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The Religious Significance of Etrog and Lulav

by Myesrog

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Sukkoth mark a glorious chapter in the spiritual life of Jews. The Torah lays down the right procedure for celebrating Sukkoth, wherein four species are to be taken in hand.

Exalt God’s causeless mercy on Jews with four species

Leviticus 23:40 instructs that rejoicing before divine Lord should be done holding the products of divine trees i.e. palm tree’s branches, leafy tree’s boughs, and myrtle shrub’s part. The three natural products are bandaged together and collectively dubbed as lulav. Another celestial product that is held in conjunction with lulav is etrog. Israel is famous for this variant of citrus fruit which exudes a sweet aroma. The hallowed etrog and lulavare carried to the synagogue byJews and are waved in tune with the recitation of Hallel. The same is also waved to express reverence for Jehovah during Sukkah.

How the custom was institutionalized?

Israel was prominently an agricultural community in ancient times and the formulation of laws, rituals and customs of the land were bordered on this. Torah stands testimony to this fact. Etrog and lulav symbolizes the agricultural bounty blessed to Israel by the almighty which resulted in agriculture driven prosperity of natives.

Other intriguing facts

The omnipresence of God is expressed during Hallel by shaking the species in 6 directions. Judaism lays down the precept of acquiring the most charming pair of lulav and etrog found to give vent to one’s veneration for lord on the hallowed day.

Reason for choosing 4 species

The 4 species stands for four types of Jews who roam on this earth. Jews who conduct good deeds and are also scholarly in attitude are represented by etrog, which is famed for its taste and aroma. Jews who are learned but do not commit good deeds are symbolized by palm branches, which do not exude any fragrance but have taste.  Ignorant Jews who believe in performing good deeds are analogous to myrtle, which exudes a sweet fragrance but are tasteless. Jews who do not possess any noble qualities and are devoid of knowledge are likened to willows which are bereft of taste or smell.

Jews attach tremendous importance to sticking together as a community and advancing cumulatively in life. This quality is abundantly reflected through etrog and lulav, wherein a symbolic prayer is made to God to keep all Jews aligned to their society. Emphasis is on maintaining the essence of community in spite of challenges posed by people who might not be godly in nature or are ill-educated. 

Some scholars interpret the 4 species differently. Etrog is taken for human heart, palm fronds stand for the spine, willow is analogous to mouth and myrtle is likened to human eyes. Waving the species before God signifies that one is serving God optimally with his/her body parts and seeking the almighty’s gratuitous grace in every vicissitude that rocks the life.

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