Friday night we begin the festival of Sukkot, called in Hebrew Z’man Simchateneu, the “Season of Our Gladness”.
There are many aspects of Our Gladness:
- It is a time of harvest in Israel.
- It begins the rainy season in Israel, a generally dry land which relies on fall rains.
- We rejoice after our serious thoughts during the High Holydays about how we acted during the year and what actions merited apologies or atonement.
- We celebrate God’s protection as we journeyed through the Wilderness during the Exodus. The Talmud compares the s’chach (the natural vegetation we use to cover the succah) with the Clouds of Glory sent by God to accompany the Children of Israel. (Talmud, Succah, 11b)
One of the things we do on Sukkot is wave the Arba Minim, the bundle of “Four Species” of plants. There are many interpretations of what the Four Species represent, including God’s kingship over mankind. The interpretation that is a source of gladness for me is that the Four Species represent four types of Jews:
- The etrog (a fruit that looks like a large lemon) smells and tastes good – it represents a Jew who knows Torah and performs good deeds.
- The lulav (a straight date palm branch) has a fruit with taste but no smell – it represents a Jew who knows Torah but who has not been performing good deeds.
- The hadas (a branch of a myrtle tree) smells good but has no taste – it represents the Jew who has performed good deeds but does not know Torah.
- The aravah (a branch of a willow tree) has neither a good aroma nor any taste – it represents the Jew who does not know Torah and has not performed good deeds but still clings to the Jewish people.
The Four Species according to this interpretation represent the effort of the Jewish people to include each other in their community. Together, the people complement each other and make up for each other’s weaknesses.
Shabbat shalom, and have a wonderful Sukkot.
Thanks for the description of the Four Species found Vayikra Rabbah 30:11 to Rabbi Dr. Ari Z. Zivotofsky of Bar Ilan University, at https://jewishaction.com/reli