Today’s daf (Sukkah 35a) provides us with a gorgeous insight about what has unfortunately become a rare yet true pleasure of life.
Specifically, the daf presents a variety of explanations about the significance of the word הָדָר (hadar) – which is generally translated as ‘beautiful’ – and which the Torah uses (in Vayikra 23:40) about the Etrog, beginning with a suggestion presented by Rebbi that this word may, in fact, be related to the word הַדִּיר (hadir) – meaning a corral – where animals of different ages and stages live together (nb. it is worthwhile noting that the word הַדִּיר which refers to the location of living, is also connected to the word דּוֹר which means generations, because until a couple of generations ago, most homes were multi-generational).
And what has this to do with an Etrog? As the Gemara explains, just as animals of different generations live in the same corral, what makes the Etrog tree unique is that when the small new Etrogim come into being, the large older Etrogim are still on the tree. As such, the Etrog celebrates the ability of the younger generations to be in the presence of, and to spend time with, older generations.
Perhaps this is on my mind because, around two weeks ago, my parents – whom we have unfortunately been unable to see for 18 months due to COVID restrictions – arrived in Israel, and after the necessary isolation period, we were then able to spend a really special Shabbat together. Better still, since yesterday was our 20th (Hebrew) wedding anniversary, we dropped our twins to my parents for a sleep-over for them to enjoy some special time with their grandparents while we went out for dinner.
Yet it was when I was sitting with Donna over dinner and when I asked her the following question where the significance of this lesson was brought home: ‘Imagine you are back at our wedding 20 years ago, and you could freeze the moment and have a 5-minute conversation with anyone who was present at our wedding, who would it be and why?’. After just a few moments, both Donna and I chose older relatives who have since passed on but whose presence continues to resonate in our lives today.
Ultimately, in a world that claims to celebrate beauty but which often shows insufficient regard for older generations, today’s daf offers us a profound and timeless meaning of הָדָר (beautiful) – that the most beautiful places and moments in life are like the Etrog, where younger generations are in the presence of, and can spend time with, older generations.