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It Takes All Kinds

It Takes All Kinds

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"It takes all kinds." That, essentially is the message of the mitzvah of the "Four Kinds" — the etrog (citron), lulav (palm frond), hadas (myrtle) and aravah (willow) — over which we recite a blessing on the festival of Sukkot. In the words of the Midrash:

The etrog has both a taste and an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have both Torah learning and good deeds.... The date (the fruit of the lulav) has a taste but does not have an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have Torah but do not have good deeds.... The hadas has an aroma but not a taste; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have good deeds but do not have Torah.... The aravah has no taste and no aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who do not have Torah and do not have good deeds.... Says G‑d: "Let them all bond together in one bundle and atone for each other."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that the Midrash is not just saying that "all are part of the Jewish people" or "all are precious in the eyes of G‑d" or even that "all are necessary"; it says that they "all atone for each other." This implies that each of the Four Kinds possesses something that the other three do not, and thus "atones" and compensates for that quality's absence in the other three.

In other words, it's not just that it takes all kinds to make a people — it also takes all kinds to make a person. And Sukkot is the time when we bond with each other so that the other's qualities should rub off on ourselves.

The etrog says: "I am perfect. I balance learning and doing in flawless equilibrium. In my life, knowledge and action do not overwhelm or displace one the other, but rather fulfill and complement each other." This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while. We all need to know that we possess the potential for such harmonious perfection, and that we each have those moments in our lives when we attain it.

The lulav says: "I am utterly devoted to the pursuit of wisdom, awareness and self-knowledge. Doing is also important, but my first priority is to know G‑d and (thereby) my truest self, even if this means withdrawing from involvement with the world." This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while. We all need to know that there is the potential for such consummate knowledge in us, and that we each have those moments in our lives when we attain it.

The hadas says: "What our world needs is action. Knowledge of G‑d and self-awareness are worthy goals, but I have a job to do. I need to build a better world — enlightenment may have to wait." This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while. We all need to know that our mission in life is to "make the physical world a home for G‑d", and that there are times when the need for action takes precedence over everything else.

The aravah says: "I have nothing. I am nothing." This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while.

By Yanki Tauber; based on the teachings of the Rebbe.
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Paul Georgia September 30, 2015

Appreciation I have used this site to garner much information about many things. I appreciate whomever is the resource team for allowing access to such a wonderful blessing in my life and understanding. Be blessed Reply

Eugina Giovanna Herrera New York City, New York September 27, 2015

Sharing our passion. Good deed will always be good deeds, For we are all here together with kindness and frugality. I rather be here than somewhere sharing my passion of how I perceive your observance. In other words, We can learn from perceiving with passion always sharing our passion of Torah, As sharing our passion of Torah with passion we can always learn to perceive with passion.
Thank you for sharing this. Reply

Maya waleka Behar Ottawa September 25, 2015

Thank you!!,
Learning with you, I am better person

Maya Reply

Anonymous Auckland, NZ September 30, 2014

Etrog: Love looking for wisdom how to serve our Beloved
Lulav: Joy bubbling up as we drink deeply of the Holy Writings
Hadas: Peace flowing from hands taking energy from brains that can overheat
Aravah: Humility opens us up to future manifestations of all three other attributes Reply

Lynne October 5, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Very lovely Reply

Anonymous September 26, 2013

Thank you for the beautiful explanation I am so happy to have visited this site. Mr. Karp, your explanation of the Four Kinds was lovely and elucidating. As a Catholic, I was taught by my parents to look to the Jewish people as one looks to an elder brother in faith. I am kicking myself that I never thought to learn the meanings and traditions of the High Holy Days before. I thank you again and ask G-d's Blessings on you. Never too late to learn something old! Reply

ruth housman marshfield, ma September 30, 2012

I love this! I believe in all things, it takes all kinds, as in the World at large, and the "kind" part is where we must head, towards adding and not subtracting from the word itself, mankind.

This is a very beautiful article, and its messages reverberate in so many ways.
Thank you. If I read this before, it needed a refresher, the resh in refresh! What is heady is also, wonderful! Reply

Anonymous EHT, NJ September 27, 2010

It takes all kinds This article lets us know, we all need to do these 4 kinds of things and the country would be united as one!! Thank you for posting Reply

Boruch jerusalem, israel June 17, 2010

source Hi,

Could you please source the midrash? Thanks! Reply

marc UK October 13, 2008

Thanks, will share. I prefer this analogy to the one to the 4 parts of the body, Spine, heart, lips and eyes.
It is nice to see it applied to each and every Jew and the nation as a whole. Reply

mark alcock Durban, SA via chabadnc.com October 6, 2006

only with Baruch Ha-Shem do I have everything. How wondrous ! The *aravah* covertly implies we have not and are not ... until we come of age. Alarmingly encouraging us to forsake our negative self -centred independence ,by becoming positively G-d- centric. Only with Ha-Shem ; do i have and do i become of HIM.This is brazenly clear & possible ,by diligently reading Torah daily; esp. with Ha-Shem infused in our heart ; prevalent in sanctifying our being. amen. Reply

stephen p. meyer charleston, w.va. October 26, 2005

It takes all kinds What a marvelous sense of balance and perspective the four kinds provides us through out our daily life. Reply

M Stockholm, Sweden October 19, 2005

Thanks! I have heard this vort many times before, but only in terms of four distinct people, I never thought about applying it all to one person as it was applied here. Great job, I shared it in the sukka with 10 ppl. and another guy in a store. Reply

Thomas Karp October 15, 2005

Ah, the 'four kinds'; including the four 'branches' of Judaism, and-

what constitutes the 'majority congregation' of gefilte fish:

Mullet, Whitefish, Pike, and-

a certain poster known to take temporary dwelling here at Chabad.org from time to time, and-

who was himself born on Erev Sukkot.

Yours truly, Mr. Karp.

Enjoy (piece be upon you). Reply

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