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Property and Pursuit of Happiness

YomTov, vol XVI, # 3

By Rabbi Yehudah Prero

“And you should take for yourself on the first day the fruit of a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited tree and brook willows; and you shall rejoice before Hashem, your God…” (Yayikra 23:40)

Our Sages teach us (Vayikra Rabba 30:12) that the Four Species we are commanded to take on Sukkos represent 4 different categories. The lulav, a palm frond, is from a tree that has “taste” but no smell. The Hadas, the myrtle, has a pleasant smell, but no taste. The Aravos, willows, have neither smell nor taste, and the Esrog has both smell and taste. Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch writes that all that we receive from Hashem falls into one of these four categories.

He expounds on the descriptions of the categories. There are certain basic elements in life that are part and parcel of our existence, such as air that we breathe, light that illuminates, the concept of beauty and the sense of smell. The Hadas, which has an odor but no taste, represents these items that by their very unadulterated nature sustain us and bring us joy. Our enjoyment thereof is passive and requires no effort, such as smell. In nature, we also find those items that can be utilized by man for his benefit in their natural state, but man needs to take some form of action to benefit. The Lulav, which has taste but no smell, is representative of these items, such as fruit and vegetables. Lastly, there are items that require toil and effort in order to extract benefit therefrom. These items would not exist where it not for the productive labor of man. Houses, clothing, utensils, and the like are represented by the Arava, which has neither taste nor smell. The Esrog, which has both smell and taste, is the embodiment of completeness and perfection, an item that gives boundless joy and sustains with no effort required to derive that benefit.

We are commanded to take the Four Species on Sukkos. We are commanded to take, for ourselves, together, four objects that represent all that we could possibly get from Hashem. We are to take them, and do as the verse says and “rejoice before Hashem (our) G-d.” All should understand at the harvest time, the time immediately after we have had our fate for the coming year sealed, that Hashem is the One and Only who gives us whatever we have. He has given us these things to use, but as a means to an end – not as an end themselves. These things are tools, so that we can live and thrive in the service of Hashem, perform His mitzvos, and rejoice in that we were given these gifts, before Hashem, on Sukkos.

The commandment to take the 4 species is inextricably tied to the commandment to dwell in the Sukkah. R’ Hirsch writes that the commandment to dwell in the Sukkah comes at a time when the harvest is just about complete. Our houses and silos are stocked, and we no longer feel the same worry and concern that drove us to beseech Hashem for a successful year. We can now sit back and look forward to the coming winter months in comfort and tranquility.

Of course, this is the ideal picture, the best case scenario. There are many people for whom this is only a dream. The harvest was poor. What was stored is not nearly enough for survival, for one’s self or family. Every morning they may wake up not knowing how bread will find its way to their table to sustain them, their wives, children, all those who upon them they depend.

All of us have, no matter the situation in which we find ourselves, must go out to the Sukkah. Dwelling in the Sukkah may remind us that although we have money, one’s fortune comes and goes. What we have is from Hashem and Hashem only. Our forefathers once lived in huts in the desert, not mansions on a landscaped estate. Only Hashem provided for them at that point – and that fact will never change. And this fact should bring solace to the destitute. Hashem provided for and sustained the entire nation of Israel for 40 years in the desert. He protected us from the elements, understood our needs, and delivered to us that which was required. He was there for us then, and He will always be there for us, even when the situation seems hopeless.

The Sukkah reminds us that all we possess comes from Hashem. The Four Species remind us that we must use all that Hashem gave us to serve Him – as that is why we received it. The Sukkah is supposed to prevent us from assigning too much significance to the earthly possessions we have amassed. The Four Species teach us how to properly evaluate the true worth and value of these possessions - as vital tools in the service of Hashem. The Sukkah instructs us how to raise G-d above earthly possessions, and the four species instruct us how to elevate our earthly possessions into holy instruments used in the service of G-d.

Perhaps this symbolism is the reason why some have the custom to specifically recite the blessing on the Lulav and Esrog in Sukkah. Precisely in the location where we are supposed to be reminded that all we have is from G-d is where we sanctify the Lulav and Esrog with a blessing, and remind ourselves that all we have is to be sanctified as well, to the service of Hashem.

Text Copyright © 2010 by Rabbi Yehudah Prero and

The author has Rabbinic ordination from Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, NY.



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