Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Stolen Lulavs and Stolen Judaism

You can’t use a stolen Lulav on Succot.

A whole chapter of the Talmudic Tractate goes by the name ‘Lulav HaGazul’ – the Stolen Lulav.

It raises an interesting metaphysical idea.

The Lulav looks the same as your neighbour’s.

You shake it the same way your neighbour shakes it.

It just doesn’t fulfil the obligation of Lulav because it’s not yours.

You have to own your own Lulav.


For what it is worth you can’t borrow a Lulav, on the first day of Succot either nor can you rely on someone else to shake a Lulav on your behalf. You need to own your own Lulav.


I think the same applies to every aspect of our faith.

There is such a thing as a stolen Judaism, a borrowed Judaism and there is such a thing as a Judaism lived vicariously – a Judaism that we expect someone else to do on our behalf. And they don’t work.


So what is a stolen Judaism? During the Yom Kippur afternoon Shiur with Joel Stanley, and the Rabbinic Q&A that followed, there was an interesting conversation on the relationship between using the rituals of Judaism to bring one to a place where one feels rooted, in a way that one cannot without ritual ‘support,’ as opposed to the idea of ‘faking’ one’s Judaism – going through the actions devoid of an attempt to find a spiritual connection; doing the actions without bringing the soul along too. This kind of faking, this appropriation of the external shell without the internal commitment is the kind of dishonesty a faked or stolen Judaism entails.

We need to own our own Judaism.


And at some point in the next week of Succot, I urge us all to come take hold of a Lulav and to find a Succah in which to dwell. We have a fabulous Succah, of course, at the Shul and I hope as many members as possible will come and enjoy the sense of feeling this festival; the sense of being outdoors, connected to the season, engaged in the cycle of the year.

Just please don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.


For those members who find it easier to make weekday festivals, we would be particularly grateful for your support on this (and next) Thursday and Friday mornings. Services start at 9:15am. And we will have some Lulavim which we can give you (you can be given a Lulav on Succot – gifts are always good).


Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom

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