The Four Species

In Leviticus 32:40 – And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a hadar (beautiful) tree, the branch of the palm trees, a bough from the “avot” tree, and willows of the stream, and you shall rejoice before your G-d for seven days.

The fours species of Sukkot are an essential mitzvah of Sukkot.

What are the Four Species

The etrog is the name of the fruit that the Torah calls hadar “The fruit of a beautiful tree.”

The Lulav is the name of both one of the species and general term used to describe the three remaining species (lulav, hadassim, and aravot) when tied together.

1) The lulav is a palm frond.

a) The lulav is placed between the hadassim (myrtle) and the aravot (willows).
b) A nice lulav is green, with no signs of dryness. It should be straight, without any bends or twists near the top. The tip and top leaves of the lulav must be whole, and not split.

2) The hadassim are boughs of a myrtle tree.

a) Three myrtle branches are attached to the lulav set.
b) The hadassim are bound on the right side of the lulav.

c) Hadassim should have moist, green leaves grouped in level rows of three. There should be no large, uncovered section of stem. The stem and leaves should be whole, without any nips at the top and the leaves should go to the top of the branch. There should not be more berries than leaves and there should be no large twigs.

3) The aravot are willow branches.

a) Two willow branches are attached to the lulav set.

b) The aravot are bound to the left side of the lulav, but slightly lower than the hadassim.

c) The aravot should have reddish stems with green, moist leaves. The leaves should be long, narrow and smooth-edged. There should be no nips or tears.

It is important that the four species are in the right condition. If one has any questions, one should bring the lulav set to a rabbi.

Meanings Behind the Four Species

There are several interpretations to the significance of the four species.

The Four Species represent four types of Jews:

1) Etrog – represents Jews who possess both Torah learning and good deeds, for it has both a pleasant taste and a pleasant scent.

2) Lulav – represents Jews who possess Torah learning but lack good deeds, for it has a pleasant taste but no scent.

3) Hadassim – represent Jews who possess good deeds but lack Torah learning, for it has a pleasant scent but lacks taste.

4) Aravot – represent Jews who lack both Torah learning and good deeds, for it has no taste and no scent.

The Four Species also symbolizes how one may utilize one’s entire body to serve Torah:

1) Etrog – is like the heart, and so atones for the heart’s evil thoughts.

2) Lulav – is like the spine, the single central stem, so too Jews believe in one G-d.

3) Hadassim – are shaped like eyes, and thus atone for the improper sights which the eyes see.

4) Aravot – are shaped like the mouth, and so atone for the expressions of the lips (improper speech).

Doing the Mitzvah of “Taking the Four Species”

The mitzvah of “taking” the Four Species is performed on each of the first seven days of Sukkot, with the exception of Shabbat, and must be performed during the daytime.

How to “take” the Four Species:

1) The lulav set is held in one’s right hand.
2) The etrog is held in one’s left hand. It should be held up-side down (the narrower end or the end with the pitom facing downward) until after the first blessing is recited
.

3) The four species are then brought together and the following blessing is recited:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzeevanu al n’tilat lulav.
Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to take the four species.

On the first day of Sukkot, one also recites the She’he’che’yanu, the blessing for having reached this new season:

Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, she’he’che’yanu v’kee’manu v’hee’gee’anu la’zman ha’zeh.

Blessed are you L-rd, our G-d ruler of the world, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

4) After reciting the first blessing, the etrog is turned upward.

5) Holding all four species together and facing east (or toward the Holy Ark in the synagogue), they are then waved/shaken three times in the six directions: forward (away from oneself), right, backwards (towards oneself), left, up, and down.

a) An alternate opinion is that one waves them right, left, front, up, down, and back.
b) We wave the lulav set because they represent G-d’s creation of the world, as it says in the Talmud, in Sukkah 37b: It is as if one is taking the species and bringing them to G-d who owns the four directions. One raises them and lowers them to G-d who owns the heavens and the earth.

One must own the lulav set.

1) The lulav set must belong to the person using them.

2) Where there is only one lulav set available, people give the set to each other as a gift, thus allowing all present to fully participate in the mitzvah.