Wednesday, September 18, 2013

SUKKOT: The Fantastic Four Species

"And, you shall take on the first day [of Sukkot] a fruit of a citric tree (etrog), branches of palm trees (lulab), a branch of myrtle (hadas) and willows of the brook ('araba), and you shall rejoice before HaShem, your God, for seven days". (Lev. 23).

THE MITZVA:  We are commanded to take the above mentioned four species during the seven days of Sukkot. One lulab, one etrog, two 'arabot, and three hadasim are taken together each time. This Mitzva is called "the four species" (ארבעת המינים) or simply, the Mitzva of lulab. 

We should hold the lulab, the hadasim, and the 'arabot in our right hand and the etrog in our left hand. Then, we perform the Mitzva of netilat lulab, which literally means "lifting" the lulab. The four species must be held in the direction that they grow.
On the first day of Sukkot, a person must be careful to recite the blessing over his own lulab and etrog. During the other six days the four species may be borrowed from somebody else.

The Ashkenazi custom is  to 'shake' (rattle) the lulab  while the Sephardic custom is to 'move it up' (lena'anea') in six different directions.

The Mitzva of the four species is not performed on Shabbat, even when the first day of Sukkot falls on Shabbat. 

THE SYMBOLISM: One of the symbolisms of the four species is the following: The אתרוג or Citron resembles in its shape the heart, the driving force behind all our actions. The לולב, a palm branch, resembles the spine, which holds the body together allowing us to move. The הדסים - myrtle branches - resemble in their shape the eyes, with which we behold God's world. And the ערבות, the willow branches, resemble the lips which give expression to our thoughts and feelings. Our heart, our body, our eyes, thoughts and words are all directed and elevated to God. 

THE NA'ANU'IM: The Sephardic custom is to move the four species in the following order: south, north, east, up, down and west. This order was established by Hakhme haQabbala.  Rabbi Mordekhay Eliyahu z"l explained that when we say hodu (thanks) in the Halel we have to think that we are expressing our gratitude to the Master of heavens, Earth and the four corners of the world. 

BLESSING: Two blessings are said the first day, 'al netilat lulab and shehecheyanu. One berakha,'al netilat lulab, is said during the other six days.
Since every Mitzva has to be performed after we say the blessing, some people hold the etrog upside down and turn it back after the blessing, otherwise the berakha would be said, unnecessarily, once the Mitzva was performed. Others hold the etrog in their left hand only after the berakha is said.

Women are formally exempted from the Mitzva of lulab. The tradition in most communities, however, is that women perform the Mitzva of lifting the lulab. Rabbis are divided on the issue of women reciting the berakha on the lulab. In general, Sephardic Rabbis oppose to the recitation of this berakha by women and Ashkenazi Rabbis approve.  Each person should follow his or her community's traditions.