Wednesday, October 12, 2011

SUKKOT: Shake it ... or move it!

We hold the lulab, the hadasim, and arabot in our right hand and the etrog in our left hand to perform the Mitzva of netilat lulab (see here ). When we hold the four species together, they must be held in the direction they grow on the tree (see video below).

Since every Mitzva has to be performed necessarily after we say the blessing, some people hold the Etrog upside down and turn it back after the blessing (otherwise the berakha will be said after the Mitzva is performed!). Others, hold the etrog in their left hand only after they said the berakha.

The Sephardic custom is not to 'shake' (rattle) the lulab (= in this context "lulab" means: the whole set of the four species) but to 'move it' (lena'anea) toward six different directions.

During the Halel, for example, we move the lulab clockwise: first South, then North, then East, then up, then down and finally West. This is done following the instructions of Chakhme haKabbala .

When waving it downward, we should not turn the lulab upside down, so that its head is facing downward, but simply moving it with our hands in the direction of the floor. We should turn our whole body as we face the direction to which we move the lulab.

We do not perform the Mitzva of lulab during Shabbat.

Women are formally exempted from the Mitzva of lulab. The tradition in most communities, however, is for women to take the lulab. Rabbis are divided on the issue of women reciting the berakha. In general, Sephardic Rabbis would oppose to the recitation of the berakha by women and Ashkenazi rabbis would approve.

Each person should follow his or her family's traditions.

Candle Lighting today in NYC: 6:02


DO NOT FORGET, before the holiday Erub Tabshilin

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

SUKKOT: The Four Species

"And, you shall take, on the first day (of Sukkot) a fruit of a citric tree (etrog), branches of palm trees (lulab), branch of myrtle (hadas) and willows of the brook (araba), and you shall rejoice before HaShem, your G-d, for seven days". (vaikra 23).

We are commanded to take four species during the seven days of Sukkot. Two blessings are said the first day, 'al netilat lulab and she'hecheeyanu. One berakha, 'al netilat lulab, is said during the other six days.

One lulab, one etrog, two arabot, and three hadasim are taken together each time.

The etrog with the left hand and the other three with the right hand.

The four species are not taken on Shabbat, even when the first day falls on Shabbat. This Mitzva is perfomrmed during the day but not at night.

On the first day of Sukkot, a person must be careful to take and recite the blessing over his own lulab and etrog. During the other six days, the species can be borrowed from somebody else.

The etrog or Citron, resembles in its shape, the heart, the driving force behind all our actions. The lulab, a palm branch, resembles the spine, which holds the body together and, without which, we would be unable to move. The hadas - myrtle branches - resemble, in their shape, the eyes, with which we behold God's world. And the arabot, the willow branches, resemble the lips, with which we give expression to our thoughts and feelings.

We take all of them together and we move them south, north, east and west, up and down, symbolizing our commitment in body, mind and hearth to follow God's commandments. God's presence, so to speak, is represented by signaling His Omnipresence in every corner of the world. (see more about the meaning of the four species here ).

More on the Four Species from

And more.... from Rabbi Obadia Yosef

Noam's Sukkot (and Etrog), from Sesame Street

Monday, October 10, 2011

SUKKOT: A nation under God

Immediately after Yom Kippur ends, that same night, we start building a Sukka.

The Sukka is a 'hut' consisting of four walls and a very fragile covering or 'sekhakh' (from this word comes the name ‘sukka’).

The Torah says: 'In Sukkot you shall dwell seven days... so your descendants shall know, that in Sukkot I hosted the children of Israel, when I brought them forth from the land of Egypt.. (Vaikra- Leviticus Chapter 23). In other words: In this festival we remember that it would have been impossible for the Children of Israel to survive during forty years in those huts, if it was not for HasHem’s protection while dwelling in the Sukkot.

HaShem Almighty protected us in the dessert from weather inclemency, wild animals and other dangers. He provided us with food and water and satisfied all our needs. By living in the Sukka, in a sense, we re-live those glorious days, leaving the safety and security of our houses and putting ourselves, once again, under His ‘direct’ protection, which ultimately, is the protection that matters.

During seven days we abandon our homes and we settle ourselves down in the Sukka. We eat, study, and -weather permitting- sleep in the Sukka. We bring part of our furniture to the Sukka and we make the Sukka’s interior as comfortable and beautiful as possible.

There are many details and specifications as how to build the Sukka.

The basic principles are:

-The walls must be built first. They could be done by any material, but they should be capable of withstanding an "average" wind.

-Then we do the 'sekhakh' or covering for which we can use branches of all kinds, including palm branches, bamboo branches, tree branches, etc.

-The 'sekhakh' should provide its shadow, at least to most of the sukka, but it can not be so thick that it would not allow rain coming into the sukka.


An Introduction to Sukkot

"Sukkah," - The Obligation

About the "Sechach," the Covering

About the Walls

Decorations of the Sukkah ("Noy Sukkah")

Placement of the Sukkah

Most of the rules about Sukka specified in the above links are similar for Ashkenazim and Sephardim.

For a more in-depth description of some Sephardic Halakhot see: