Essay on Arba Minim for Liturgy class - Lynn Feinberg
The torah text connected to the mitzvah of four species:
And you shall take on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the hashem your God seven days. (Vajikra 23:40)

Every day of Sukkot through to Hoshanah Rabbah we are to take in hand the four species – except on Shabbat.
Etrog pri etz hadar a fruit from the goodly tree…
Lulav kapot temarim branches of date palm trees…,
Hadass etz-avot, the boughs of thick trees or Myrtle
Aravim arvei nahal.. Willows of the stream, branches from a Willow tree

These four species are required in order to fulfil the mitzvah of waiving the Arba Minim before hashem during Sukkot. They make up the mitzvah together and if one part is missing, the mitzvah is not performed.
Often they are referred to as Lulav and Etrog, the Lulav being the most dominant and becoming the generic for the three different kinds of branches.
The four species are to be acquired before erev Sukkot on the 15th of Tishrei.
According to the Torah text above, one is to take the four species on all days during Sukkoth - before hashem, which is taken to mean at the temple. Sukkoth used to be the third of the three regalim, pilgrimage holidays. At other places but the temple one was only to take the four species in hand on the first day…
However after the temple destruction, even though one understood the Torah text to mean that one only was to do this on the first day, R.Yochanan ben Zakkai, ruled that one was to take the four species at any given place on all seven days in order to commemorate the temple.

The torah also says that we are to take the four species for ourselves. This is interpreted to mean that we must own the set of species we are using, at least on the first day.
However, you may receive the species as a gift after someone has used theirs. A minor is not entitled to give away a gift, so one must waive before giving the species to a minor. When a synagogue buys Lulav and Etrogim for the community, they belong to every member of the community.
One should not eat in the morning before one fulfils the mitzvah and waives them – should you forget this on the first day, you should immediately stop eating and perform the mitzvah. On the following days it is ok to eat first, however if you have little time, the waiving of the species is to be prioritized.

There are many special requirements related to the four species. There is also a custom that one should try to make an extra effort to acquire species that are in perfect condition. This in order to embellish or beautify the mitzvah, hidur hamitzvah, and is an important aspect of fulfilling this mitzvah. One must not use more than one third more than what one might normally have paid in order to embellish this mitzvah. However it is not unusual to use much more in order to acquire species that are exceptionally beautiful.

It is a custom to pay handsomely for a beautiful specimen of Etrog, and also make sure that the other species are in perfect order too. The requirements for the species are especially strict for the use on the first day and more lenient on successive days.

Below is a description of each of the four species together with the optimal requirements followed by the opposite end of the scale – what makes the species not fit in order to fulfil the mitzvah. In Talmud Succah the different criteria for what makes the different species acceptable are stated in detail.

It is said that the Etrog is the most beautiful part of the four species.
Some say it is formed like a heart and that it represents a tzaddik.
The Etrogim are meticulously taken care of during their growth.
Like with all first fruits of a tree, the fruit from the first three years is Orlah and must be left to rot.
The Etrog tree has thorns, so that the fruit must be protected from being damaged by them and is tied up as soon as it appears.
At the top of the fruit, there are often the remains of the flower from which the fruit grew – this is called the Pitom. It is important that the Pitom is intact unless it has fallen off by itself, otherwise the Etrog is pasul.
An Etrog can remain on the tree and grow for two to three years- it is a fruit that is alive from year to year – and this might be the reason for its name, pri etz hadar.
The fruit has the same taste as the tree itself. The fruit has a very thick skin, and the fruity part is very small. It is therefore very light in weight.
It is preferable that an etrog has skin that is bulky, not smooth like a lemon. The oketz, its stalk, where it used to be attached to the tree and the area around it should be indented. The stalk should be formed like a tower, broader at the bottom and tape towards the top. The flower, shoshanta, at the end of pitom, should preferably be whole and the bottom and top of the fruit should be aligned with the centre.
Of minimal requirements are:
The Etrog must be larger than an egg. If there is a whole in the skin, it must not reach down to the seeds, even if the fruit is intact. No part of the fruit itself must be missing.
The Etrog must not have warts on two or three places, nor must it have a wart on the top.
If its colour has changed to brown or black, or if the oketz is taken away the fruit is pasul.
It is also invalid if it is round like ball, unripe, green like grass, dried up or has soaked in water for 24 hours, has swelled or has a foul odour.

Is the generic term for the three remaining species, but it is also the name given the leaf from a date palm tree. The Lulav consists of one date-palm-leaf, two branches of willow and three branches of myrtle bound together in a bouquet. The palm leaf is in the middle. With the back spine of the palm leaf facing us, the myrtle should be to the right of it and the willow to the left and hanging a little lower than the myrtle. They are usually kept together by woven strips of palm leaves. The palm leaf is often bound together in three places on the top part so that it should not come apart during the waiving.

The lulav must be green and not show signs of dryness. It should preferably be as straight as a staff and not be bent to any side. The top of the lulav should not be cut or broken off or in any way spoiled. The middle twin leaf as well as the leaves next to it should be whole and not split. The leaves should not be parted, but look as if they are one whole. They should only part when shaken. The top of the lulav should consist of one single twinleaf growing out of the stem. The full length of the lulav must be more than four handwidths.

However a lulav is not acceptable if the top leaf is broken, if most of its leaves are spread apart, if the top twinleaf is parted more than half its length or only partly so that it looks like to leaves, if the stalk is parted so that it looks like two lulavim, if there are thorns on the stem, if it is twisted or if the stem is bent to one of the sides.

Should be green, not dry and the leaves grouped in rows of three. Each of the leaves must grow from the same level on the branch. The rows must be close enough so that the top of one row covers the bottom of the next. The rows of three and three leaves must continue towards the end of the branch by three bandwidths. The leaves must not be too large or too small, about the size of a person’s thumbnail. The leaves should point upwards and cover the branch they are growing from. The branch and the leaves must be whole and not cut off at the top. The berries growing from the branch must not be more numerous than the amount of leaves. There should be no new branches growing between the leaves past one and a half bandwidths. The length of the branch should be a little more than three hand widths.
It is not to be used if the leaves do not grow in a parallel line of three on most of its length, if it is shorter than three hand widths or if more than half of the length of the branch is missing leaves.

The branch should be red, the leaves narrow and long and the edge of the leaves should be smooth. The branch should not be cut off at the end, and the top leaf must be whole. The leaves should be green, and not show any sign of drought. The branch should not be missing any leaves. Preferably the branches should be found by a river since this is yet a way to embellish the mitzvah.
Not to be used if it is shorter than three hand widths, if the top leaf is broken, if the leaves are sawed or rounded, if the most of the leaves are partly unconnected, if the leaves are split up or if most of the leaves have fallen off.
Most of these restrictions are necessary for the first day and less so for the rest of the week.

Na’anuim - the waving of the four species
The time for the first blessing the four species is on the morning on the first day of Sukkot either inside ones sukkah or in a minjan right after Amidah. Standing facing east, each person takes a lulav in the right hand and holds an etrog in ones left hand in front of ones heart. If possible one should not eat before performing this mitzvah.
The etrog must be held with the pitam, (where the flower was) facing downwards and the stalk, oketz facing upwards when saying the blessing. ….al netilat lulav – upon the taking of the lulav. (only one mentioned because it is taller than all the other species (Talmud Sukkah 37b). On the first day shehecheyanu is recited as well.
The Etrog is then turned around with pitam facing upwards. The reason for this being that one is to say the bracha before doing the mitzvah, and a mitzvah related to something that grows is performed by holding the direction that it grows upward.
The sefardic custom is to place the Etrog on a table or a chair while the blessing is said and then pick it up with ones left hand hand.
It is sufficient just to hold the four species together in order to perform the mitzvah, however it is also preferable to wave or shake the species, in six directions.
There are several ways the custom of shaking is performed.
In Artscroll the custom mentioned is to face east, then shake straight ahead /east, right/south, back/west, left/north, up and down.
Another custom is to turn clockwise 90 degrees towards each of the directions beginning with east, then up and down when back to east.
The manner of waving is to stretch out arms and shake strongly to rustle the leaves and then pull towards ones breast in while shaking. This is repeated three times in each direction.
“It is as if one is taking them (the species) and bringing them to the One Who owns the four directions. One raises them and lowers them to the One who owns the heaves and the earth (Sukkah 37 b)
One takes and brings them (i.e. waves them in all directions) to restrain the harmful winds. One raises them and lowers them to prevent harmful dew. (reference in Eliyahu Kitov from chazal)

After the first waving the species continue to be held during hallel and waved again during certain parts of psalm 118. On each day of Sukkoth hoshanot are recited during morning service after the amidah of mussaf. One hosha na, is recited each day and circuit made around the synagogue, commemorating the procession in the temple around the altar.
The ark is opened and a torascroll removed and carried to the bima and held by a member of the congregation. Lulav and etrog are held the whole time while the appropriate hoshanah text is recited, the cantor first and congregations repeating each line responsively. Those who have a lulav and Etrog form a procession behind cantor and follow in a circle around the synagogue. After the circling and closing hymn the Tora is returned and ark is closed. No procession on Shabbat however ark is opened and Tora taken out.

On hoshanah rabba, the seventh day of Succoth, all tora scrolls in the ark are brought out to the bimah – and the bimah is circled seven times as the seven hoshanot prayers are recited while carrying the arba minim. It is also custom to have separate branches of willows that are beaten on the floor.

In the temple branches were struck against the ground near the altar – maybe a way of casting away sins a final time?
Today there is a disagreement whether to use the willows from the Lulav, or to have separate ones.

The four species are said to represent the four letters of the holy name when seen by someone looking at us holding them.
Etrog – Yod
Hadass bending – Hei,
The Lulav – Vav
The bending Willow, the last Hei.

Also the four species are likened to four types of Jews
Etrog – sweet smelling and sweet tasting - those who study and do good deeds
Lulav – has tasty fruit, but no scent – likened to those who study tora but who do not do good deeds.
Hadass – sweet smell, no taste – those who do good deeds but do not study
Willow – no scent and no taste – those who neither do good deeds nor study
However all are needed to form a community.

It is a custom to save the willow branch and burn it when matza is made the following pesach. The Lulav is kept and used as a feather for bedikat chametz. The Etrog is either made into jam for use on Pesach or cloves are put into it and it is used as besamim for havdalah.
In this way one mitzvah from one season is bound together with a mitzvah form a different season.


Ushpizin -

Reb Zalman on Ushpizin

A. When feminism first began, I was in Berkeley, and one woman called me an MCP. I made a deal with her. Whenever I used any expression that she didn't think presented gender in an equal way, she would raise her hand. And she raised her hand many times. This made a very powerful impact on me. I had to start reconsidering things, and I did. For example, I realized that the "Ushpizin" for Succot did not include women, and in a deep meditation it came to me to add Miryam (chesed), Leah (gevurah) Chana (tiferet), Rivka (netzach), Sarah (hod), Tamar (yesod) and Rachel (malchut). These are the archetypes. Reb. Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev spoke about the white spaces in the Torah that will be manifest in the time of the Messiah. I have developed this idea in relation to women. Women represent the white letters of the Torah. There is something about women that is ground-like, and something about men that is figure-like. There is also more connectivity among women than among men. In the past, women's contribution was not visible. Now it is, and it is becoming more manifest.