Don't Suffer From Spiritual Dehydration - Water Your Soul

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The Mishna in Sukkah (29b) teaches that a stolen lulav and a dried out lulav are disqualified from fulfilling the mitzvah.  The problem with a stolen lulav is evident: how could one possibly fulfill a mitzvah through an inherently corrupt and unethical action?  The invalidity of a dry lulav, however, requires closer analysis. After all, once a lulav is cut from the tree, it is going to dry out eventually.  What difference does it make if I shake a lulav that has lost its green color?


Rashi explains – When performing a mitzvah we seek something which is beautiful and will best glorify Hashem.  A dry lulav is unattractive and unpleasant, and therefore, is invalid.  The Yerushalmi, however, gives an altogether different reason, suggesting that a dry lulav is not valid because ‘lo ha’meisim y’halelu kah - the dead cannot praise God.’  A dry lulav is dead and therefore cannot be used as an instrument or vehicle for praise.  Indeed, the Ba’al Ha’Turim notes that the Gematria of lulav is 68, which is the same as chayim, life.


The Yerushalmi’s insight has broader applications. If a dead, wilted, lifeless lulav cannot be used as an instrument of praise to Hashem, than certainly a wilted, lifeless, dried out, burnt out person cannot connect to the Almighty. Generally speaking, too many of us are spiritually dehydrated.  We are living but we are not alive..  Lo ha’meisim y’halelu kah – we cannot expect to connect with Hashem, family members or others if we have no simchas ha’chayim, no joy in our lives.  Some of us are a lulav ha’yaveish, a wilted lulav, because of the stresses, pressures, and responsibilities of life.  Others are simply burnt out from this intense holiday period filled with long davening, arduous introspection, and painful self-reflection.


But now is not the time to burn out, to dry out or to lose the joy in life.  We worked hard to get sealed in the Sefer HaChayim and now is the time to add simcha so we are living with true simchas ha’chayim.  Now is the holiday of v’samachta b’chagecha. We deserve happiness, joy, good food, good friends, a good shluf, a good conversation, and most importantly a good laugh or smile.  We worked hard over the Yamim Noraim and we earned this Yom Tov that is zman simchaseinu, the time of joy and happiness.


The following story was related some years ago by a college student:


The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn’t already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder. I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being. She said, “Hi, my name is Rose. I’m eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?”  I laughed and enthusiastically responded, “Of course you may!” and she gave me a giant squeeze. “Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age?” I asked.  She jokingly replied, “I’m here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel.”  “No seriously,” I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.


“I always dreamed of having a college education and now I’m getting one!” she told me. We became instant friends.  Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening as she shared her wisdom and experience with me. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she easily made friends wherever she went.


At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I’ll never forget what she taught us.  She began: “We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success: 1) You have to laugh and find humor every day. 2) You’ve got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it! 3) There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up. If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don’t do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight. Anybody can grow older. Growing older is mandatory, growing up is optional.  4) Have no regrets. The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do.”


At the years end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it’s never too late to be all you can possibly be.


Lo ha’meisim y’halelu kah, the dead cannot praise God. Let’s stop being a lulav hayaveish.  Stop walking around with a farbissina face, a depressed disposition and a down attitude.  Don’t be negative.  It’s hot in the sukkah – so what?  Spiritually hydrate with a positive attitude, a smile, a joy for life and a simchas ha’chayim.


Rav Yisroel Salanter said that our faces are also a reshus ha’rabim they are public domain.  The decision to be b’simcha doesn’t only affect us, but is contagious and can positively influence the whole environment around us.  If we are generous with our smiles and if as Rose taught, we choose to be alive, we can truly have a chag sameach.