Lulav and The Body© - A Sukkot Holiday Resource For Those Struggling with Eating Disorders

Lulav and The Body©
A Source Sheet For Those Struggling with Eating Disorders
by Rabbi David Baum
Sukkot 5777/2016

The lulav, whose central pillar is referred to as its backbone/spine (shidrah) resembles the backbone of the human
The leaves of the myrtle branch (hadas) resemble the eyes of the human
The leaves of the willow branch (aravah) resemble the lips of human
The etrog resembles the heart (lev) of the human
Midrash - VaYikra Rabbah 30:14

Explanations by Rabbi David Baum

Every morning in Judaism, we wake up and say prayers thanking God for the little things that make a big difference – parts of our bodies that allow to live in this world. On Sukkot, we shake the lulav every morning to help remind us even more of the importance of our bodies and how we can better 'walk' in this world – with the confidence of a straight spine; with more open eyes; with a mouth ready to speak words of praise and goodness; and a heart that is open and ready for healing.

Lulav/Palm – The Backbone/Spine
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱל–הֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם. זוקֵף כְּפוּפִים.
Praised are You, our God, ruler of time and space, who straightens those who are bent down...
In our daily prayers, we thank God for being the force that straightens the spines of those who are bent over. We know that our mental states can bring us down, can force us to just look down at the ground rather than look up at the potential of what CAN be.

As we shake the lulav, let us be mindful of the power that God gives us to strengthen our spines and backbones, and to look up to the potential of healing and the future...


Hadas/Myrtle – The Eyes
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱל–הֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם. פּוקֵחַ עִוְרִים.
Praised are You, our God, ruler of time and space, who gives sight to the blind
In our daily prayers, we thank God for being the force that gives sight to the blind. This could be taken literally, but there are times when all of us are blind to things in our life. There are times when the darkness of our afflictions leave us blind from the great things in this world; from the beautiful parts of ourselves.

As we shake the lulav, and the Hadas/Myrtle, let us be mindful of the power that God gives us to truly see the great in this world and in ourselves.

Aravah/Willow Branch– The Lips
Every morning, we recognize that God created the world with God's words through the Baruch SheAmar prayer – “Praised is God whose word created the world.” God gave us God's Ruach Elohim, breath of life, and with that came the ability to speak. Our lips are the gatekeepers for one of the most powerful forces in the world...our words.
As we shake the lulav, and the Willow Branch/Aravah, let us focus on the positive realities we can create with our mouths.

Etrog - The Heart/Lev
There is nothing so whole as a broken heart.” The Kotzker Rebbe, Hassidic Master

As we hold the etrog in our hand, we feel the bumps on it, and the imperfection of the shape of the fruit. Nobody is perfect, No Body is perfect either. As we hold the etrog, the heart, in our hand, we recognize that we can only become more whole when we embrace our brokeneness. A broken heart that has been hurt by others, or even ourselves, can heal. Let us let go of our grudges and the anger that poisons our hearts. It is said that people with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists and often have great difficulty forgiving themselves, so most of all...

As we shake the lulav, and the Etrog, let us focus on how we can direct our hearts towards healing, and let us begin the process of forgiving ourselves.

Conclusion:

"Mark, on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the yield of your land, you shall observe the festival of the Lord [to last] seven days… You shall live in booths seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in booths, in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I the Lord your God (Lev. 23:39, 42-43)"
On Sukkot, we are asked to remember what it was like to be taken out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom. Today, let us meditate on those moments when we felt free, and let us work to help free our bodies and minds from the things that are holding us back.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱל–הֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם. מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים.
Praised are You, our God, ruler of time and space, who releases the bound...


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