On the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, people engage in some unusual and out of the ordinary
traditions. To people who are unfamiliar with the holiday it can be quite perplexing to see
families sitting outside of their perfectly heated homes in small huts. The quick explanation is
that each part of Sukkot holds historical and spiritual significance, making it one of the most
joyous and celebratory holidays in Judaism.
Sukkot begins on the 15th of Tishrei, the fifth day following Yom Kippur, where Jews transition
from a time of repentance to a time of great joy, celebrating their confidence and trust in G-d’s
protection. Here’s a quick guide to answer those ‘what’ and ‘why’ questions about Sukkot’s
most important traditions.
During Sukkot, Jews treat the Sukkah like their own home, eating, drinking, socializing and
even sleeping during the week-long holiday. This is done to commemorate the 40-year period
where the people of Israel traveled from shelter to shelter during their time wandering the desert.
Sukkot is a celebration of God’s protecting the Jewish people during their time wandering the
The Four Species
The Four Species are what the Jewish people wave in all directions to symbolize that G-d is the
master of all creation and to acknowledge G-d’s active role in Israel’s agricultural abundance.
The sages of tehilim teach us in Psalms 35:10 that the Four Species (mentioned in Vayikra
Rabbah 30:14) are supposed to represent the four different types of Jews and the four different
parts of us.
The first of the Four Species is the etrog, an aromatic yellow citrus fruit that resembles a lemon.
Its characteristics include a pleasant taste and fragrance. It represents a Jew with Torah wisdom
and good deeds. The etrog also represents the heart, where a person holds his or her emotions.
The willow, palm and myrtle branches make up the lulav. The long palm branch is supposed
to emulate the Jew who contains wisdom but no good deeds. It also represents the spine, from
which a person’s actions stem.
The Hadas embodies the Jew who lacks wisdom but participates in good deeds. It is a myrtle
branch that contains an appealing pattern of leaves shaped like an eye signifying a person’s
perspective and outlook.
The Aravah is a willow branch that represents someone without good deeds or Torah wisdom.
The Aravah personifies one’s lips and speech. Finally, participants tie all of the pieces together
to symbolize the unity of the Jewish people and represent that they are using all of their parts to
work together to ensure self-esteem, tranquility and happiness.