On Shriveled Aravot (Willow Branches)
Then DDK said that he thought that was all wrong--that the aravot are supposed to be shriveled by the end of Sukkot, to reflect the state of the fields, which are barren now that the harvest has been gathered. This is the time of year when we've reaped one crop and are waiting to find out if it will rain enough over the winter to grow another crop. We are judged at this time of year because this is the time of agricultural trepidation. By the end of Sukkot, we don't have fresh, beautiful aravot anymore. We have nothing. The reason that we finish the annual cycle of Torah readings at this time of year (instead of, say, at Shavuot) is because now is the time that we turn to God and the Torah with the hope that they will provide sustenance over the coming year. They are literally all we've got.
It was very moving. It reminded me that I would probably appreciate certain aspects of Judaism a lot more if I lived in an agricultural society, the way agricultural societies were before long-distance shipping and greenhouses.