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How and when do I use my Lulav set?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus


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


The Ritual 

On the first morning of Sukkot (unless it’s Shabbat), enter the Sukkah  -- technically this can be done anywhere, but it is preferable to fulfill this Mitzvah while in the sukkah -- and take the palm branch out of the bag and hold in your right hand (unless you're a lefty in which case you hold it in your left hand1) with the spine facing you.

Face east and recite the following blessing:2

Boruch attah Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha'olam asher kidishanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al netilat Lulav.
[Blessed are You G-d our G-d King of the Universe who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded regarding taking the Lulav (palm branch)].

Now, while still holding the lulav, pick up the Etrog in your left hand and recite the following blessing. (Toward the end of the blessing put the etrog and lulav together):

Boruch attah Ado-nai Elo-heinu melech ha'olam she'hechiyanu, vikimanu, vi'higi'anu lizman hazeh.
[Blessed are You G-d our G-d King of the Universe who has granted us life, sustained us and enables us to reach this occasion].

Now, bring the lulav and etrog to your heart then extend to the right three times and give it a little shake. Bring it back to your heart after each shake. Repeat the same motions toward the other directions: Left, Forward, Upward, Downward and behind you.3 Now give it your family to do the same.......

This procedure is repeated every day of Sukkot with the exception of Shabbat. However, the second blessing, the Shehecheyanu, is only recited on the first day (or the first time you perform the mitzvah, if for some reason you did not do so on the first day). On all other days, the etrog is lifted right after the first blessing4, and the shaking commences.

On the first two days of Sukkot one is required to shake Four Species of his own possession, and cannot fulfill the mitzvah with a borrowed set of Four Species. Therefore, on these two days, if you allow someone else to use your Four Species, they must be given to the user as “a present which must be returned” – not a loan. There you go… some Talmudic legalese for you!

Although women are technically exempt from this mitzvah, it is common practice for all women to shake the Four Species every day of Sukkot.

The Four Species are delicate objects which can become Halachically unacceptable if blemished or injured. Special care must be given to the tips of the lulav and Etrog as they are very fragile.

During Prayer

In addition to the daily "Blessing and shaking" of the Lulav set, the Lulav set is also used during various prayers on Sukkot. There are four times during Hallel when we wave the Lulav and Etrog again in all directions. The Lulav is actually held during the entire Hallel Prayer, but the Etrog is only lifted for the actual waving5. The Lulav and Etrog are both held during the entire Hoshanot prayer.


There are many layers to the meaning of this ritual. Here's one aspect of it: The Four Species represent four types of people. 1. The Etrog, which smells good and tastes good, represents the perfect person who has good deeds and knowledge of Torah. 2. The palm branch, which has no smell but does have tasty fruits, represents the person who knowledge of Torah but does not specialize in good deeds. 3. The myrtle, which smells good but has no taste, represents the person who has good deeds but no Torah knowledge. 4. The willow, which neither smells good nor has any taste, represents the person who has neither good deeds nor Torah knowledge. We take them all together to symbolize that despite all our difference we are united--we are one nation. As I said this is only one aspect of it and its effect upon us is obviously not limited to this aspect alone. Have a great holiday…


  • 1. This follows the opinion of the Rama and the Rav. See Shulchan Orach Chaim 651:3 and Shulchan Aruch Harav 651:14. The Beit Yosef maintains that everyone holds the Lulav in the right hand and the Etrog in the left. See ibid.
  • 2. Some have the custom to also hold the etrog *upside down* while reciting this blessing. The Chabad custom is to pick up the Etrog after this blessing. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 651:5.
  • 3. This is the Chabad custom. Others shake in all directions in different orders.
  • 4. See footnote 2.
  • 5. The Chabad custom is to wave the four species four times during Hallel. a) The first time we say the verse Hodu L'Ado-no. b-c) Both times we say the verse Ana Ado-no Hoshia Na. d) The first time we say Hodu L'Ado-no in the second to the last paragraph of Hallel.


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(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
(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 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.
A seven day autumn festival commemorating the miracle of the Heavenly Clouds which enveloped the Jews while traveling in the desert for forty years. On this holiday we dwell in makeshift booths and shake the Four Species.
A blessing recited on joyous occasions. The blessing thanks G-d for "sustaining us and enabling us to reach this occasion."
The temporary structure in which we are required to dwell for the duration of the holiday of Sukkot. The Sukkah must have at least three walls and its roof consists of unsecured branches, twigs or wooden slats.
Hebrew word meaning "praise." Normally is a reference to Psalms 113-118-- Psalms of jubilation which are recited during the morning prayers of all joyous holidays.
According to Jewish law.
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.
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.
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.
Special prayers recited during the morning prayers throughout the holiday of Sukkot. During a portion of this prayer, the congregants, while holding their "Four Kinds," encircle the reading table of the synagogue.