The “Aravah-Jew”

Our Sages state in the Midrash1 that the esrog, lulav, haddasim and aravos used during Sukkos to fulfill the commandment to take the “Four Kinds” each symbolize a particular kind of Jew.

The esrog , or citron, which possesses both a tangy taste and fine fragrance, symbolizes the Jew who possesses both Torah learning and good deeds. Since the study of Torah is an intellectual pursuit and is to be enjoyed and savored, it is likened to taste; the performance of mitzvos through the acceptance of the Divine yoke is likened to fragrance — something much less tangible.

The lulav , or palm branch, alludes to those Jews who possess Torah study but not mitzvos; like dates on a palm tree, they possess good taste but lack fragrance.

Haddasim , or myrtles, which have a pleasant aroma but lack taste, are symbolic of those Jews who possess good deeds but lack Torah study.

Finally, aravos , or willow branches, lacking both taste and fragrance, symbolize those Jews void of both Torah study and good deeds.

A cursory reading of the Midrash could lead one to believe that only the “esrog Jew” possesses both Torah and good deeds.

The Rebbe Rayatz, however, in speaking2 of the “aravah Jew,” stated explicitly that “aravah alludes to simple Jews who perform mitzvos out of simple faith.” Moreover, he goes on to state3 that “all Jews are similar in the aspect of the performance of Torah and mitzvos.”

Thus all four categories of Jews possess the performance of Torah study, i.e., Torah knowledge, and the performance of mitzvos.

In fact, this is to be understood from the above-quoted Midrash itself. For he who studies Torah properly also performs mitzvos, inasmuch as Torah study necessarily leads to deed.4 Additionally, he who possesses good deeds must possess Torah knowledge as well, for otherwise he would not know how to perform mitzvos.

We thus understand that the “aravah Jew” also possesses Torah performance and mitzvos.

The difference between these four categories of Jews is merely with regard to the quality of their performance of Torah and mitzvos.

Torah is related to the quality of intellect, and good deeds to the quality of emotion. Herein lies the difference between these four categories. Esrog alludes to those Jews whose performance of Torah and mitzvos is permeated by both intellect and emotion. Lulav refers to those who primarily possess the quality of intellect, and hadas connotes those Jews who chiefly possess the quality of emotion.

Aravah , then, refers to the service of the simple Jew, whose Torah study and performance of mitzvos lack both intellectual and emotional depth; they perform mitzvos out of simple faith.

But the “aravah Jew” also possesses a quality5 in relation to the other three categories, in that — as the Baal Shem Tov stated6 — his simplicity is at one with G‑d’s utter simplicity.7

This quality is also mirrored in the willow branch. Our Sages explain8 that these four kinds were chosen because they all embody an aspect of unity. The branches of the lulav are all attached; the hadas has three leaves growing out of the same stem, the esrog grows on its tree for an entire year — thereby uniting the four disparate seasons — and aravos grow in clusters.

Of these four kinds, only the willow branch is united not only in and of itself, but also with other willows, growing as it does in clusters. The reason for this broader unity is because it is permeated with a greater simplicity than the other kinds.

In fact, the revealed qualities of the other kinds — intellect, emotion, or the combination of both — may work against them. For revealed qualities tend to conceal the essence. The “aravah Jew” who performs mitzvos out of simple faith may thus be more in touch with his soul’s essence — “a part of G‑d above”9 — than are Jews whose revealed qualities are manifest.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXIX, pp. 223-225.