May 23, 2024
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Ever since they enslaved our ancestors for over two centuries a few millennia ago, we have never trusted our neighbors down in Egypt. We remind ourselves of that fact every year when we celebrate the holiday of Pesach. But in 2011 the Egyptians surfaced around the holiday of Sukkot.

“Pharaoh, let my lulavs go!”

Egypt is the central exporter of lulavim needed as one of the Four Species taken on Sukkot. They provide the Jewish world with about half a million palm fronds annually, from a general demand of about 700,000. In 2011 the ministry decided to ban all exports of lulavim, bar none. Although the Egyptian ministry claimed that the reason for the ban was because of overharvesting and agricultural concerns, we all know that the real reason was because of the growing tension between Israel and Egypt.

Egypt’s refusal to export the lulavim is a demonstration of the Sages’ rule that “hatred perverts the straight path.” In the long run, it was unquestionably the fledgling Egyptian economy that suffered the most from the whole debacle. The Jewish people somehow figured out a way to have lulavim. In fact, that year many Jews were compelled to purchase the more expensive, but more halachically qualified, “Deri” lulavim. [The Deri lulavim are thicker, sturdier, and are more reliable vis-à-vis the uppermost “twin” leaves (t’yumas) being perfectly sealed, as required by halacha.] Thus, as has happened so many times in the past, our enemy’s effort to diminish our mitzvah observance only led to our beautification and more preciseness in that regard.

To add, there is another subconscious reason why the Egyptians seek to hinder our having the required Four Species. The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah, Parshas Emor) relates that on Yom Kippur there is a tremendous battle raging in heaven between every nation in the world and klal Yisrael (kind of like every meeting in the United Nations in this world). The Midrash continues that it is not immediately apparent who was victorious. But then, when we emerge on Sukkot proudly holding the Four Species, it is symbolic that we were the victors.

No wonder the Egyptians didn’t want us to have lulavim if they could help it. They never really got over the fact that we became the Chosen Nation after we were redeemed from their accursed land.

So Egypt, keep your lulavim and we’ll keep our money. And don’t you worry; the Season of our Gladness will not be lacking in mitzvah observance one iota.

You stubborn Pharaohs, you just never learn.

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW, is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead. He is also fifth grade rebbe and guidance counselor in ASHAR in Monsey, and principal of Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor, NY, and a division head at Camp Dora Golding. Rabbi Staum offers parenting classes based on the acclaimed Love & Logic Program. For speaking engagements he can be reached at [email protected]. His website is www.stamtorah.info.

By Rabbi Dani Staum LMSW

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