Etrog and Lulav

Discover the 4 species of the Jewish Sukkot festival. Learn about the symbolism of the lulav, etrog, myrtle, and willow, and how to use them during the holiday. Explore the traditions of Sukkot with this informative guide. Jews all around the world continue to celebrate Sukkot by shaking the etrog and lulav.

What are a Lulav and Etrog?

During the Sukkot holiday it is customary to gather a bundle of Four Species:
1. Lulav (Palm Frond)
2. Etrog/Esrog (Citron)
3. Hadas (Myrtle)
4. Aravah (Willow)

Sukkah Decorations

The first species, the lulav, is a palm branch that is used together with the other three species. It is usually about three feet long and is tied together with two other types of branches, called hadassim and aravot, to create what is known as the "lulav and etrog set." A lulav is considered healthy if it is a bright, ripe shade of green, and is not splintered. The lulav is said to represent the human spine, which is a fascinating and complex part of the human anatomy that serves as the central axis of the body. The use of the lulav during Sukkot symbolizes the importance of the Jewish community standing tall and united, which is a beautiful and powerful concept.

Moving on to the second species, we have the etrog, which is a citrus fruit that is similar to a lemon. The etrog is held in the left hand. However, it is essential to note that not all etrogs are created equal. A worthy etrog should lack any blemishes and have an intact pitom (stem) on top. If the pitom breaks during the holiday the esrog may be rendered invalid, so it is necessary to keep the etrog protected in a well-padded box. The etrog is the highlight of the holiday for most Jews, who take pride in the unique qualities of their own esrog. The etrog is said to represent the human heart, which is a complex and vital organ that pumps blood throughout the body. Its use during Sukkot symbolizes the importance of having a pure and dedicated heart in the service of God, which is a beautiful and profound idea.

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The third species, the hadassim, are three branches of myrtle that are about 8 to 10 inches long. They are connected by a single stem, and the leaves are arranged in clusters of three. The hadassim are said to represent the human eyes, which are incredibly intricate and multifaceted organs that allow us to see and experience the beauty of God's world around us. Their use during Sukkot symbolizes the importance of keeping a watchful eye on one's behavior and actions, which is a compelling and thought-provoking concept.

Finally, we have the fourth and last species, the aravot, which are two branches of willow that are about 12 to 18 inches long. They are also bound together with a single stem. The aravot are said to represent the human lips, which are complex and versatile organs that enable us to communicate and express ourselves. Their use during Sukkot symbolizes the importance of speaking kind words and building up one another in the community, which is a beautiful and uplifting concept.

The lulav, three hadassim branches, and two aravot branches are bound together with wicker. With the bundle in the right hand, and etrog in the left, we wave them together in all six directions: Up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. During the holiday, the lulav and esrog are shaken every day except for Shabbat (Saturday). The lulav and etrog are shaken every morning as part of the Shacharit (morning) prayer service. This practice is based on the biblical commandment to "take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a beautiful tree, branches of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Leviticus 23:40). 

lubavitcher rebbe holding 4 species

Now you’re all ready to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot!

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