Every weekday of Sukkot we wave the Four Species, known as lulav and etrog. The lulav consists of branches of palm, willow, and myrtle bundled together, and the etrog is a rare citrus fruit sometimes mischaracterized as an overpriced lemon (prices range from $50 to $500+). Before the holiday begins, we purchase our lulav and etrog from kosher vendors, often enterprising yeshiva boys who set up tables on the sidewalks of Jewish neighborhoods.
There are many interpretations of the meaning of the four species. One of our favorites is that each of the species represents a different kind of Jew: “The etrog has both a taste and an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have both Torah learning and good deeds…. The date (the fruit of the palm) has a taste but does not have an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have Torah but do not have good deeds… the myrtle has a taste but does not have an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have good deeds but do not have Torah… the willow has no taste and no aroma, so, too do the people of Israel include individuals who do not have Torah and do not have good deeds… Says God, ‘Let them all bond together in one bundle and atone for each other.” (Midrash).
What does it mean that the different types “atone for each other?” The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that each type possesses qualities that others don’t, thus “atoning” for the lack of those qualities in the other types. What a concept: people devoid of good deeds and Torah learning are *still* an integral part of the whole, without whom those more learned and righteous individuals would not be complete.