WWOT – Weekly Words of Wisdom: Arba’ah Minim/Four Species

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

The Arba’ah Minim or the Four Species — the etrog (citron), the lulav (from the date tree), the hadas (myrtle), and the aravah (willow) — which are used on Sukkot, are compared to the four types of people who comprise the Jewish community. Taste represents learning. Smell represents good deeds. The Midrash (rabbinic legend) (Vayikra Rabba on Leviticus 23:40) likens the etrog, which has both taste and fragrance, to Jews who have both learning and good deeds; the palm, lulav, which has taste (the date), but no fragrance to those who have learning but lack good deeds; the myrtle, hadas, which has fragrance, but no taste to those who do good deeds but lack learning; and the willow, aravah, to those who lack both learning and good deeds. At Sukkot, we bind all of these species together to emphasize that all Jews are united and interdependent. Community is found when all are bound together, with all of our similarities and differences, and brought under one roof.

Similarly, Leo Aikman in the Atlanta Constitution says the body of every organization is structured from four kinds of “bones.” There are the Wishbones, who spend all their time wishing someone else would do the work. Then, there are the Jawbones, who do all the talking but little else. The Knucklebones knock everything anybody else tries to do. Fortunately, though, Aikman continues, “In every organization there are the Backbones, who get under the load and do most of the work.” All the bones need to work together, to influence each other, and to assist each other; eventually, the bones join together into one functioning structure, in much the same way we use the lulav with the other three parts. May we always work together as a team, realizing that we each bring our own uniqueness to our sisterhoods, and so complement each other in the process. Chag Sameach!

WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah will be a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.