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