Lulav and Etrog: The Four Species

How to assemble and shake a lulav.

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Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Catalogue: A Do-It-Yourself Kit, edited by Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld, and Sharon Strassfeld, published by the Jewish Publication Society.

It is a positive commandment from the Torah [Leviticus 23:40] to gather together the Four Species during Sukkot:

"On the first day you shall take the product of hadar trees, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before Adonai your God seven days."

"The first day" refers to the first day of Sukkot. "Fruit of goodly trees" refers to the etrog (citron). "Branches of palm trees" refers to the lulav. "Boughs of leafy trees" refers to the myrtle (hadasim). "Willows of the brook" refers to the aravot or hoshanot.

The four are lumped together under the inclusive term lulav, since the lulav is the largest and most prominent. Thus, while the mitzvah is to wave the lulav, this actually refers to the four taken together as one.

How the Four Fit Together

The lulav is a single palm branch and occupies the central position in the grouping. It comes with a holder-like contraption (made from its own leaves) which has two extensions. With the backbone (the solid spine) of the lulav facing you and this holder in place near the bottom, two willow branches are placed in the left extension and three myrtle branches are placed in the right. The myrtle should extend to a greater height than the willows.

This whole cluster is held in the right hand, the etrog is held in the left, and the two should be touching one another. Some have the custom of picking up the etrog first and then the lulav--reversing the order when putting them down--because the etrog is referred to before the others in the biblical verse.

Waving the Lulav 

 

It is a mitzvah to wave the lulav on each of the first seven days of Sukkot. The proper time is in the morning--either before the Morning Service or during the service immediately before the Hallel. A meditation (found in the Siddur) is recited prior to the blessing (this has many kabbalistic secrets concealed within it).

The blessing is:

"Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us concerning the waving of the lulav."

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Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Michael Strassfeld is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan, co-author of The First Jewish Catalog, The Second Jewish Catalog, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah, and author of The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary.

Sharon M. Strassfeld is co-author of the Jewish Catalog series.

Richard Siegel

Richard Siegel is the Interim Director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR. He worked for 28 years at the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the last 16 as Executive Director.