- What does self-care mean to you? When do you find that you most need to take a step back and treat yourself - physically and emotionally?
- In your experience, what is the emotional progression of the High Holidays season - from Tisha b'Av, to Rosh HaShana, to Yom Kippur, and finally, to Sukkot? How is one's body engaged in celebrating or observing the different holidays?
- (Why) do you think that at the end of this progression, Sukkot arrives as the holiday of joy, and one which provides a significant opportunity to treat/reward oneself emotionally and physically?
- In verse 30 (the bolded section), what is commanded to the people of Israel?
- The sentence would have read perfectly fine without the words, "for yourselves." What do you make of these extra words?
The above text clarifies that "for yourselves" means that one needs to own their own lulav on the first day of the holiday, rather than borrow it (and certainly not steal it!)
- Why do you think the lulav must be your own, and not someone else's? Do we always own our own tallit, or challah on Shabbat, or Menorah on Chanukah?
- What benefits/costs do you feel there would be to using your own lulav?
- How, if at all, might this requirement connect to the last commandment that one be "joyous" on Sukkot? In what ways do you think having your own lulav increase or decrease joy?
Dena Weiss, The Holiday of our Joy
Sukkot is a manifestation of the kind of joy and pleasure that should always permeate our relationship with Torah. Torah should be something that we want to experience fully, that we want to hold. The mitzvot associated with Sukkot should provide us with a template of how to maximize our positive associations with the Torah, and to acknowledge the mutually supportive relationship between aesthetic and moral beauty.
We've learned that the lulav must be one's own, that there is a focus on the individual for this very mitzvah, and that there is a hint that it has some impact on one's holiday cheer.
But why the lulav in particular? Based on what you've learned in the past and/or your own hypothesis, what do you think the four species listed symbolize? No ideas are off the table!
- How does this text understand the symbolism of the four species?
- What message do you think the author of this text is sending by suggesting this interpretation? Why, of all times of the year and of all ritual items, would he connect the verse from Psalms to the lulav and Sukkot?
- How do you express praise and gratitude with different elements of your body? Do you find this harder to do when you are feeling weak, physically or even metaphorically, for example - when you can't "see" straight, or find the strength to "walk" upright, or "stand" in allyship, or to fully use your voice?
If feeling strong and healthy in our bodies is a critical component of joy, then our tradition suggests we need to be careful and mindful of when we are neglecting our bodies.
There is a commandment that the Four Species need to be held together in one bunch, and if they are not all together, then one does not fulfill the mitzvah. This suggests that each part of our bodies needs its attention to express full joy and gratitude.
And furthermore, one doesn't just lift up the lulav - which we can now say is symbolically lifting up ourselves - but one does naanuim - one shakes the lulav in all 6 directions. This shaking is actually considered to be a victory dance of sorts. Imagine that! By taking, lifting, and shaking the lulav, we are dancing with a united body and soul.
There are many ways to take care of our bodies - and minds - and one way we can integrate the themes of Sukkot - like water and the autumnal harvest - and into self-care is through the ancient art of making and sipping herbal teas.
There are a number of easy-to-follow instructions online for making tea blends. Here are a few examples:
From eatingwell.com, "Make Your Own Herbal Tea Blends"
1. Peppermint Herbal Tea
Steeping Instructions: For dried herbs, use 1 teaspoon peppermint, ½ teaspoon fennel seeds and ½ teaspoon coriander seeds per cup of tea. (If using fresh herbs, triple the quantities.) Steep for 15 minutes. Strain as needed.
Health Benefits: A perfect blend to sip on after meals, this healthy digestion tea can help soothe your stomach and may reduce irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. Peppermint tea can also help boost your memory.
2. Energizing Lemon Herbal Tea
- Lemon verbena
- Lemon thyme
- Steeping Instructions: For dried herbs, use 1 teaspoon lemon verbena, ½ teaspoon lemon thyme and ½ teaspoon lemongrass per cup of tea. (If using fresh herbs, triple the quantities.) Steep for 15 minutes. Strain as needed.
- Health Benefits: A great way to add some extra energy into your morning routine, this tea is composed of three different types of lemon-scented herbs. With extra vitamin C and a healthy dose of antioxidants, this tea blend can awaken your senses.
3. Soothing Lavender Chamomile Herbal Tea
- Steeping Instructions: For dried herbs, use 1 teaspoon chamomile, ½ teaspoon lavender and ½ teaspoon mint per cup of tea. (If using fresh herbs, triple the quantities.) Steep for 15 minutes. Strain as needed.
- Health Benefits: Sip this soothing tea before bed: the lavender scent alone may lower stress levels and aid in relaxation. Mint is a wonderful stomach soother that can help digestion. Chamomile is good for soothing your stomach, reducing anxiety and improving your sleep.
4. Tummy Tea: A Stomach-Soothing Mint Blend
- 1 cup dried mint
- 1/4 cup fennel seeds
- (optional) 1/8 cup finely chopped dried ginger
- Mint is famed for its ability to soothe many a stomach ailment. In fact, along with fennel, ginger and other stomach-supporters, it's one of my highest recommended herbs for digestion.
5. Lavender Mint Tea Blend
- 1/2 cup dried mint leaves
- 2 to 3 tablespoons dried lavender blossoms
6. Lemon Mint
- 1/2 cup dried mint
- 1/2 cup dried lemon balm
- 1/2 cup dried lemongrass
7. Deeply Cooling Herbs
- 1/2 cup dried mint
- 1/2 cup dried sage leaf
- Great for colds, sore throats, and fevers. Steep for longer than most brews--10 to 20 minutes is ideal.
And a black tea, but no less delicious is Masala Chai:
- 5–7 cardamon pods
- 3–4 whole cloves
- 1–2 star anise ( optional )
- 5–7 peppercorns ( optional)
- 1 cup water
- 2–3 slices ginger ( skins ok)
- ½ cinnamon stick, split lengthwise ( use your fingers to separate)
- 2 tablespoons black tea, loose leaf ( or 1–2 tea bags) Or sub decaf black tea
- 1 cup milk of your choice- almond, oat, soy, cashew, hemp, macadamia, or organic whole milk ( I like unsweetened, vanilla-flavored almond or oat milk)
- 2–3 teaspoons ( or more or less) maple syrup, honey, sugar or alternative. (Sugar is traditional, but I prefer maple. )
Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let seep 10 minutes…. or for several hours. The longer, the more flavor.
Add milk. Bring to a simmer once more, turn off heat.
Sweeten, taste, strain into a glass.