Rabbi Miriam's Blog
On the first day you shall take the product of the goodly trees, 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).
Together, the four species are shaken in six directions during Hallel, signifying that God is found everywhere. It is considered a Mitzvah to buy the most beautiful Lulav and Etrog you can afford, in order to beautify the Mitzvah, and honor the holy day.
The first three (willow, palm, and myrtle) are bound together and collectively
called a Lulav set. The fourth is the Etrog (citron), a sweet smelling citrus
fruit grown in Israel. It is held together with the Lulav and brought both to
the synagogue where it is waved as Hallel is recited. The Lulav and Etrog are
also waved in the Sukkah. Ancient Israel was first and foremost an agricultural society and the laws, customs, and rituals described in the Torah reflect this. The four species symbolize the agricultural abundance of and God's role in nourishing Israel.
Why four species? Why not three or five? While I cannot provide an academic answer to this question, there are many wonderful Drashot for the number four.
Perhaps the best known is that there are four types of Jews (like the Four Children in the Passover Haggadah: the Etrog, which possesses both taste and fragrance, symbolizes those who possess both learning and good deeds. The Lulav, palm branches, possess taste but no fragrance, symbolizing those who possess learning but do not perform good deeds. The myrtle is the inverse of the palm, possessing no taste but having a pleasant fragrance; this is likened to those who are not learned but do good deeds. Finally, the willow has neither taste nor fragrance, symbolizing those who possess neither learning nor good deeds.
We, of course, wish to be the Etrog, possessing both learning and good deeds. But the reality of life is that our communities are made of all four types of people and because community is such a high priority in Judaism, we bind all four species together, as we ought to bring together all Jews in one community.
Borrowed from: http://www.ahbjewishcenter.org/
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.