I've just learned the blessing that we say before taking the Four Species on Sukkot—and I have a question. Why do we say "Blessed are You … who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the taking of the lulav"? What happened to the other kinds? Why do we just mention the lulav?


Good question! In fact, the sages of the Talmud1 ask the same thing. The answer given is very simple: The lulav is by far the tallest of the four kinds, and the entire bundle is thus called a "lulav," even though it comprises other species as well.

Now this answer is satisfactory on a technical level. The lulav is tallest, so we make the blessing on the lulav. But we are left wondering, why the lulav is the tallest and most prominent of the bunch.

This question is compounded in light of the well-known Midrash that each component of the Four Kinds represents a different kind of Jew.

Coming from a date palm, which produces sweet-tasting dates, the lulav represents the Torah scholar. The sweet-smelling myrtle represents one who excels in performing good deeds. The etrog, which is both fragrant and tasty, represents the person who is exemplary both in Torah study and good deeds. And the humble willow, which has neither taste nor aroma, represents the simple folk.

Since the etrog represents the most perfect of all four kinds of people, should it not be the most prominent of them all?

Why does the lulav, who excels in Torah study but not positive action, tower over the rest?

The Rebbe points out that the full-time Torah scholar lives a G‑dly life, united with G‑d and His Torah, in a way that no one else does. They blaze a path that all can follow. Even a lay-person, who cannot devote night and day to Torah study, can set aside time each day to learn, during which they are devoted to Torah, elevating themselves to the level of the lulav.

By making the lulav the dominant element of the mitzvah, we signal that the Torah scholars are the moral compass of our people, who set the tone for us all.2