|L’Chaim with Etrog Liquor|
This week, William Shatner of Star Trek fame returned to earth after his first real-life journey into space. Shortly after touchdown, he spoke humbly about our earths’ fragility and the importance of taking care of our planet. Caring for our environment and recycling have become modern Mitzvahs. But the truth is recycling is an ancient Jewish practice. The Mishna, an ancient book of Jewish Law and Lore from the Second Temple period (200 CE), describes how the wicks of the great menorah of the Temple were only allowed to be made from worn-out clothes. The Talmud urges that any object that has been used for a mitzvah should be recycled and used for another mitzvah. For example, the glass that one breaks under the wedding chuppah can be kept and melted down to make a glass mezuzah for the home of the new couple. If you know of anyone getting married, recommend to the couple this practice of saving their wedding glass, and make it part of their home. The mezuzah is always placed on a diagonal to symbolize “Shalom Bayit” (peace in the house), a supreme Jewish value for a happy home.
Another example of ancient Jewish recycling comes from what to do with the Lulav after Sukkot. It is an Askenazi minhag (custom) before Pesach to use the Lulav like a broom to sweep up the chametz (bread crumbs) from the home. The Lulav then serves as the kindling for the fire of the biyur chametz, the burning of the last bread-crumbs the morning before the Passover Seder. Using the Lulav beyond Sukkot gives it further honor and respect (kavod) and fulfills the Jewish value of recycling. What about recycling the Etrog after Sukkot? From my father I learned how to make Etrog Liquor. I call it the Jewish Limoncello. Last week during the “Indigenous Peoples Day” holiday (formally “Columbus Day”), I made two liters of exquisite Etrog Schnapps using organic honey from Rosh Hashana and some left over Etrogim. The liquor is now fermenting and will be ready for Hanukah. The Maccabees called Hanukah, “Sukkot in Kislev (the month of Hanukah).” Hanukah, is when light begins to increase again after the darkest day of the year. I invite you to come to our Temple on Hanukah to enjoy with me a “L’Chaim,” of boutique home-made Etrog liquor. Even a small amount has very pleasing etrog fragrance and taste! This will help us connect Sukkot to Hanukah, which is only seven weeks away, and celebrates the Jewish value of recycling.
Rabbi David Wilfond