The Agricultural Dimension

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Unlike Passover where the agricultural dimension has been overshadowed by the historical side of the holiday, Sukkot has retained its nature aspect as something central to the holiday. The Torah refers to Sukkot as Chag Ha Asif (the festival of ingathering) (Exodus 34, 22) and this component is a central part of the celebration. Here we see the dialectic of Jewish tradition operating. The move from nature to history is counter-balanced by a move from history to nature. Human mastery of nature is balanced by the relationship with nature and sensitivity to its rhythms. The miracle of the harvest is acknowledged and celebrated: the need for roots and acceptance of nature's gift is affirmed.

The Four Species :

The central expression of this agricultural dimension was the mitzvah of bringing four species of fruits and plants together and waving them in the Temple. Since the destruction of the Temple, the four species are brought in to every synagogue (or home) in remembrance of this Temple ceremony. The four species were plants of Israel, some particularly related to water, and all representing the entire bounty of the land. "On the first day, you should take the fruit of hadar (goodly) trees (etrog or citron); branches of palm trees (lulav), boughs of leafy trees (hadassim) or myrtle and willows of the brook (aravot)., and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days " (Leviticus 23; 40). The myrtle and willows are attached to a holder on the lulav (the holder is made of palm branch, also). Three myrtle branches are placed on the right and two willows on the left. The lulav is held in the right hand together with the etrog in the left hand and the whole is waved together after the blessing. (They are held with the stem down; purists hold the etrog wrong side up until after they say the blessing so that the perfect waving is done after the blessing.) (Even though the etrog is seen as the more precious), the whole act has come to be known as waving the lulav obviously because the lulav is the tallest one and is eye-catching. (A recent survey indicated that tall people average higher salaries than short people. oh! the injustice of it all!)

The waving of the species is done three times up, three times down, in all directions e.g. east, south, west, north, and up and down. This is symbolic of God's total presence and dominion over the entire universe.

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