The Four Species
The waving of the four species is one of the most beautiful and symbolic mitzvot of the year.
Indeed, there is a special commandment (Leviticus 23:40) that one make a specific effort to enhance and beautify this mitzvah.
The mitzvah of taking the four species is performed by taking a frond of a palm branch (lulav), 3 myrtle stems (hadassim) and 2 willow branches (aravot) in one’s right hand and the citron (etrog)–held upside down–in one’s left hand [lefties should reverse hands] and reciting the blessing:
Ba’ruch Ah’tah Ah’doh’nai, Eh’lo’hay’nu Melech Ha’o’lam, ah’sher kidishanu b’mitz’vo’tav v’tzee’va’nu al n’tee’laht lulav.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the world, who sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to take the four species.
(Those performing the mitzvah for the first time this year should recite the blessing of Sheh’heh’cheh’yanu.)
The etrog is then turned upward and the four species are waved together three times in each of the 6 directions: forward, right, backward (toward oneself ), left, up, and down. (The order may differ depending on custom.)
Waving the four species is a symbolic recognition of God’s omnipresent kingship over the world and everything in it. As it says in the Talmud, in Sukkah 37b: “It is as if one is taking the species and bringing them to God who possesses the four directions. One raises them and lowers them to God who owns the heavens and the earth.”
Acknowledging God’s ownership of the world is particularly appropriate during the harvest season, when people might be tempted to rejoice exclusively about their own personal success. Surely, people are entitled to celebrate their own achievements, but always with the understanding that behind it all is God.
This Treat was last posted on September 28, 2012.
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