The Torah portion read on Yom Kippur begins with Aharon, the High Priest, being instructed in the Yom Kippur service. He is told what clothing to wear and to bring a sin-offering bull to atone for himself and his household; then to cast lots on the two goats — one for the Almighty, one for Azazel. The order of the service is set forth for offerings in order to provide atonement for the Jewish people. We are instructed to refrain from engaging in melacha — the 39 categories of creative acts (usually inaccurately referred to as “work”) that were utilized to build the portable sanctuary in the desert. Lastly, we are told that this is an eternal decree to bring atonement for the Children of Israel.
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What is The Meaning of the Arbah Minim?
The Torah tells us in Leviticus 23:40 a special commandment for Sukkot — to take the arbah minim, the Four Species (etrog, lulav, hadassim, and aravot). We wave them in the four directions of the compass as well as up and down. The symbolism of the waving in all directions is to remind us that God is everywhere. However, why are these four species designated for the mitzvah?
Our rabbis teach that these four species are symbolic of four types of Jews: the etrog (citron) which has a fragrance and a taste represents those Jews who have both Torah wisdom and good deeds; the lulav (date palm branch) which has a taste (from the dates), but no fragrance represents those Jews who have Torah wisdom, but no good deeds; the hadassim (myrtle branches) have a fragrance, but no taste representing those Jews who have good deeds, but no Torah wisdom; and lastly, the aravot (willow branches) have neither a taste nor a smell representing those Jews who are lacking in Torah wisdom and good deeds.
What do we do on Sukkot? We symbolically bind together and recognize every Jew as an integral and important part of the Jewish people. If even one is missing, the mitzvah is incomplete. Our People is one; we must do all we can to bind together the Jewish people and work to strengthen the Jewish future!