Women of the Wall say the ‘Shema’ near the Western Wall 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The festival of Succot contains another commandment in addition to sitting in
the succa: holding the four species – the lulav, etrog, hadas, and arava – on
each day of the holiday (other than Shabbat) during the Shaharit morning
services or afterward.
The Torah emphasizes that the mitzva of picking up
the four species is not just to hold them in one’s hand, but to rejoice in them:
“And you shall take for you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches
of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you
shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” (Leviticus 23:40) How does
this mitzva bring about such great joy? This mitzva provides a nice clue, a hint
that leads us to a positive outlook on all the different segments of the nation
and to unity among the different parts of Am Yisrael.
The etrog has a
taste and a very good smell. It symbolizes those Jews who learn Torah and whose
name precedes them for their good deeds.
The lulav – the fruit of the
palm tree, the date – has an amazing taste but has no smell. It symbolizes those
Jews who learn Torah but lack good deeds in the other areas of their
The hadas – the myrtle branch – has a nice smell but has no taste.
It symbolizes Jews who behave righteously and fairly with good deeds, but do not
learn Torah regularly.
The arava – the willow branch – has neither taste
nor smell. It symbolizes those Jews who neither learn Torah nor behave
appropriately in other areas of their lives.
Holding the four species
together symbolizes the connection among all segments of the nation, despite it
not always being overtly obvious. When we take hold of the four species, we
remember that despite our disagreements and the differences in our lifestyles,
we are one inseparable nation. The entire nation, with all its sectors and
parts, will eternally remain inextricably bound.
When we remember that we
are all brothers, and that we aspire to reach full unity among all the sectors
of our nation, this memory brings us great joy and hope that the day will come
when we succeed in overcoming our differences and disputes, and we will succeed
in seeing in one another only the merits inherent in each one of
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz is rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites.