Take For Yourselves on the First Day
Vayikra Rabbah, Chapter 30, Verse 7
"Take them on the first day."* If Sukkot is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the month, why does (the pasuk) tell us to take the shiv’a minim on the first day?
Rabbi Yehoshua D’Sakhnin in the name of Rabbi Levi said: There is a parable about a country whose citizens owed tax to the king. When the king rode out to collect his tax and was ten miles away from the country’s borders, the country’s elite class went out to shower praise on him – and he exempted them a third of the tax they owed. When he was five miles away, the country’s middle class citizens went out to praise him – and he exempted them an additional third of the tax they owed. And when he crossed the border into the country, the entire population including men, women and children, flooded the streets to praise the king – and he exempted them of all the tax they owed. The king stood before them and said: "What was is no longer. You now have a clean slate.”
On the eve of Rosh Hashana, the generation’s most righteous men repent, and He exempts them of one third of their sins. Between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, some of the nation repents and He exempts them of another third of their sins. And on the Day of Atonement, the entire nation – men, women and children – repent and He exempts them of all their sins. And HaShem says to them: "What was is no longer. You now have a clean slate.”
From Yom Kippur to Sukkot, Jews are absorbed in mitzvot: some are busy building their sukkah, some are focused on purchasing their shiv’a minim. And on the first day of Sukkot, Am Yisrael stand before HaShem with lulav held high, etrog cradled in hand, and HaShem’s praise on their lips. HaShem tells us: "What was, was. I’m giving you a fresh start,” and this is why Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael, "And you shall take them on the first day."
*Vayikra, 23, 39-50:
“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather the produce of the land, you will celebrate HaShem’s festival for seven days; the first day will be a day of rest and the eighth day will be a day of rest.”
“And you will take for yourselves on the first day, the fruit of the citrus tree, date palm fronds, a branch of a braided tree, and willows of the brook, and you will rejoice before HaShem for seven days.”