The Four Species of Sukkot are the Etrog (citron fruit), the Lulav (a closed palm frond), three Hadas (myrtle) branches and the Arava (two willow branches). The six branches are bound together and collectively referred to as “The Lulav”. The Etrog is held separately in the left hand.
The origins for the use of the bouquet of the Four Species of Israel is derived from Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:40 where we are commanded: “And you shall take for yourselves on the First Day the fruit of a beautiful tree, branches of date palms, branches of a myrtle tree and branches of a willow tree, and you shall rejoice before HaShem (G-d) for Seven Days.”
Traditionally the symbolism of the four species is explained as follows:
Etrog (citron fruit): The fruit of a beautiful tree, it appears to be shaped like a heart and symbolizes the driving force behind all of our actions.
Lulav: It is a closed date palm frond. The fruit of this tree tastes good but has no smell. It symbolizes a person with knowledge of the Torah (The Bible and its laws) but who has not yet focused on performing good deeds.
Hadas: The myrtle branches have a wonderful smell. This symbolizes a person who performs good deeds, but who lacks knowledge of the Torah.
Arava: The willow branches have neither a good taste nor a good smell. This symbolizes a person who has neither good deeds no knowledge of the Torah.
During the morning prayers of the seven days of Sukkot these four are held together to remind us of the tight bond representing the unity which is G-d’s goal for the Jewish people. The bond represents the different types of people which form the Jewish nation, and how the Jewish people together are collectively responsible one for the other. The togetherness of the Jewish people is pleasing before G-d and grants all of us the collective blessings granted to all of the Jewish people.
The Lulav is blessed and waved during morning prayers, immediately after the central morning prayer called the “Amidah” and before the recitation of Psalms 113 to 118 collectively referred to as “Hallel”. The translation of the Hebrew blessing recited over the Lulav is: “Blessed are You Ado-Shem, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the taking of the Lulav.” The Lulav is then waved in the six cardinal directions, north, east, south, west, up and down to symbolize that G-d is everywhere around us. Apart from waving the Lulav after reciting the blessing. Jews also have the tradition of waving the Lulav during the recitation of Psalm 118 at verses 1, 25, and 29. When morning prayers are recited in a synagogue with a quorum of ten, then the Ark of The Torah is opened, a scroll is brought forth and the congregation marches around with their lulav reciting the HoShana Prayers.
After the Sukkot Holiday, many Jews keep their Etrog and Hadas using them at the end of each Shabbat throughout the year, as part of the Havdalah (end of the Sabbath) ceremony. In our household we observe this tradition and keep the sweet fragrance of the Sukkot Holiday with us throughout the entire year.
Photographs by Ise David-Ben-Rafael owned by IsraeLightly Blog.
This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Abba Kanelbaum, Jay’s father-in-law, holocaust survivor and World War II Red Army (USSR) Veteran, who for upwards of 30 years purchased “Lulav” for Jay Berman, (the model in these photographs). May Abba Kanelbaum’s example be for a goodly memory and a blessing for all of his family.