July 18, 2024
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July 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It was a cold, rainy day in New Jersey. Not a good day to eat in a sukkah. Not a good day to play outside. Not even a good day to go out and get your toy light saber from next to the swing set where you left it last night.

Zachary and David sat by the window staring out into their backyard. There was no way their parents would allow them to go outside in their slippers and pajamas, in the pouring rain, across the muddy grass and gathering puddles to retrieve their toys. Still, they so wanted to have a good Star Wars light saber fight. Good and evil. Boys and swords. What could be more perfect?

They turned and looked at the kitchen table. There, sitting in their plastic wrappers lay two beautiful green lulavim. Their palm fronds were sharp and straight. Their hadassim and aravot sat pristinely bound to the lulav’s side in their holder–a perfect handle for a sword.

Zachary grabbed the larger lulav, and David chose the smaller, more delicate one.

“So, Obi Wan, you refuse to turn to the Dark Side.”

“You will never turn me, Anakin, never!”

“Then I must destroy you!”

“The force is strong with me, Anakin, surrender while you can!”

The two boys smashed their lulavim against each other as they dueled across the living room. The lulavim made a nice swish noise as they sliced through the air and then collided. Haddasim and aravot leaves were flying everywhere. Zachary had taken the high ground, standing on the leather couch, while David was crouching in a defensive stance on the oak, mission-style coffee table.

“Soon you will feel the power of the Dark Side!” hollered Zachary, as he raised his lulav/light saber for the final blow.

It was just then that the boys’ father opened the front door to the house, shielding his rain soaked head with a copy of the Bergen Record. He took one look at his boys engaged in mock-mortal combat with his beautiful lulavim and at the small delicate leaves scattered over his hand made oriental rug and bellowed “Noooooooooooooo!” (It sounded much like Luke Skywalker’s reaction when he found out Darth Vader was his father.)

After cleaning up the mess, the boys were sent to their room to think about what they had done. Their father, whose name was Yitz, was so exasperated that he couldn’t think of how to deal with the Arba Minnim Massacre, as it came to be known, so he called the boys’ rebbe (it was Chol Hamoed) to come and speak with them.

When Yitz told Rabbi Flanders the story on the phone, he thought he heard the rabbi chuckle.

“No, no,” said the Rabbi, “I just had something caught in my throat. This is most serious indeed! I’ll be right over.”

Rabbi Flanders was at their house within the hour. He seemed strangely out of uniform to the boys, having no tie on, but he still wore his white shirt and black pants.

“So, nu, what is this I hear about lulavim and light sabers?”

Zachary spoke first. “We’re sorry, Rabbi. We didn’t know it would be such a big deal.”

“Didn’t know it would be a big deal? Boys! Objects used for mitzvot should be treated with respect. Just by being used for a mitzvah it takes on some kedusha, some holiness.”

“We know that now,” said David

“Still,” said the Rabbi. “You know that shaking a lulav is part of the mitzvah of the arba minnim, the four species. After you make the bracha, you take the lulav, etrog, hadassim, and aravot and shake them in six directions: up, down, front, back, right, and left. I don’t know that I would shake them as violently as you boys did,” Rabbi Flanders said, nudging David, “but you are supposed to shake them.”

“So then wouldn’t shaking it hard be even better?” asked Zachary hopefully.

“No,” said Rabbi Flanders, “I’m afraid not. Though you might want to swing your light saber with gusto, you don’t have to shake your lulav so hard. I suppose you might say you wave it more than you shake it.”

“You mean like a sorcerer’s magic wand?” asked David.

“I suppose,” said the Rabbi. “You wave it in every direction to suggest that Hashem is everywhere and created everything. It also ties in to the Tefillat Hageshem, the prayer for rain that we recite during this holiday. We ask Hashem not to allow harmful winds from any of the four directions that could damage the crops, and to let rain fall appropriately.”

“You mean like the rain that’s falling now?”

Yes, but the rain we’re praying for is in Israel, which has its rainy season in the winter.”

“Good,” said Zachary, “because I don’t feel like praying for rain in New Milford right now,” he said, looking out the window.

“I can see your point,” said the rabbi. “So we’re cool with laying off the lulavim for a while?”

“Yes, Rabbi,” said the boys.

“Oh, and boys?”


“Live long and prosper,” he said as he left the house.

“What?” said David.

“Oh, wrong sci-fi series. I mean, may the force be with you.”

“Thanks, said Zachary. “Oh, and Rabbi, do you think my Dad will care if we bit off the top of his Etrog to use it as a sonic grenade?”


Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics and the author of the parsha story blog maggidofbergenfield.com

By Larry Stiefel

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