Tuesday, February 17, 2009

781. Aravot redux

Purim is coming up, which means we're ready to start the whole cycle of holidays once again--but since October I've been meaning to correct a mistake in a post written during the last Yamim Nora'im. George asked, in response to my comments about Hoshanah Rabbah:

You wrote "I look forward to beating those lulavim to a pulp." Surely you meant aravot?

I did indeed. Aravot, one of the arbah minim (four species) of greens we use on Sukkot as part of the ritual, are willow branches--and the only part of the lulav we try to decimate at the end of the Hoshana Rabbah service. As I walked home after this final closing of the gate I thought of the beginning of the process, when we try to disown our sins in a much gentler fashion. Back then, I watched them float softly away on a slow current during Tashlikh; now, whatever remains after days of reflection must be forcibly removed. Both acts serve the same purpose, but time is now short. I like the first way better. If we always lived in peace like a flowing river, I wonder, if violence were banished from our natures, would we need to beat away our transgressions at all?

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