The month of Tishrei contains four major holidays: Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, Sukkos, and Shemini Atzeres/ Simchas Torah. There are a number of differences as to how these Yamim Tovim are celebrated, and Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (19th century leader of German Orthodoxy) uses one of these differences to teach us a fundamental lesson about Judaism.
All the holidays, aside from Sukkos, are one day celebrations. Even Rosh HaShana, which is now commemorated with two days, is really meant to be a one day affair. Why are the moadim of Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, the proverbial Days of Awe, only one day long, whereas Sukkos is seven days long? Rav Hirsch explains that Rosh HaShana is a day of Divine Justice, the Day of Judgement, Yom Kippur, a solemn day with a focus on fasting and atonement. Each of these experiences is an essential part of the inner life of a Jew. However, neither is to become the norm, the default setting if you will, of the Jewish Personality. Hence, these days are limited to an observance of only one day. However, Sukkos comes with a seven day time-span as a result of the centrality and importance of its primary theme to the emergence of the Torah lifestyle. What is the theme of Sukkos? All indicators point to the theme of simcha, which is a joy stemming from personal fulfillment, as the hallmark of the holiday, and it is specifically this trait, according to Rav Hirsch, that is to be the foundation stone of our inner lives.
HALACHOS OF THE ARBA MINIM
Excerpted from the Ezras Torah Luach
- Esrog The esrog should be free of any holes, any thin blister-like protrusions (usually a result of the decomposition of the fruit), or any discoloration. One should ideally look for certification when buying an esrog to guarantee that it is not the product of grafted branches (otherwise, we are relying on the classical appearance of the esrog, e.g., its shape and bumpy surface, as evidence that the esrog is not the product of grafted branches).
- Lulav One should ascertain that the central leaf that emanates from the spine, whose end is the highest point of the lulav, is whole (not split or clipped), straight and green. The minimum length of the lulav's spine is four handbreadths, approximately 15-16.
- Hadassim [Myrtle branches] We take three stems of haddasim, the majority of each covered with groups of three leaves that emanate from the same rung of the stem. Each stem should be at least three handbreadths 11-12 long. Most of the leaves should be intact.
- Arovos [Willow branches] We take two arovos stems, each of which is reddish in color, whose leaves are long and smooth (not jagged) at the edges. Each stem should be at least three handbreadths long. Most of the leaves should be intact.
We bind the lulav, haddasim, and arovos together to fulfill the mitzvah in the proper manner. The haddasim are to the right of the lulav and the arovos are to the left of the lulav when the green back of the lulavs spine is facing the person holding it. We make two (some make three) additional rings out of the leaves of the lulav and place them around the lulav higher than the haddasim and arovos.