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On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, there shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall do no laborious work; you shall celebrate a festival to Hashem for a seven-day period (Bemidbar 29:12).
The Torah is referring to the holiday of Sukkos, during which we sit in Sukkos and recite the blessing over the Four Species; the Esrog, the Lulav, the Hadassim and the Aravos. But how should we react when they are not available? The following story, related by Rabbi Avraham Pam zt"l, and recorded by Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein shlita in Aleynu Leshabeiach, can teach us a very valuable lesson.
During World War I, the holy Chofetz Chaim was stranded in Snavesk. In those troubled times, it was impossible to acquire any of the Four Species, at any price. However, almost miraculously, someone found a complete set left over from the year before. The Chofetz Chaim and all those who accompanied him were thrilled. One by one they took them in their hands and shook them as is required by the Halacha (Jewish law).
Then it was time to recite the Halel prayer. It is customary to shake the Four Species then too. Everyone agreed that since there was only one set, it should be given to the Chofetz Chaim to hold. However, much to everyone's surprise, he adamantly refused to take it.
He later explained his reasoning. "There are many other Torah scholars among us. Deep down, they may feel slighted if the Species are given to me and not to them. Shaking the Species during Halel is only a custom; not a Law. Although it is a very important custom, hurting someone else's feelings is prohibited by the Torah several times and is much more severe. Therefore, I refused to take them during Halel; fearing that I might cause discomfort to other people!"
Shema Yisrael Torah Network