The Laws of Taking The Lulav and Its Blessings, 15 Seifim: 1. The mitzvah of the four species is for every individual to take one lulav, two willow branches, and three myrtle branches (and in a place where there is no valid myrtle, one non-trimmed branch is sufficient (Beit Yosef 646 quoting Orkhot Hayyim)). It is a mitzvah to bind them together with two bindings, one on top of the other, to make it nicer. One can use a different material [that is not one of the four species] to bind them. If the leaves under the binding fell out such that they interpose [between one of the species and binding] there is no concern (as one species does not [problematically] interpose itself. Therefore, one should be careful to remove the string that is often tied around the myrtle (Mahari"l)). If one did not bind it during the day [before Sukkot] or if the binding became undone, it is not possible to rebind it on Yom Tov with a real knot. Rather, one should merely loop around it. RAMA: There are those who suggest making the tie in a different way, wrapping around the three species, and then inserting the head of the wrapper into the loop (Tur), and this is the practice. The practice is to attach the myrtles slightly higher than the willows (Mahari"v). The myrtle and willow should be inserted deep enough into the lulav binding such that one can pick up all three in their hand while making the blessing (Mahari"l). There are those who suggest making three bindings on the lulav, and this is our practice (Mordechai ch. "Lulav haGazul").
2. One should take the bunch with the right hand, with the heads facing up and the bases down and the etrog in the left hand.
3. A leftie holds the lulav in their right hand and the etrog in their left, following the strong and weak hands of everybody else and not their strong and weak hands. RAMA: And some say that we go according to their dominant hand and the lulav should be held in their "right" hand, which is their left hand (Ros"h, Rabbeinu Yerucham, and Mahari"v), and this is the practice and the law. If one switched them, he has fulfilled his obligation (Mahari"l and Minhagim). One who is ambidextrous should hold the lulav in their right and the etrog in their left hand, like everybody else (Kol Bo).
4. A person with no hand should hold the lulav with their arm. The same goes for the etrog.
5. One should bless "regarding the taking of the lulav" and Shehecheyanu before taking the etrog, such that the blessing be before the action. Alternatively, one can flip over the etrog until they bless. RAMA: One should bless standing (Mahari"l and Kol Bo). The blessing should only be said once a day, even if one takes [the lulav] multiple times (Mahari"v).
6. The Shehecheyanu should not be made while making the lulav but rather while taking it.
7. If one made a handle and placed the lulav in it and picked up [the handle], this is fine because picking something up by means of something else is called taking it, as long as it is in a respectful way. However, if it is disrespectful, like placing the lulav in a vessel and taking that, the obligation is not fulfilled. If one wrapped a garment around it and picked it up or wrapped it around his hand, some say that the obligation is not fulfilled. RAMA: The practice is to be stringent and to remove tefillin (Mahari"l) and rings from the hand. However, legally there is no concern, given that the whole hand is not covered (Agudah ch. "Makom sheNahagu").
8. One should shake when one blesses. One should shake when saying "Hodu Lashem" once (and we shake on every "Hodu" that we say (Tur and Ros"h)). During the "Hodu Lashem" at the end when it is doubled, the leader and community shake twice. Similarly, during "Ana Hashem hoshiah na" we shake twice because we say it twice. RAMA: And some say that the leader should also shake when saying "Yomar na Yisrael..." though not during "Yomru na...," and this is the practice (Hagahot Ashiri ch. "Lulav Hagazul, Mahari"l, Minhagim).
9. Shaking involves extending the hands to the front and shaking three times outwards and three times inwards (disturbing the lulav and shaking the leaves each shake (Ra"n ch. "Lulav HaGazul"). After this, one extends the hands to another side and repeats. Similarly, for each of the four sides, up, and down. RAMA: The extension and retraction itself is the shaking, as one extends and retracts three times in each direction (Tur in the name of a gaon). One points the tip of the lulav in the direction of the shaking. When shaking down, point it to the ground, which is considered similar to how it grows (Beit Yosef) based on holding it in the hand the way that it grows (Beit Yosef). Some are precise not to flip over the lulav when shaking down (Mahari"l and Beit Yosef in the name of his father who heard from Mahar"ar Shachnah that he saw this from Mahar"ar Yaakov Polk, and it is written in the writings of the Ar"i). The practice is like the first opinion, and this seems to me to be right.
10. One should cycle to the right when shaking: east, south, west, and north.
11. The etrog should be touching the lulav when shaking, shaking both at the same time (none of the shakes are completely necessary. However one shakes, they fulfill the obligation after the fact).
12. These four species are all mutually necessary. If one lacks one of them, they should not bless on the rest and should just take them for memory's sake whether on the first or subsequent days (Ros"h, Rabbeinu Yerucham 8:3, Mahari"k Shorsch 41). If they are all in front of him and he took them one by one, he has fulfilled his obligation. RAMA: as long as they are all in front of him (Rambam ch. 6). The lulav should be taken first and blessed on, with the intention that it apply to the others. If one talked between them, he must bless on each individually (Hagahot Maimoni).
13. If one is missing one of the species, they should not take a different species in its place.
14. One should not add another species to the four species due to the prohibition against adding.
15. One should not take more than one lulav and one etrog. However, one can add as many myrtle or willow as they want. Some invalidate putting wild myrtle in the lulav beyond the three that satisfy the density requirement, and some allow it. Those who are precise do not add beyond the two willows and three dense myrtles.