Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Four Plants

(A rerun from last year)

R. Yitzchak Herzog (Judaism: Law & Ethics, pp. 23-24) quotes the famous midrash about how hadas has a good smell, lulav (date) has a good taste, esrog has both and aravah has none. Homiletically, he takes aroma to refer branching out into the many spheres of society and taste to refer to being religiously observant and remaining within the Jewish community.
His take is as follows:

[Hadas:] There are, on the other hand, Jews eminent in many spheres of life and culture, in the industrial world, in politics, in law, in letters, in science and in art. Their fame travels far beyond the community. They have fragrance. They spread a far-reaching aroma. But only too often these Jews have no Jewish taste, have no Jewish substance in them. They do little or nothing to perpetuate the religious and national traditions of their people, or to build up its future...

[Lulav:] Then we have Jews who yield substantial, solid fruit for Israel, Jews who lead honest lives, practise Judaism, and participate in every movement which aims at the restoration and regeneration of their people. But the great work which they are accomplishing quietly, unobtrusively, day by day, is unknown to the outside world. Their specifically Jewish activities find no echo outside of the community. There is no far-reaching aroma. Only those within the inner circle can taste the fruit... These Jews form the backbone of the nation...

Finally the etrog typifies the Jew who spreads far and wide a beautiful aroma; who reflect honour upon his people, but who, unlike the myrtle, is at the same time a solid fruit, a Jew in substance as well as in name, a Jew equppied with Jewish knowledge, with Jewish religious sentiment, and with a deep Jewish historic consciousness, a Jew who practises his religion and who works for his faith and race, for the realisation of his people's age-long hope and aspirations.

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