Shakin’ the Lulav

I want to share a fun song with you, but first I have to explain it. There’s deep meaning in it, but if I don’t explain, it will just seem like a weird custom.

The other day I described Sukkot–the Feast of Tabernacles. To be blessed with a fuller explanation of the Feast, read the post here. But in this post I will briefly summarize:

Sukkot represents a time of renewed fellowship with God, remembering His sheltering provision and care for us as we travel in the desert, surrounded by His glory. In Leviticus, God commands that the people celebrate the Feast, commanding that His people gather “four species” of plants (Lev. 23:40), rejoice before the Lord (Deut. 16:13-14; Lev. 23:40), and to live in a “sukkah,” a temporary shelter (Lev. 23:42).

At the end of Sukkot is a celebration known as Simhat Torah, in which the Word of God is joyfully celebrated. The Jews read the last chapter of the Torah and then re-roll the scroll and read the first chapter of the Torah, beginning the schedule of Bible reading for another year. They often sing and dance with the Torah.

Prophetically, the Feast of Tabernacles describes the millennium Kingdom, when the Messiah sets up His kingdom here on earth.

Some people believe that Jesus was actually born during the Feast of Tabernacles. You can read why they think so here. I think it makes sense that He was born during this feast, which celebrates the Presence of God and His Word. John 1:14 seems to describe the whole meaning and atmosphere of Sukkot:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling [or Tabernacled] among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Even though I think it’s more likely Jesus was born during this Feast rather than during December, I think the important thing is that people celebrate the Word of God whenever possible, rather than argue about when He is born. However, I also think that it is very beneficial to learn about this (and other Biblical Feasts) because they have a lot to teach us about Jesus and His work. Furthermore the Bible says that one day the WHOLE WORLD will celebrate Sukkot. Zechariah 14:16-21 says that after the Tribulation:

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The LORD will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.

On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.

So we should at least prepare ourselves by educating ourselves about this Feast, don’t you think?

Even in our day, many nations celebrate the Sukkot in Israel. Here is a video showing the 2011 Sukkot parade in Jerusalem. Notice how many nations are participating. I think this is just a small glimpse of what this Feast will be like when Jesus comes as King. I do not know how to embed this particular video, so to watch this awesome parade, click here. I feel chills of awe when I watch videos of the Sukkot Parade and imagine that one day the whole world will celebrate Sukkot and worship the King of Kings in Jerusalem.
This was not the video I wrote this post to share with you. I wanted to share a video about waving the lulav. It is waved around in every direction to symbolize the all-encompassing presence of God. What is a lulav?

Keren Hannah Pryor of the Center for Judaic-Christian Studies wrote (in an email newsletter you can subscribe to) the following about the lulav. This is just a small portion of a beautiful, meaningful teaching about Sukkot in the newsletter. Keren wrote:

After the sukkah [temporary shelters], the most visible elements associated with the celebration of the festival of Sukkot are the Arba Minim, the Four Species. While the sukkah is a reminder of the temporary nature of our journey and the need for God’s supernatural provision and protection in the wilderness, the four species are related to the Land and fruitfulness, to settled productivity.

There are seven species specifically connected with the Land of Israel, which many people use in some way as decorative items in the sukkah. These are wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates, as listed in Deuteronomy 8:8. The successful growth of each of these crops is entirely dependent on the weather patterns and the provision and timing of the seasonal rainfall.As these are in the hands of the Creator, prayers are said at the end of Sukkot for His timely provision of rain. The prophet Zechariah also makes a millennial connection with the Feast and rain: “And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of Hosts, there will be no rain upon them” (14:17).

The particular four species gathered together for Sukkot are: the lulav (an unopened palm branch), hadassim (three myrtle branches), aravot (two willow branches), and the etrog (the citron). Customarily, the branches are placed together in a special holder of woven palm fronds and are held together with the etrog when praying special prayers. They also are waved in a specific manner before God. This is done in response to the commandment:

You shall take on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)

A well-known rabbinic analogy compares the four species to four types of believers in God.

1) The beautiful, shining etrog is a fruit that has both taste and fragrance. It represents the person who is both learned in knowledge of the Torah and who lives what he learns; he studies and walks in obedience to the commandments of God.

2) The lulav is part of the palm tree, the fruit of which has taste but no fragrance. This represents one who studies the Scriptures and has knowledge of God but does not have the deeds to match. In modern vernacular, he does not “walk the talk”.

3) The hadassim, myrtle branches, have fragrance but no taste and represent those who do many good deeds but have little knowledge of the Torah or teaching of God.

4) The aravah, willow, has neither taste not fragrance and represents the believer who has not studied and gained knowledge of God and also has not grown spiritually by performing mitzvot, the good deeds taught in God’s Word such as prayer, charity, hospitality, etc..

When the four species are gathered together and lifted before God, the Father of all, they are a powerful symbol of unity. Although people have varying strengths and weaknesses, when they come together and are united as one before God, they are elevated in His love and gain victory over the foe – which I like to consider as an acronym for the force of estrangement – that divides and weakens. In unity, we can strengthen and encourage one another in our service to our Father, and we receive His blessing.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
…For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life for evermore. (Psalm 133:1-3)

On Hoshanah Rabbah, the last day of the week of Sukkot, the willow branches are separated and beaten on the ground. Not many, if any, leaves remain on the branches, which are now wilted and weakened. This can symbolize the casting off of our sins, which have been atoned for by our Savior and Redeemer. Also, it is a vivid challenge that one not be content with being a willow-branch believer, but rather, in the year ahead, to grow in knowledge and understanding of the Word and in the doing of it. May we aspire to live a life that is both fruitful and fragrant!

Now that you know what the lulav is and means, here is a fun song I found today. It has been running through my mind all day. I LOVE IT!

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