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What is the significance of the Four Species?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus

  

Library » Holidays » Sukkot » Four Species | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The four species represent the idea of unity. Each one represents a different type of person (or different dimensions within ourselves) and bringing them all together represents the unification of diverse elements.

  • The Etrog, which tastes good and smells good, represents the person who possesses Torah knowledge and good deeds.
  • The Lulav, which has no smell but whose fruit taste good, represents the person who studies Torah but is lacking in good deeds.
  • The myrtle, which has a pleasant scent but no taste, represents the person with good deeds but without Torah study.
  • The willow, which possesses neither a pleasant taste nor scent, represents the person who lacks Torah knowledge and good deeds.

Actually, each one of the four species individually embodies unity:

  • The lulav is called kapot temarim, “branches of palm,” which the Talmud understands to be a branch whose leaves are kafut, tied and united. The Talmud emphasizes that the branch must contain many leaves, connoting separate elements that are at the same time tied and united.
  • The etrog is identified by the Talmud as a fruit that dwells on the tree throughout all four seasons. (Hadar, “beautiful,” is interpreted as ha’dar “that dwells.”) The etrog, then, receives nourishment from and thereby unites all four seasons.
  • The myrtle is distinguished by the fact that each of its sets of three leaves stem from the same point on the branch.
  • The willow is called achvana (Shabbat 20a), which means brotherhood, since its plants grow closely together (Sidur im Dach, p. 264d).

See also Is there any significance to the Four Species, besides the unity thing? and What is the reason for shaking the Four Species in all directions?


Source: Likutei Sichot, vol. 29, pp. 223-5.

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Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Etrog
A citron; a greenish-yellow citrus fruit. We are required to take an Etrog on the holiday of Sukkot and shake it together with a palm branch, a myrtle and a willow.
Lulav
A palm branch. One of the Four Species we are required to take on the holiday of Sukkot. We shake it together with a citron, myrtle, and willow.