Torah Blog


A blog of Torah thoughts, poems and other random odds 'n' sods. For tag cloud click here.
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True direction of growth

Every year when shaking the arba minim, I find myself confused about which way up to hold the etrog. There are two ends, the pitom and the oketz, (stem). You are supposed to start off with it in in the wrong direction and then for the blessing turn it upside down to the correct direction. But which way is which?

This year, I discovered a way to remember it. According to the halacha, all the minim are supposed to be held in the direction of their growth. Thus, the myrtles must be held upright, for example. The etrog's growth is deemed to be upright too, and hence the correct direction is with the stem (oketz) facing down. In other words, we start off with the stem up, make the blessing, and then turn it around with stem down to shake it.

The problem is though, that if you look at a fruit tree, fruit do not grow upright! They hang down from the tree. The Mishnah Brurah (651:17) has an answer to this seeming contradiction to the laws of nature - its true direction of growth is, in fact, upright, but the fruit makes it heavy and that is why it hangs down.

And I think that this is an apt metaphor for our lives: our true direction of growth is upwards. Things do make us heavy and droopy but that's not who we really are...