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Is there anything good to be said about the willow in the four species?

by Rabbi Yossi Marcus


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


Rooting for the underdog again? That’s ok. We’ll see what we can do for you.

The Midrash sees the Four Species as embodiments of four types of people in various stages of commitment to Torah, the willow being on the lowest (no scent and no taste—no Torah knowledge and no good deeds).

On a deeper level, though, each of the four species studies Torah and fulfills mitzvahs. The difference between them lies in the extent of their emotional and intellectual attachment to their experience. The Lulav person, for example, experiences Torah and mitzvahs intellectually but not emotionally, while the willow person lacks both the intellectual and emotional experience. He fulfills Torah and mitzvahs on simple faith alone.

So in a sense, his observance is superior to the experience of the others, since it mirrors the simplicity of the essence of G-d. Without the interference of mind and heart, the simple person’s essential connection to G-d is apparent. Although every soul has this connection, it is often obscured by the human interface.

Because the willow reflects the essence of the soul unadorned, its expression of unity surpasses that of the other four species. Whereas the other kinds embody a self-contained unity—the leaves of each lulav, for example, are tied and united, but one lulav does not unite with another—the unity of the willow is expressed in the fact that it grows closely together with other willows.

How’s that?

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

TAGS: willow, arava, aravah


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Willow fulfills Torah and mitzvot on simple faith alone?

Posted by: Friend, Bulgaria on Oct 24, 2006

“willow person lacks both the intellectual and emotional experience. He fulfills Torah and mitzvot on simple faith alone.”

With all due respect, will you please help me understand the way to understand this?

I always thought that faith brings people to intellectual and emotional experiences and not the other way around.

Will you please comment on this?

Editor's Comment

Every person is required to serve G-d with all his faculties. This includes intellect, emotions, thought, speech and action. That said, every person has those areas where he excels, and his service of G-d is more intense in those areas. The "arava Jew" focuses more on serving G-d with simple and unwavering faith -- but certainly directs his spiritual faculties towards serving G-d as well.
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 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.
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
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.