After the High Holidays, the festival of Sukkot can seem like an anticlimax. But it is a beautiful, joyous holiday. In fact, is the only festival in which we are COMMANDED to be happy: “For a seven-day period you shall celebrate… and you shall be happy!”

There are two mitzvot associated with Succot: dwelling (eating) in a succah and gathering the 4 species of the lulav.

The “four species” of the Lulav is comprised of ‘the spear of the date tree leaves’, an ‘etrog’ (citroen), 3 ‘hadasim’ (myrtle) branches and 2 Aravah’ (willow) branches.

The Lulav is only kosher if all are together, if any one of them is missing the lulav is not kosher.

One of the classic interpretations of the meaning of the lulav is:

  • The lulav looks remarkably like a human spine.
  • The myrtles are shaped remarkably like human eyes
  • The willows are shaped like human lips
  • The etrog is shaped like the human heart

Five days after our Yom Kippur commitment to act with holiness, we are commanded to observe the mitzvah of the lulav.

We must use these four body parts for holy endeavors. These four body parts represents human actions. Ever hear someone say “get a backbone! Standup for what’s right!”. If a person is weak or afraid, they are called “spineless”.

Therefore the Lulav challenges to use our spine, to stand up to confront evil.

We should use our eyes to see the good in all people and invite them into our lives.

We should use our lips to speak kindly and compassionately to all people.

And lastly, we should use are heart to perceive the good and the holy in all people, judging them favorably as we would want to be judged by others.

And if we learn this lesson of the 4 species? Then truly not only will we be “Ach Samayach” – surely happy… we will be able to bring true happiness to the world.

Rabbi Scolni