Poll: Wanna Shake the Lulav?

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It’s almost Sukkot, which means that in a few days Chabad emissaries will take to the streets and not-so-covertly ask: You Jewish?

If the answer is “yes,” they’ll ask you if you want to shake the lulav — the holiday’s ritual du jour. As a general rule, I am a fan of Chabad; but as a general rule I’m also leery of public displays of religion and a little embarrassed by the tribalism of the “You Jewish?” question.

Last year I got particularly queezy when a Chabdnik rolled through my NYC subway car with added aggression and a parting shout-out to the imminent End of Days.

That being said, I will likely shake the lulav with Chabad at some point during the holiday. And I’ll appreciate the opportunity. So I’m curious: What do you guys think about this annual lulav-shaking agenda?

Posted on September 24, 2007

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5 thoughts on “Poll: Wanna Shake the Lulav?

  1. hherring

    A question for Daniel: how would you feel if the people offering to share lulav and etrog were not Chabadniks? In other words, how much of your ambivalence is related to who is doing the outreach and how much is related to the idea of reaching out to other Jews publicly? While sharing this ambivalence, I’d like to see more Jews willing to share their feelings of joyful Judaism with others.

  2. Daniel Septimus Post author

    As I said — perhaps not strongly enough — I’m a big fan of Chabad, generally. They present Judaism with warmth and a smile, and the rest of us would do well to learn from them.

    Problem is: as a general rule, the truly gifted emissaries will rise to the top, but when it comes to Sukkot-time, many high school kids and less socially adept members of the community take to the streets too.

    If you ask “You Jewish?” in the wrong way, while holding a branch and a lemon, it’s a potential hilul hashem. That’s my concern.

    That plus the fact that I do have an old-school, knee-jerk aversion (cf. “a Jew in the home and a man in the street” ) to religion in the public square. But that, I admit, is my own mishugas.

  3. The Doctor

    I am reminded of when we saw a chabadnick holding a hanukkiah in the streets of St. Thomas and we went to greet him with a Hag Sameach [in part because we had pity for his wearing Lithuanian winter garb in the tropics] and his response was to look at us, raise his eyebrows, and say “what, are you Jewish?”

    It was difficult to remember that he was basically on a good mission when we were greeted that way…

  4. Ezekah

    [Editor in Chief]Problem is: as a general rule, the truly gifted emissaries will rise to the top, but when it comes to Sukkot-time, many high school kids and less socially adept members of the community take to the streets too.

    Perhaps Sukkot is for their trainees because it is easier. I mean, it doesn’t take a lot of skill to shake the lulav. However, putting tefillin on another’s arm takes much more finesse.

  5. clara1

    I just say, “I’m Jewish, wanna fight. I live over there if the KKK is looking for me.”

    Not really, but I am still Jewless.

    Clara

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