Arba’at Ha’minim: The Four Species As Symbols
Let’s explore some of the secrets of the Four Species that we wave during Succot. Did you know that the Four Species hint at all 613 mitzvot of the Torah? We see this in the numerical value of the etrog (610), coupled with the three other Species – lulav, hadassim, and aravot. 610 + 3 = 613. Looked at another way, the Four Species hint at the Seven Heavens: one etrog, one lulav, three hadassim, and two aravot. 1 + 1 + 3 + 2 = 7. With these seven mitzvah items, we can pierce the Seven Heavens with our prayers!
There is a level of symbolism to the Four Species, connected with four important organs of the human body. The lulav symbolizes the spine; the etrog – the heart; the hadassim – the eyes; and the aravot – the lips. This is one reason we are especially careful about purchasing a beautiful etrog, with not even a small part missing (chaser). A pure heart, a 100% feeling heart, is indispensable in our quest for self-perfection. By controlling all four of these key parts of the body, and doing teshubah with them over the forty days leading up to Yom Kippur, we hope to merit a successful new year. We do teshubah by bending over (bending the spine) while banging on our heart and confessing our sins with our lips in viduy. Teshubah is done by a regretful heart, and eyes that perceive clearly, but don’t wander where they shouldn’t. Our lips both verbalize how we wronged G-d and man, and also control what we say, and how we say what we must.
Our Rabbis tell us that by putting all of the Four Species together, we show the underlying unity of the four different types of Jews. Those who study Torah, but do not have misvot, are similar to the lulav – which has taste (the dates), but no fragrance. Hadassim are fragrant, but lack taste – similar to those who do misvot, but do not study Torah. Aravot lack both fragrance and taste, like those who do not perform mitzvot nor study Torah. The etrog, which has both fragrance and taste, represents those who study Torah and fulfill the Commandments as well. If one has the most beautiful etrog lulav and hadassim, but has no lowly aravot, he cannot fulfill the mitzvah. All four types are necessary to fulfill the mitzvah. Similarly, the Jewish People is comprised of all four types of Jews, and we cannot do without anyone of them.
The happiness that the Torah specifically commands us to reach on the Sukkot Festival can only be achieved through Jewish unity. If we would only recognize how very much we all need one other, we would be able to bring the final Redemption within reach.