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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Name given to the festive palm-branch which with the see ETROG is carried and waved on the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot). The three constituents of the lulab are: (1) a shoot of the palm-tree in its folded state before the leaves are spread out; this must be at least three handbreadths long, so that it may be waved, and must be bound round with a twig or tendril of its own kind; (2) three twigs of myrtle of the species which has its leaves in whorls of three; and (3) two willow-branches of the kind of which the wood is reddish and the leaves are long and entire (Suk. 29b, 32b, 34a). The myrtle-twigs and willow-branches are tied to the lower end of the palm-branch—the former on the right, and the latter on the left—by means of three rings of palm-strips. These branches constitute with the etrog the "four species" ("arba'at haminim").
In the Temple.
The use of the lulab is closely connected with the reciting of the HALLEL (Psalms 113-). In the Second Temple it was waved during the recitation of the passages expressive of thanksgiving or prayer, viz., Psalms 118:1-4,25 (Suk. 37b). The manner of waving was as follows: Facing east and holding the lulab in the right hand and the etrog in the left, the worshiper shook the former in the directions east, south, west, and north, upward and downward, forward and backward; this was in acknowledgment of God's sovereignty over nature (ib.). After the additional sacrifices of the day had been offered the lulab and etrog were carried in procession around the altar in the court while Psalms 118:25, or the refrain , was chanted. On each of the first six days one such processional circuit ("haḳḳafah") was made; on the seventh day seven circuits took place, and at the end the etrogs were eaten by the children (Suk. 45a; also Hosha'na Rabbah). According to tradition, the carrying of the lulab was observed in the Temple throughout the seven days of the feast, but outside of it on one day only. After the destruction of the Temple, R. Johanan ben Zakkai ordained that the practise should be observed everywhere during seven days, "in remembrance of the Temple" (Suk. 41a, 43b).
In the Synagogue.
This ordinance is observed in the synagogue (excepton Sabbath). The mode of carrying and waving the lulab and etrog is the same as it was in the Temple, but the first waving takes place before the commencement of Hallel, while the usual formula of benediction is recited: "Blessed art thou . . . concerning the holding of the lulab." After the Musaf service (which takes the place of the additional sacrifices in the Temple) the processional circuits, the precentor or ḥazzan leading, are made around the reading-desk, or bemah, on which the Torah-scroll is held in an upright position, while the hosannas (hymns beginning and closing with the words ) are chanted, in the same manner as in the Temple.
The ordinance is binding on every observant Jew. One should not break fast before carrying it out. In countries where, owing to the cost, not every household can afford a lulab and an etrog, the poor are allowed the use of those belonging to their wealthy brethren. Usually the congregation owns a lulab and an etrog which are carried from house to house, so that children and feeble persons who can not come to the synagogue may observe the commandment and be allowed to break their fast in due time.
The ordinance of the lulab is derived from Leviticus 23:40: "And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook: and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." Aside from the palm-branch and the willows the passage does not specify what shall be used; and the interpretation of the "fruit of goodly trees" and the "boughs of thick trees" to mean the etrog and myrtle respectively, as also the precise manner of using the four species, rests on tradition. A question as to the correctness of the accepted interpretation of the passage is raised in Lev. R. 30:15 (comp. also Tan., Emor, 20); and the answer is, quoting Proverbs 30:24, "There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise," that the "wise" explained the four species to mean etrog, lulab, myrtle, and willow-branches. A justification is attempted in Suk. 32b on the ground that "boughs of thick trees" implies a tree whose leaves cover the branches, and that this is characteristic of the myrtle, or a tree whose fruit and wood taste alike (have the same aroma), which again is a peculiarity of the myrtle. The presence of the latter characteristic is given as justification for the choice of the etrog also (ib. 37a). In Ta'an. 2b the four species are put in close relation with the prayers for the annual rainfall (comp. also Lev. R. 30:13), which was believed to be determined upon on the Feast of Tabernacles (R. H. 16a; comp. Suk. 37b); and it is added that the choice of them is suitable, for as "they can not exist without water, so also the world can not exist without water."
In addition to these explanations, the Midrash (ib. 9-14; comp. Tan., Emor, 17) indulges in many symbolical explanations of the four species, e.g., they refer to God Himself in His various attributes and activities; they remind one of the three patriarchs and Joseph, or of the four mothers of Israel; they represent the great Sanhedrin with the scholars and their disciples and scribes attached to it; or the whole people of Israel in its four divisions of (1) pious and learned, (2) learned but not pious, (3) pious but not learned, and (4) those who are neither; and lastly they symbolize the four chief constituents of the human body—the spinal column, the heart, the eye, and the mouth. The Samaritans and Karaites refer the passage in Leviticus to the parts constituting the booth ("sukkah"), pointing to Nehemiah 8:15, where, however, some different species ("olive-branches" and "branches of wild olive") are enumerated.
The assumption—drawn from the fact that Plutarch ("Symp." 4:6,2) and Josephus ("Ant." 13:13, § 5: "for it is the custom among the Jews for each to have on the Feast of Booths a thyrsus of palms and citrons"; comp. also II Macc. 10:7) refer to the lulab as "thyrse" (θύρσος), and the latter, in "Ant." 3:10, § 4 ("carrying in their hands a bunch of myrtle, willow-branches, palms, and citrons"), as εἰρεσιώνη— that the carrying of the lulab was connected with the Bacchic celebrations, or with the Pyanepsia and Thargelia, ignores the spirit and tendency of the Judaism of the Maccabean period. Itis repudiated, in his manner, even by Tacitus ("Hist." 5:5).
- Haremberg, in Biblioth. Lubec. 3:434;
- A. Büchler, in R. E. J. 37:181-202 (on the passages in Plutarch, Josephus, and Tacitus).
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Lulab'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/l/lulab.html. 1901.