Click photo to download. Caption: Repurposing the etrog as b’samim (spices) for havdalah. Credit: Shivimpanim.org.
Another High Holidays season is upon us, which means
Sukkot is right around the corner. In no time you’ll be ordering your annual
bouquet of palm fronds, citrons, myrtle, and willows—the famous Four Species.
Given the state of the economy these days, it’s painful to buy anything that
you can only use once. Why not stretch the value of your lulav and etrog
this year with a little creative repurposing post-festival? When they can be
shaken and blessed no more, try one or all of these suggestions for getting the
most out of your four species.
The lulav bundle, including the palm fronds after
which it is named, twigs of myrtle (hadasim), and willow branches (aravot),
has customarily been put aside after the Sukkot holiday and saved until
Passover time. Having by then dried out, they are used to fuel the fire that
burns the chametz found during the final cleaning of home, or as
kindling in a wood-fire oven being used to bake matzah. Some also have the
tradition of using the dried lulav palm as a broom to sweep up those
last bits of hidden chametz. These ritual uses are considered a
respectful way to dispose of the lulav, which has the status of a sacred
object in Jewish law.
For something new this year, consider nourishing your creative
side by exploring the art of palm weaving. The individual leaves of the lulav
can be twisted and braided into variety of beautiful patterns, or folded into
shapes like origami. Chabad.org recommends weaving palm leaves into a basket
that can be used to hold spices for havdalah. Check the Web for helpful
instructions and inspiration—there are a number of websites devoted to the
craft, which is also a popular Easter activity.
As for the hadasim, while still fresh they have a
sweet and delicate fragrance, and can also be used for havdalah purposes.
The oil of myrtle plants is known to have a variety of medicinal properties,
although extracting it is not exactly a DIY project. Aravot, which tend
dry and fall apart rather quickly, don’t lend themselves as well as hadasim
to repurposing. Those who observe Hoshanah Rabah towards the end of Sukkot,
however, will be familiar with the custom of whacking bundles of aravot
against the ground, a mysterious and ancient ritual marking the moment that we
formally retire the lulav and etrog for the year.
The etrog (citron), the most aromatic of the Four
Species and the only edible one, offers the most possibilities for efficient
and enjoyable repurposing. One familiar strategy is to push whole cloves into
the fresh etrog’s peel, filling up as much surface area as possible. The
etrog will eventually dry out and shrivel up, but the cloves, now held
in place in the shape of the fruit, retain their delectable scent and can be
used for years to come as b’samim for havdalah.