SUKKOT: Three branches and one fruit

“And, you shall take on the first day [of Sukkot] a fruit of a citric tree (etrog), branches of palm-trees (lulab), a branch of myrtle (hadas) and willows of the brook (‘araba), and you shall rejoice before HaShem, your God, for seven days”. (Lev. 23).

THE MITSVA:  We are commanded to take the above mentioned four species of plants  during the festival of of Sukkot. We three branches, and one fruit. One lulab, two ‘arabot, three hadasim and one etrog are taken together each time. This Mitsva is called “the four species” (ארבעת המינים) or simply, the Mitsva of lulab.

We should hold the lulab, the hadasim, and the ‘arabot in our right hand and the etrog in our left hand. Then, we perform the Mitsva of netilat lulab, which literally means “lifting” the lulab. The four species must be held in the direction that they grow.


On the first day of Sukkot, we must be careful to perform the Mitsva with our own lulab and etrog. During the other days the four species may be borrowed from somebody else.

The Mitzva of the four species is not performed on Shabbat.


THE NA’ANU’IM: The Ashkenazi custom is  to ‘shake’ (rattle) the lulab  while the Sephardic custom is to ‘move it up’ (lena’anea’) in six different directions. The Sephardic custom is to move the four species in the following order: south, north, east, up, down and west. This order was established by Hakhme haQabbala.

In this video we see Rabbi Mordekhay Eliyahu z”l doing the na’anu’im, as the Sephardic tradition holds.
He  explained that when we say hodu (=thanks) in the Halel we have to think that we are expressing our gratitude to the Master of heavens, earth and the four corners of the world.


THE SYMBOLISM: One of the symbolisms of the four species is the following: The אתרוג or Citron resembles in its shape the heart, the driving force behind all our actions. The לולב, a palm branch, resembles the spine, which holds the body together , allowing us to move. The הדסים , myrtle branches leaves,  resemble in their shape the eyes, with which we behold God’s world. And the leaves of the ערבות, the willow branches, resemble the lips, which give expression to our thoughts and feelings. Our heart, our body, our eyes, our thoughts and our words are all elevated and directed to God.

BLESSING: Two blessings are said the first day of Sukkot, ‘al netilat lulab and sheheheyanu. The berakha,  ‘al netilat lulab, is also said during the other days of Sukkot.


Since every Mitsva has to be performed after we say the blessing, some people hold the etrog upside down and turn it back after the blessing, otherwise the berakha would be said unnecessarily (berakha lebatala). Others would hold the etrog in their hand only after the berakha is said.

Women are formally exempted from the Mitsva of lulab. The tradition in most communities, however, is that women perform the Mitsva of lifting the lulab, which is meritorious. Rabbis are divided on one detail: if women should or should not recite the berakha on the lulab.  The Sephardic tradition indicates that women should not say the berakha, while the Ashkenazi tradition indicates that women could say the berakha.
Candle lighting in NYC:         6.29pm
Shabbat ends in NYC:             7.27pm