Species, Species and More Species

September 18, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Chag Same'ach message for Friday, September 18, 2013.

Species, Species and More Species

Having just got back from my 5 week stay in Israel, the trip is still on my mind, of course. It renewed the batteries... and it strengthened the realization that our holidays and Shabbatot are SO rooted in the Land of Israel. The upcoming holiday of Sukkot makes it so clear that the contours of the holidays are so related to agricultural seasons in Israel. One aspect of the holiday is a discussion of classifications of “species.” Sukkot, of course, is a harvest holiday – the last of the harvests before the rainy season.  The rabbis discuss two different classifications of “species.”

“The Four Species” -- These are the species of plants that make up the lulav and etrog that are waved daily during the holiday of Sukkot: a lulav made of palm fronds, myrtle sprigs and willow branches... and an etrog – a citron – which is a fruit that looks much like a lemon.

On the first day you shall take the product of goodly trees, brances of palm trees, boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. [Leviticus 23:40]

“The Seven Species” -- These are the seven species of plants that, according to the Torah, characterize the land of Israel. Although only one is actually part of the harvest celebrated by Sukkot, the seven species are often part of the decorations in the sukkah, and many people make a point of serving food from as many of the species as possible. The seven species are outlined in Deuteronomy 8:8

The Lord your God is bringing you into a good land . . . a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey (date honey).

These species, of course, all grow in Israel... a fact made so clear on a recent hike in the Judean Hills.

Chag Same'ach

The Judean Hills





Date Palm

Wheat & Barley (OK. OK. I couldn’t find wild wheat and barley on my hike.)

Are there particular Shabbat foods that are traditional in your family? Let us know!jhirsh@jccmilwaukee.org