Preparing for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in Jerusalem

The week-long Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, begins tomorrow evening. Join me on a visit to the “Market of the 4 Species” (Shuk 4 HaMinim).

By Dov Eilon | | Topics: Feast of Tabernacles
The “Market of the Four Species” in Jerusalem. Photo: Dov Eilon
The “Market of the Four Species” in Jerusalem. Photo: Dov Eilon

The new year, Rosh Hashanah, has begun and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is already behind us. Unfortunately, reconciliation doesn’t seem to have happened this year. The dispute over judicial reform has developed into a dispute between secular and religious Jews. On Yom Kippur, some anti-government protesters went too far when they disrupted a public prayer in Tel Aviv. This embarrassing incident seems to have frightened even the leadership of the so-called “Kaplan Force” (Koach Kaplan, כח קפלן), who gradually distanced themselves from the unrest on Judaism’s holiest day. That was enough to convince Itamar Ben-Gvir, the Minister of National Security, to abandon his planned prayer event in Dizengoff Square originally scheduled for later today. Most of the rest of the governing coalition, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had criticized Ben-Gvir’s scheme as an unnecessary provocation.

So perhaps we can now prepare in peace for our next festival, the Feast of Tabernacles, Sukkot, which begins tomorrow evening. Right after Yom Kippur ended, I heard busy banging in my neighborhood. Our neighbors had begun building their sukkot.

During the festival of Sukkot we remember the Jewish people’s 40-year wandering in the desert following the Exodus from Egypt. This week everyone built a sukkah, in which meals are eaten during the festival. Many religious Jews also spend the night in their makeshift booth. The sukkah is reminiscent of the simple shelters in which the people of Israel dwelt in the desert.

On Tuesday I was in Jerusalem for an editorial meeting. Afterwards, on my way to the train station, I took a short walk through the traditional “Market of 4 Species” (Shuk Arbaat HaMinim), where the four components (4 species) of the traditional Sukkot festival bouquet are sold.

Photo: Dov Eilon

The four components are:

  1. The etrog, a citrus fruit that smells and tastes good and represents the study of Torah and the fulfillment of the commandments. There are strict guidelines for the appearance of the etrog. The more closely the etrog conforms to these guidelines, the more valuable it is.
  2. The lulav, a palm frond, a tree whose fruit, the date, is odorless but tastes good, represents someone who doesn’t know much, who hasn’t studied the Torah that intensively, but lives according to the commandments. The palm branch must be straight and the individual panicles must not be too close together.
  3. The myrtle branch that smells very good but doesn’t taste good. It represents someone who studies a lot but doesn’t think much of it. The myrtle component should consist of three branches, each with three leaves.
  4. The brook willow, which neither smells good nor tastes good, represents someone who has not studied the Torah and does not follow its commandments. Two branches are sufficient here, the stem must be red and the leaves must be narrow and long. Since the willow must always be fresh, it is changed several times during the week-long festival.
Photo: Dov Eilon

Because of these regulations, very close attention is paid to the components of the Sukkot bouquet when purchasing it. Depending on the quality of each, the price is determined. Prices start at 40-70 shekels per “set” and can cost up to several hundred shekels.

Join me on a short walk through this very special market:


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