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Sukkot: Guide for the Perplexed 2012

Facts, figures and symbols embedded in the holiday of Sukkot.
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Photo Credit: Oren Nahshon / Flash90

10.  Sukkot’s four Species (1 citron, 1 palm branch, 3 myrtle branches and 2 willow branches = 7 items) – which are bonded together – represent four types of human-beings: people who possess positive odor and taste (values and action); positive taste but no odor (action but no values); positive odor but no taste (values but no action); and those who are devoid of taste and odor (no values and no action).  However, all are bonded (and dependent upon each other) by shared roots/history. The Four Species reflect prerequisites for genuine leadership: the palm branch (Lulav in Hebrew) symbolizes the backbone, the willow (Arava in Hebrew) reflects humility, the citron (Etrog in Hebrew) represents the heart and the myrtle (Hadas in Hebrew) stands for the eyesThe four species represent the vitality of water: willow – stream water, palm – spring water, myrtle – rain, and citron – irrigation. Sukkot in general, and a day following Sukkot – Shmini Atzeret – in particular, are dedicated to thanking God for water and praying for the rain. The four species symbolize the roadmap or the Exodus: palm – the Sinai Desert, willow – the Jordan Valley, myrtle – the mountains and the citron – the coastal plain.

11.  The Sukkah must remain unlocked, and owners are urged to invite (especially underprivileged) strangers in the best tradition of Abraham, who royally welcomed to his tent three miserable-looking strangers/angels.

12.  Sukkot is a universal holiday, inviting all peoples to come on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as expressed in the reading (Haftarah) of Zechariah 14: 16-19 on Sukkot’s first day. It is a holiday of peace -The Sukkah of Shalom (שלום). Shalom is one of the names of God. Shalem (שלם) – wholesome and complete in Hebrew – is one of the names of Jerusalem (Salem).

Originally published at the Ettinger Report.

About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.


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