spouse or child.

It is just as clear and true in our relationship with our Creator.

These days of Holiness of Elul and Tishrei, that we are in the midst of, make that understanding self evident

During the days of Elul and Tishrei each individual soul undergoes a spiritual voyage that is unparalleled in its intensity and awesome in its implications.

It is in the month of Elul that we begin again the courtship with the Beloved, The soul clothed in the physicality of reality then enters into the day of Judgment .Yet on this day the focus seems not to be on the judgment but rather on the simple and awesome act of declaring G-d to be Ruler and Majesty of the earth. Only after comprehending the fact of that Rulership can the soul move on through the intensity and supreme focus of the Ten Days of Repentance.

Eventually on the Day of Atonement the soul attempts to disconnect from the physicality of his existence .A day that is spent attempting to mirror the existence of angels. We desist from actions that speak of our physical existence, eating , washing ourselves, the wearing of comfortable shoes and intimate relationships between husband and wife. Leaving the physical and entering the spiritual.

When the time of Yom Kippur, in the midst of the “awe and majesty” is over, Jewish people end their prayers with a great cry. The “Shma Yisrael” declaration is yelled out. This is followed by the crying out of the phrase “Blessed is His Name forever and ever “three times. Finally we cry out with all the strength we have left “Hashem is G-d, Hashem is G-d”, seven times.

The silence that follows that seventh cry is the silence of infinity.

It could and should last forever because in that silence there is nothing but G-d. It is only the long shofar blast that brings us back down to earth.

We return home and eat something to replenish our bodies. Yet our souls yearn for more.

The process of purifying and self-inspection leaves our hearts and souls as joyful but seared vessels.
The only way to mend a seared and fractured heart is with Joy. The feast of Sukkoth is the antidote as it is the feast of Joy.”VaHayitem Ach Sameach- and you shalt be altogether joyful” (Deuteronomy 16:15)

G-d is not commanding us to be happy. G-d is telling us that we will be!

What then is the greatest Joy. It is the ability to give to one’s true beloved what it is that beloved truly desires. After leaving the intensity of G-d’s very throne room on Yom Kippur we are then told what our Beloved’s desires are.

And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm- trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before HaShem your G-d seven days. (Leviticus 23:40 )

Throughout Jerusalem and throughout the country Jews have spent intense energy and many shekels to find the perfect gift for their Beloved.

One year I spent hours looking for that perfect etrog. In addition to it being blemished free and of the right color ,our family still carry Hassidic traditions as to the shape of the Etrog.

Clearly Hashem did not care if I had this etrog or any of the other kosher possibilities. Yet this was my gift. I was frustrated.

On the eve of Sukkot , an hour before the Holiday began, I was walking home and I saw "my etrog in the middle of the display of one of the street vendors. I rushed over and purchased the etrog fruit and as I went down the steps in my building I danced all the way down.

I had found the gift I was searching for to bring to my Beloved

"You shalt be altogether joyful” (Deuteronomy 16:15)

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Moshe Kempinski, author of "The Teacher and the Preacher", is the editor of the Jerusalem Insights weekly email journal and co-owner of Shorashim, a Biblical shop and learning center in the Old City of Jerusalem, www,

Leilui Nishmat Yehudit bat Sinai veGolda Yocheved