This morning I woke and came straight out. I live in the middle of the desert so it’s impossible to explain exactly how hot it can get here during the day, but they take the official temperature you see on the news in the shade at the airport. I have come out to my van at the end of a day at a water park during the summer and had the van’s thermometer tell me it was over 150 degrees out. Some nights it’s almost 100 degrees at 1am. And I know it’s supposed to be autumn, but we still have another month before that really impacts us in any practical way. Yet at this moment, in the sukkah, it is breezy and gorgeous. It’s like sitting in Adonai’s lap. So here I sit.
And this morning I am thinking about the lulav and the privilege of bringing a wave offering before the Lord.
In one tradition, we find the four species represent, as appearances of 4 are often found to do, the 4 types of people that we encounter. There is the willow that produces no fruit and no fragrance–no love of neighbor or Adonai. There is the myrtle, with beautiful fragrance, but no fruit–the one who loves Adonai, but his neighbor not so much. There is the palm, with fruit but no fragrance–practical love for your neighbor, or any exercise of the Torah, without the beautiful fragrance of love as the motivator is as the vanity of trying to work your way into God’s favor. Then there is the citron–with fruit so beautiful and fragrance so heavenly–the picture of the one who has both love for God, and, from that, faith unto works. It is as though James, in his letter to the believers, were trying to yell at everyone, “BE THE CITRON!”*
And we might be able to engage in lots of heady debate about what constitutes the willow, or the myrtle, or the palm or the citron. Lots could be argued about whether fragrance and fruit could coexist without representing an inherent connection. We might split into positions or divide for obvious doctrinal differences. EXCEPT . . . . as you complete the wave in each direction, you pull the lulav to your heart. YOUR heart. Your OWN heart.
Because Sukkot is not an opportunity God has provided to examine your neighbor’s heart. It falls in the month of Tishrei–a month set aside by the Lord for teshuvah/repentance** God has provided you with an opportunity to ask yourself if YOU are the citron. What about when you turn to the right? To the left? To those who see your face? To the One who sees you from above? To those who witness you from below? What about those who see your backside? Are you like Adam and Eve who wore an apron (and we all know apron’s only present the appearance of clothing–maybe enough if you plan to back into the real bush–but unless you ARE the bush, unless you ARE the citron, when anyone sees you they will know soon enough there is no fragrance or fruit–only the vain appearance of either)? Or have you taken to heart what Messiah said when he spoke the words, as recorded in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
My prayer today is to be the citron. That must start with making sure that I am connected to the True Vine. It must continue with remembering I am a branch–I cannot force fruit to grow. It is the fruit of the Spirit. This means my connection to the Vine must be solid so that the Vine’s Spirit can flow through me and to the world. And the amazing thing is that this is not about removing myself from the process. Rather, it is about recognizing my rightful place in the process. I will only have fragrance if I am connected. I will only have fruit if I am a conduit.
So off I go to the house–yes, in the time it took to write this the sun has come up above the fence line and it’s already getting warm. But I go in changed in a way that seems to happen each time I sit and think in the sukkah.
*I must credit Michelle, our dear friend and sister in the Lord, with this one. We have an official new Sukkot greeting at Shema
**Expect some new articles soon on the Hebrew months and what we are supposed to learn from them. It’s amazing what the Lord has been teaching me about this over the last year! I’m so excited to share it.