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What is the reason for shaking the Four Species in all directions?

by Rabbi Simcha Bart

  

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


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Below is an excerpt from the Book of Our Heritage by Rabbi Eliyahu KiTov:

Although the essence of the obligation is fulfilled by simply "taking" the Four Species into one's hand, the preferred method of fulfilling the Mitzvah is to wave the Lulav and Etrog three times in all six directions [forward, to the right, to the back, to the left, up, and down ].1

The Talmud2 offers the following explanation for this practice: "It is as if he is taking them [the species] and bringing them to Him Who owns the four directions. He raises them and lowers them to Him Who owns the heavens and the earth." The four species, and all that is connected to them, are an allusion to G-d's creation of all that is, and that there is none besides Him.

It is as if he is taking them [the species] and bringing them to Him Who owns the four directions
The Sages3 also said: "He takes and brings them [i.e., waves them in all directions] to restrain the harmful winds. He raises them and lowers them to prevent harmful dew."

[Ed. note: Also read about "What is the significance of the Four Species?" and "Is there any significance to the Four Species besides the unity thing?"]

Footnotes

  • 1. Chabad custom is to face east and shake it to the right, left, forward, upwards, downwards, and to the back.
  • 2. Sukkah 37b.
  • 3. Ibid.

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
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.
Four Species
There is a Biblical command to take "Four Species" on the autumn holiday of Sukkot. These species are: palm branch, citron, myrtle and willow. It is customary to shake these species to all directions.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.