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    Four kinds of plants – Sukkot

    Four plants – a lulav, an etrog, three hadassim and two aravot are waved during Sukkot services in all four directions and up and down, to mark God’s omnipresence. All are held together because of the saying, “Israel can only be redeemed when they are united” (Midrash).

    Symbolic of the diversity of a community, the etrog has taste and smell, the lulav has taste but no smell, the myrtle has smell but no taste, and the willow has neither taste or smell. Alternatively, the etrog symbolises the heart, the lulav the spine, the myrtle the eyes and the willows the lips.

    THE LULAV (PALM BRANCH): Tall and straight, the lulav stands for righteousness and courage as against egotism and pride. A stolen lulav is not kosher. The Torah says in Lev. 23:40, “Take lachem (for yourselves) the fruit of a goodly tree”; lachem = shelachem, “your own”.

    THE ETROG (CITRON): In ancient times the etrog was a Jewish badge, depicted on tombstones. In some places an etrog was so rare and expensive that one had to suffice for the whole community. The fruit which Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden was probably an etrog. Nachmanides thought the name is from a verb that means to shun, which was why the etrog was not bound up with the rest of the Arba’ah Minim; even an unpopular person is counted in the community.

    HADASSIM (MYRTLE): Called in the Torah “boughs of thick-leaved trees”; the product of lush growth; standing for God’s bounty.

    ARAVOT (WILLOWS): Generally called “weeping willow” because of their drooping look; also known as Babylonian willows: see Psalm 137:2.

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