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A Teaching of the Lulav

One of the duties of Sukkot is that one takes four species of plants, called the “lulav” and shake this bundle on each of the seven days of Sukkot. This entry ends with a tarot-activity using the symbols of the lulav.

                     

These species are the lulave, (date palm frond) which is the biggest plant, the hadass (bough of a myrtle tree), the aravah (willow branch), and the etrog (a citron). These plants can be seen as a reflection of four categories of plants that grow in Israël: those with a good taste and nice fragrance (the etrog), those with a good taste and no fragrance (the palm), those with a pleasant fragrance and no taste (the haddasim), and those with neither taste not fragrance (the aravah). You could say that by waving all four, Jews ask for all types of plants and crops to grow.

                      


In another interpretation (there are more than the two I mention here) the four species symbolize the relation people have with the Torah. The etrog with its sweet taste and nice scent symbolizes people who not only study the Torah but also practice it. The Haddasim with its pleasant fragrance, but without taste, symbolizes people who study Torah but do not practice it. The lulave points to people that practice the Torah but do not study it. The aravah symbolizes people who either study nor practice the Torah. All of them are part of the community symbolized by the lulav. But this is not all of the teaching. A community changes and grows, because people grow and change. This means that the etrog can humble itself tomorrow in a hadass, the aravah can get scent suddenly, and the willow can be on its way to become a blossoming fruit tree. The promise that change is possible is the promise of the lulav in this interpretation.

Tarot-activity “The Four Species”
The following is a tarot activity derived from the lulav. In the activity the Four Species are seen as four attitudes in ourselves towards our faith, our spirituality or religion. Two concepts are important in this activity: “study” and “practice”. You need to define what the difference is between the two, but it might become clear what they means to you by doing the activity.

1. Select (do not pull) a card from one of your tarot decks for each of the four species.
Etrog (citron): studying your religion, and practicing it.
Haddasim (myrtle): study your religion but not practicing it.
Lulave: (date palm frond) practicing your religion, but not studying it.
Aravah (willow branch): study nor practice your religion.

2. Mix these four cards and pull a card with the question: “What of these four species am I, what is my attitude towards my faith right now?”

3. Then pick a second card (of the three remaining) for what you are heading for. I mean the attitude you are heading for: for example towards the approach of the etrog, studying and practicing, or the approach of the lulave, practicing your religion but not studying it, or another of the Four Species.

4. If you like your second card and its direction, then draw a third card that tells you how to stimulate your growth. If you do not like the second card, the attitude it represents then pick a third card which tells you how to prevent going in this direction.

Literature: “Een brief aan de lezeressen en lezers van Tenachon over het feest van Soekot”. Tenachon, 4, 1999. 
Tags: spread, sukkot
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