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What does the Arba Minim Symbolize?

by Myesrog

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Jews have a rich tradition and uphold their customs and rituals in a staunch religious manner. The Sukkot, the week long holiday period commemorating the nomadic lifestyle of their ancestors is the one of the most important amongst their custom. All Jews need to eat inside a Sukkah during Sukkot. A Sukkah is a hut made of various natural materials or bamboos. They eat all their meals inside the Sukkah during this seven day period to remember the temporary shelters their ancestors had during their days of wandering and offer special prayers to the Lord for his mercy during the period.

During old times while there was a Temple in Jerusalem, the ceremony used to be performed in the Temple on all seven days of the Sukkot. Post the destruction of the temple, the Rabbi decreed that the Arba Minim be waved on all days of the Sukkot except the Sabbath in memoriam.

The Sukkot coincides with the harvest season and marks the end of the agricultural cycle. During this period, on each day except the Sabbath day, a waving ceremony is observed. The waving ceremony requires four main elements, also known as the Arba Minim or the Four Species. The Four Species are four different plants that are mentioned in the Torah, the foundational narrative of the Jewish people. In some sects, the Arba Minim could be four different plants while in some, it consists of three different branches and a fruit. The four plants in general are – the etrog, the Lulav, the hadass and the aravah.

The Lulav is bound together with the hadass and aravah and this bundle is referred to commonly as the Lulav.  Each of the four species symbolizes the kinds of people present in the society. In essence, the society is considered to be made up of four kinds of people. The tasty Lulav that doesn’t have a smell represents the section of people who study the Torah but do not have any good deeds to their credit. The hadass is exactly the opposite of the Lulav; it has a good smell but doesn’t have a taste. This represents people who do good deeds but don’t study the Torah. The aravah that neither has a smell or taste represents people who don’t indulge in good deeds as well as don’t study the Torah. The Etrog which is a rare fruit with a delicious smell and good taste represent good Samaritans who are religious as well; meaning those who indulge in kind acts and study the Torah.

By binding all kinds of people making their society symbolically with the four species, the Jews integrate their entire being to God. Also, by waving these different species in all directions at the end of the agricultural cycle, they pray to God for sufficient and ample rainfall.

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