President Reuven Rivlin admires the etrog of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau.
(photo credit: MARK NEIMAN - GPO)
Although it is generally acknowledged that the president of the state is citizen number one, on Sukkot he defers to the chief rabbis, and instead of them coming to him, he visits each of them separately in their respective home sukkahs.
On Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin traveled to Modi’in to sit with Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau in his sukkah. They discussed the values and commandments handed down in the Torah to generations of the Children of Israel and the Jewish people.
Rivlin reminisced about the Sukkot celebrations of his youth in Jerusalem, and said that despite the fact that there were so many different communities, each with their own spiritual leaders and traditions living in the city, there was nonetheless a similarity in every sukkah. “This made us feel as if we were one people,” he said. “We felt a genuine sense of unity, and unity is after all one of the symbols of Sukkot.” Rivlin was referring to the four species of lulav, etrog, hadassim and aravot taken together, representing different kinds of Jews.
Lau said that the important thing was that people should talk to each other, noting that during the visit, Rivlin had met volunteers from the One Heart organization which works toward unity despite differences.
The mission at this time of year, said Lau, is to put aside the masks of our day-to-day lives and to come together in the sukkah, which in itself is a symbol of peace.
Lau emphasized that during the current period it is imperative that people realize that the most important aim is peace – “firstly peace amongst ourselves – and the rest will come naturally.”
Lau told Rivlin about the fine etrog on his table which came from the Naveh settlement under the jurisdiction of the Eshkol Regional Council. The settlement was established by evacuees from Gush Katif. Lau said that it had been quite emotional for him to receive this particular etrog. Rivlin replied that it symbolizes
the renewal of evacuees from Atzmona who were the founders of Naveh.
From Modi’in, Rivlin returned to Jerusalem – not to his residence but to the sukkah of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, who greeted him warmly and presented him with a copy of his new book Yalkut Yosef
, which deals specifically with the four species. Yosef also commended Rivlin for keeping up the tradition of visiting the chief rabbis during Sukkot, and spoke of the importance of hosting people in the sukkah. He thanked Rivlin for enabling him to perform this mitzvah (“good deed”) each year.
(Hospitality pre-dates the giving of the Torah and was practiced by Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people.)
Rivlin, who is suffering from a flu virus and is receiving intravenous antibiotics on a constant basis, walks around with a small portable drip clutched in one hand. He was holding it during both visits. As he was leaving, Yosef blessed him and wished him a speedy recovery.
Today, Wednesday, Rivlin is set to host Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman prior to Thursday’s Open Sukkah at the President’s Residence in which the Health Ministry will play a vital role in promoting good health through proper nutrition, exercise and the avoidance of junk food.
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