1. They Are “Taken” (Almost) Every Day of Sukkot

One of the central observances of the holiday involves holding together four plant species specified in the Torah.1 Every day of Sukkot (except Shabbat), we hold together a lulav (palm frond), an etrog (citron fruit), three hadasim (myrtle branches), and two aravot (willow branches).

Read: The Lulav and Etrog: The Four Kinds

2. They Are Bound Together

The lulav, hadasim, and aravot are bound together, while the etrog is kept separate. There are various customs as to how the first three species are bundled together, ranging from basic rings to elaborate, basket-like receptacles.

Read: How to Bind the Lulav Bundle

3. Blessings Are Said

First, one lifts the lulav bundle upright, with the right hand, and recites: “Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and instructed us to take the lulav.” The etrog is then lifted in the left hand and brought together so that it touches the bundle.

The first time this mitzvah is done each year, the blessing of Shehecheyanu is added: “Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the universe, Who has given us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.”

Read: Lulav and Etrog Blessing in Hebrew and English

4. They Are “Shaken” or Waved

After holding the four species together, we shake them gently. Some have the custom to wave them in six directions, three times each: south, north, east, up, down, and west (keeping the species in an upright position).

Read: How to Wave the Lulav

5. It Is Best Done in the Sukkah

The mitzvah of the four species may be done at home or on the street; in the synagogue or at work. The best option, though, is to do it inside the sukkah, the booth-like structure we “dwell” in on Sukkot. If you do not have a sukkah of your own, visit a neighbor’s or one located at a local synagogue. Use the opportunity to grab a bite to eat as well, and cash in on the holiday’s other primary mitzvah.

Read: 14 Sukkah Facts Every Jew Should Know

6. They Are Used During Prayers

The four species are also held and waved during Hallel (“Psalms of Praise”), which is said as part of the holiday morning service, as well as during Hoshanot, a daily Sukkot ceremony that involves circling a Torah scroll while chanting prayers for Divine assistance.

Read: All About Hoshanot

7. Handle With Care

Jewish law describes many criteria that must be met for each of the four species to be considered “kosher.” Therefore, be sure to purchase your set from your rabbi or a trustworthy, G‑d-fearing vendor. It is equally important to handle your set with care: avoid banging the lulav tip against any surface, make sure the etrog’s pitam does not fall off (more on that below), and replace aravot whose leaves have turned black or fallen off.

Read: How to Select the Best Lulav and Etrog

8. Most Etrogs Are Grown in Italy and Israel

One of the criteria for a kosher etrog is that it be purebred and not cross-grafted with another fruit (such as a lemon)—a practice that happens to be quite common. As it can be difficult to differentiate between purebred and hybridized etrogs, they must be harvested exclusively from orchards known to have never been tampered with.

Many prioritize etrogs grown in the Italian province of Calabria, which enjoy a tradition of untainted pedigree. In fact, according to an ancient tradition, when G‑d first told Moses about the four species, Moses sent messengers to Calabria to fetch an etrog from there.2

That being said, there are several other etrog breeds that many select as their first pick, such as etrog stock originating from Morocco or Yemen (typically grown in Israeli orchards).

Read: Why an Italian Etrog?

9. A Pitam Is Not Always Necessary

The etrog typically features a pitam, a small protrusion extending from the tip. The pitam is the most vulnerable part of the fruit, and its detachment renders the etrog unfit. However, this is only true if a portion of the pitam is removed down to the surface of the fruit. Furthermore, many etrogs are harvested with the pitam having fallen off naturally while the fruit was still attached to the tree, and these etrogs are kosher without the iconic knob.

Read: A Candid Conversation with an Etrog Dealer

10. Some Add Dozens of Myrtles

Each set of the four species features one lulav, one etrog, and two aravot. The number of hadasim, however, is not set in stone. Although a minimum of three is required, no maximum amount is given, and some follow the custom of enhancing their set with 6, 13, 26, and even 36(!) branches.

11. They Represent Four Types of Jews

According to the Midrash,3 the four species represent four types of Jews, ranging from the etrog—symbolizing those who excel in both Torah study and mitzvah observance—to the aravot—corresponding to those deficient in both areas. Holding all four types together underlines the importance of Jewish unity, highlighting that at our core, we are all one.

Read: It Takes All Kinds

12. They Can—and Should—be Shared

What better mitzvah to share with others than one that represents bringing together Jews of all types and stripes? If you have your own set, don’t be stingy. Share it with your friends, neighbors, business associates, and any other Jew who may not have had a chance to perform this easy yet packed-with-meaning ritual.

On the first two days of Sukkot, the mitzvah must be done with a set you own. As such, when sharing it with others, “gift it” to them (with the understanding they will return the “gift” after doing the mitzvah).

Read: How to Celebrate Sukkot

13. They Can Be Used Post-Holiday

Sukkot’s departure does not mean these species must be relegated to the sidelines. Customs abound as to how to make use of them throughout the year, such as making etrog jelly (only if it is not full of pesticides), sniffing the myrtle branches during the Havdalah service, and using the lulav bundle as fuel to burn the chametz before Passover.

Read: What Should I Do with My Lulav and Etrog Set?