Taking the Lulav
During the holiday of Sukkot, following the Chazzan’s repetition of the Shacharit prayer, the Lulav (palm branch), along with the Hadassim (myrtle branches) and Aravot (willow branches) which are bound to it, is taken. Before doing so, one should recite the following blessing, “Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Ha’Olam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Al Netilat Lulav” (on the first day of Sukkot, the “Shehecheyanu” blessing is recited at this point as well), after which one picks up the Etrog (citron) as well and adjoins it to the Lulav. One should wave the Lulav towards the four directions of the world as well as up and down by waving it outwards, inwards, up, and down, as is customary.
Taking the Lulav on Shabbat
One may not move the Lulav and its species on Shabbat as they are Muktzeh, for the Lulav is not taken on Shabbat. Additionally, the Hosha’anot prayers recited while circling the Tevah are omitted entirely on Shabbat.
Circling the Tevah
After Hallel is recited, a Sefer Torah is removed from the Ark and placed on the Tevah (podium in the center of the synagogue) after which the entire congregation proceeds to circle the Tevah with the Four Species. This is based on the Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Tehillim, Section 703) which states: “‘I shall wash my palms with cleanliness and encircle Your Alter, Hashem,’ Every day [of the Sukkot holiday] they would circle the Altar. What was the order of encircling the Altar? All of Israel would take their Lulavs in their right hand and their Etrogs in their left hand and encircle it. In our times, the Chazzan of the synagogue stands like an angel of Hashem with a Sefer Torah in his arms and the congregation encircles him similar to the encircling of the Alter.” Similarly, the Tur and Shulchan Aruch write that the encircling we do is reminiscent of the encircling of the Altar in the Holy Temple once every day of Sukkot and seven times on the seventh day.
One Praying at Home
Rabbeinu Yosef Haim zt”l writes that one who is ill and cannot participate in the circling of the Tevah with the congregation in the synagogue should place a table or chair in the middle of the room and place a Sefer Tanach or Chumash on it and proceed to encircle it so as not to miss out on these encirclements.
Education Youngsters Regarding the Mitzvah of Lulav
The Gemara (Sukkah 42a) states that if a young child knows how to wave the Lulav, his father must educate him regarding the Mitzvah of Lulav. Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if the father can afford it, he should purchase his son his own personal Lulav and not suffice by merely giving the child his own to wave, for if he does so, the son will stay without a Lulav while encircling the Tevah as the father must use his own Lulav during the encirclements. Thus, the father should buy his son his own set of the Four Species so that he may educate him about this precious Mitzvah during the time of the encirclements as well.
A Grafted Etrog
It is well-known that most of the Etrogim present nowadays are grafted ones. Every community has a tradition about which kind of Etrogim are assumed to be non-grafted. In previous years, the Sephardic communities of Jerusalem would purchase their Etrogim from the Arab village of Um-el-Fahem, for the Etrogim there were strongly assumed to be non-grafted.(Indeed, this was the practice of Maran zt”l in his youth. When serving as head of Egypt’s rabbinical court, a miracle occurred and he received kosher and beautiful Etrogim from Israel although the borders between Israel and Egypt were closed off as is recorded in the biography on Maran zt”l, “Abir Ha’Ro’im”.) Somewhat later, approximately seventy years ago, Etrog saplings were brought from Yemen to Israel and were planted there by the new Yemenite-Jewish immigrants. These Etrogim have an especially strong pedigree and are known to be completely non-grafted and it is proper to purchase only this kind of Etrog. Indeed, all Sephardic luminaries specifically purchase a Yemenite Etrog to fulfill the Mitzvah. In our times, such Etrogim that are indeed beautiful are readily available at a cost that is not as prohibitive as previous years.
Some Moroccan immigrants customarily purchase Moroccan Etrogim, which contain no seeds and whose appearance is truly beautiful. These Etrogim should also be purchased only when trustworthy witnesses and a reliable Kashrut organization vouch for the non-grafted status of these Etrogim, for some claim that certain possibly grafted Etrogim have surfaced among them. One should also be careful as to the validity of the Etrog, for sometimes, the extremely low price of an Etrog can be an indication of a Kashrut issue, even if is labeled as “Beautiful”.