A year ago, the living room was covered with lumber, bins of paint and brushes, as our painted sukkah slowly took form. This afternoon the boys (now men) visited to help us erect The Sukkah again, and we look forward to the week’s many breakfast and dinner visitors, and inter-faith gatherings.
With the work of contributing to the presidential campaign, it’s been a challenge to find time to tikkun-knit for the sukkah this year. Creating a knitted lulav has been on the drawing board since last year, but since Sukkot observance was not a part of my childhood, there’s been much to learn in order to move the project forward. What a treat to spend a few late night hours exploring the historical iconography of the ritual symbols of the holiday: the lulav and etrog.
The importance of these symbols to the creation and transmission of Jewish identity over time is remarkable. Torah features the observance of the harvest festival (Sukkot) as the principal catalyst for the resistance that informs the Exodus narrative and its ancient model of community identity (Exodus 5:1 is the node) . The lulav and etrog number among the central symbols of Judaism on the synagogue mosaics and national coins of late antiquity, expanding their significance beyond ritual with inscriptions that proclaim the desire for peace and idependence. (source of mosaic below left; coins from the 1st Jewish Revolt, 66-73 CE, image source) and 2nd (Bar Kokhba) Revolt, 135 CE)
Last year my concern about the commercialization of the lulav led me to knit plastic etrogs; this concern persists, and I continue to avoid contributing to what has become a billion dollar industry (the “Jewish industrial complex”?) based on diaspora anxieties. So I continue to work on producing my own versions of the ritual symbols. One late evening’s labor recently yielded a knitted and felted etrog, which now joins last year’s knitted versions.
I’ve been poring over photos and descriptions of the Four Species (Arba’at Ha-Minim): the ritual Lulav‘s palm, willow and myrtle branches, and the prized etrog (citron). With a bit of persistence (and knitting during walks to work or in rehearsal breaks), my needles will shake daily to offer their own “first fruits”. I’m still not sure about adding scent to my etrogs (my precious bottle of organic lemon oil just can’t substitute for the extraordinary scent of the etrog). Nonetheless, I’ll look forward to sharing them, and my knitted lulav ‘s three other species, a pair of knitted palm leaves (lulav), two willow (aravah) branches and three myrtle (hadass) branches, with neighbors when they stop by on the annual urban sukkah tour.
As always, patterns for these examples of knitted Judaica for Sukkot are or will be available as Patterns for Peacebuilders.