I tend to find waving the lulav
to be rather embarrassing, to be honest. But this year, W and I were at Shaarei K'shishim, our assisted living community, being the Rabbinical Presence for the first two days of Succot. We've never been there for Succot before; we've been doing Shabbats for two years, but this is our first Succot with them.
And it was a total, total riot. I had the best time. When it came round to lulav-waving time, there were three sets - mine, W's, and Shaarei K'shishim's one. There were perhaps twenty people in attendance, and everybody needs to shake, so we did it in rounds. Well, the guys all got up and came to the front and got moving - W walking them through it charmingly - and I took mine over to the women, who were sat in their seats watching the men. One of the men, the one who knows English, asked, amazed, "Is this something women can do?" and then said "Good!" when I said oh yes it jolly well is.
So anyway, there's all these women, a few of them have fluent English, but the rest of them have Russian or Yiddish or hearing aids, all lining up for me to put the lulav and the etrog in their hands. They don't really read Hebrew, most of them, so I said the blessings word by word and they repeated them, and then I mimed the actions and they did them for real along with me. I'm so used to being able to do things like go buy a lulav that I forget that some people just don't have the chance, and even when the shul provides one, they don't have the chance to use it because they don't have the skills to do it from the siddur, and there's no-one to show them how, assuming that women won't be interested.
There were two specially moving ones. One Russian lady, who kissed the lulav and the etrog when I gave them to her, and reverentially shook them, and then cuddled them when she was done - that was beautiful. Plain, simple, beautiful piety. And the other, my friend the tallit lady, who has started wearing a tallit at ninety-nine years old - she was thrilled. So, so thrilled, by something as simple as a lemon and some branches. Definitely a humbling experience. So this morning, when it came to lulav-shaking time, I wasn't doing it in a half-assed "omg look at us waving vegetables" kind of way, no, I was thinking about my ladies at Shaarei K'shishim, for whom waving the vegetables was a brush with the sacred.
And the bit where we all made a procession around the sifrei Torah, taking it in turns to wave the lulav and trying not to fall over anyone's walker? Fantastic.