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The Symbolism of Sukkot

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Why do we take the Arba’at Haminim (Four Species) on Sukkot? Why are they described as they are in the Torah? Why do we use the species we use?

For me, the answers might be a little different than the ones you’re used to…

The Written Torah

There are four items described in the text of the Torah.

פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר – The Fruit of a Beautiful Tree

Throughout the Torah, fruit are a gift from Hashem. This is why we can’t bring fruit as offerings, they aren’t ours to offer. The only exception is Shavuot where we thank Hashem for His/Her gifts by bringing a sampling of the earth’s fruit as an offering.

What is the most beautiful tree – the most beautiful gift from G-d?

Our covenant with G-d.

The Torah is its fruit.

Thus, the Pri Eitz Hadar represents the Torah; the fruit of our relationship with Hashem.

עֲנַף עֵץ-עָבֹת – Anaf Eitz Avot

This species also represents a gift. It is an Anaf ‘Tree’ of Avot. However, the words are obscure, as if cloaked in mystery. As far as I know, the word עֲנַף (Anaf) shows up nowhere else in Chumash (Five Books of Moses). And the word עָבֹת is rare (Avot). It is used to describe the gold braid that wraps around the stones on the Choshen (breastplate) and Ephod (shoulder-piece). In the Chumash, gold represents the divine and the stones are inscribed with the names of the tribes.

With this chain, G-d is embracing our people and enabling the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) to carry a representation of us into the Holy Mishkan (Tabernacle).

The Anaf Eitz Avot represents G-d’s mysterious desire to be with us and draw us close. It represents our experience of the divine.

כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים – Kapot Temarim

Tamarim are palm trees. But Tamar is also the name of a person. Tamar took things into her own palms – her Kapot. She did it in order to remain a part of the Jewish people and of the divine relationship. The Kapot Temarim thus represent our desire to be with Hashem.

עַרְבֵי-נָחַל – Arvei Nachal

Bilaam describes us as Hashem’s nachal, watering the world. It is a theme that recurs again and again. We are G-d’s spiritual stream. Erev, twilight, mixes night and day. Likewise, we mix our world with His and the physical and the spiritual. We are a cross-over people.

The Arvei Nachal thus represents our gift to Hashem, bringing His presence into the world.

Taken together, these four Written Torah references represent Hashem’s gift to us, our gift to Hashem and our mutual desire to draw close to one another.

The Practiced Torah

Why do we use the species we use? Let’s examine them, one at a time.

Kapot Temarim – Palm Branches

The Lulov (palm........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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