The Lulav: Pointing To Creator and Creature at the Season of Creation

It is the manner of earthly monarchs to extend the scepter with favor towards a subject.  During Sukkot, when the lulav becomes the scepter, it is the earthly, earthy subject who extends the scepter with favor towards the horizons and the heavens.  We reach out and draw in the lulav, as if to gather—to sum and to summon—wide abundance.  Each person stands at the center of a circle of reach, pointing now to creator, now to creature, at the season of creation as we prepare to begin the Torah anew.

Rashi, the great commentator of the middle ages, calls attention to the unique place of the human being who points beyond and within,  in whom earth and heaven, dust and spirit, conspire.  Rashi finds his opportunity in the following verse:  The Lord God formed humankind from the dust of the earth; He blew into his nostrils the breath of life and the human became a living being.  (Genesis 2:7)  Rashi says:

He made the human from the earthly as well as from the heavenly:  Body from the earthly and soul from the heavenly.  For on the first day he created heaven and earth.  On the second, He created the firmament on behalf of the heavenly.  On the third day:  let the dry land appear, was for the sake of the earthly elements. On the fourth day He created the lights for heavenly.  On the fifth day: let the waters teem, was for the earthly.  Therefore it became necessary on the sixth day to create something [like on the first day] that combined the heavenly and the earthly.  Otherwise, there would be jealousy among the works of creation.  For either the heavenly or the earthly would have claim to one day more of creation than the other.

(Click here for Rashi text in Hebrew and English)

The Israeli poet, Rivka Miriam, also understands that humankind brings an earthly perspective to the heavens as well as heavenly vision to earth:

In the beginning God created
the heavens that in essence are not
and the earth that wants to touch them.

In the beginning God created

threads stretched between them

between the heavens that in essence are not

and the imploring earth
And humankind he fashioned
such that a person is a prayer and a thread

touching that which is not

with a touch soft and delicate

(Click here for the Rivka Miriam poem in Hebrew and English)

It is the human being who prays and threads the distance between heaven and earth.  Perhaps the heavens in essence are not.  Nevertheless, it is the human reach towards abundance and beyond that makes the heavens real.

This entry was posted in Holidays, Midrash, Parshat HaShavuah, Poetry. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Lulav: Pointing To Creator and Creature at the Season of Creation

  1. vivie mayer says:

    This is beautiful!
    Threading the distance between heaven and earth seems to speak also of the open roof of schach and the whole enterprise of a sukkah/ a mishkan to bridge that distance. . .
    I will share this with my class!

  2. Zvi Altman says:

    I wonder if it is not this lifetime which is a sukkah – a temporary dwelling of the soul – a bridge of uncertainty to connect that which is to that which is…

  3. Barbara Litwack says:

    Rabbi Sager-

    Your writing is poetry and is quite beautiful. The images here remind me of weaving, a process I do love.

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