Rav Avigdor Miller on How to Shake the Lulav and Esrog

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Q:
What should we be thinking about when we’re shaking the lulav and esrog, when we do the na’anuim?


A:
You can’t just lean back and do the minimum. You’re a frum person who keeps everything; everything! Let’s say you bought a beautiful esrog and you paid good money for it. So now you’re holding a lulav and an esrog; maybe you should be m’chadeish something in the mitzvah. You have to be a m’chadeish. When you make the na’anuim, you should say to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, “I’m thanking You Hashem that You gave me a good heart.” You know, many people have sick hearts. They wish they could have your heart! The esrog is like the heart, the medrash says. So as you hold up the esrog you think, “Thank You Hashem for giving me a good solid healthy heart.” And You gave me good eyes. Many people have trouble with their eyes. And that’s what the hadassim are telling us. The hadassim are eyes. You gave me a good backbone. Many people, nisht ein gedacht, lo aleichem, are bent over. They have hunchbacks. Their spines are bent. And you have a straight back. Now, that’s something to think about when you pick up the lulav.

Listen to me; What does na’anuim mean? Back and forth, back and forth. What does it mean back and forth, back and forth? It means our thanks are to You because it came from You to us. Our thanks are to You because of what’s always coming from You to us. That’s what we’re saying when we shake it back and forth. We shake in all directions because we say, no matter from where the good comes from, it’s only coming from You all the time. And therefore you take the lulav, that’s your backbone, your shidrah, and you take your heart, that’s the esrog. And you take the hadassim that’s your eyes, and you take the aravos, that’s your lips, your mouth, and you say “I dedicate them to You Hashem for what You did for me.” Back and forth, back and forth, that’s what you think about by the na’anuim. It’s all coming from You to me, Hashem.

You think it’s silly! It’s not silly at all. I’ll tell you what I think about many times when I say na’anuim. Many times I think like this: One na’anuim is for my oldest son-in-law. Boruch Hashem I have a good eidim. Boruch Hashem! And boruch Hashem, I have a good second son-in-law. Boruch Hashem for the next eidim. Boruch Hashem, there’s no trouble there. I never hear any machlokes. My daughters live in shalom with my eidim. Boruch Hashem, I’m happy. Such good eidims. That’s why we make na’anuim. That’s what it means. I’m thanking You for what You’ve given to me.

So when you say tomorrow by the na’anuim, הודו להשם כי טוב, so you’re thinking: You married off your daughters well? It wouldn’t be a bad idea to make one na’anuim for this son-in-law. “Ay yah yay! I’m thanking You Hashem for this son-in-law.’ And by the next na’anuim, הודו להשם כי טוב, I’m thanking you Hashem for the next son-in-law. That’s how to work it. It’s such a very big thing to have married off your children well that you can never thank enough for a good son-in-law or a good daughter-in-law. And that’s how you should think when you make the na’anuim. It shouldn’t just be a mechanical thing.
TAPE # 757 (September 1989)