1. Arba Minim in the Torah
The Torah describes the mitzvah of the Arba Minim (Four Species) that are used on Sukkot.
Read the verse from Leviticus (Vayikra) and answer the questions below.
If you didn't know anything about the Arba Minim but wanted to fulfill the mitzvah described in the verse, what difficulties would you have in following the instructions?
What do you need to know in order to fulfill the mitzvah?
Arba Minim in the Mishna and in Primary Sources
The Mishnah, the first book of the Oral Torah, further explains the mitzvah. Chapter 3 of Tractate Sukkah explains the requirements for each of the four species that make up the Arba Minim.
Colour-code all of the references to each species in the photographs and Mishna verses below:
For example, highlight in purple the mention of the species in the Leviticus verse, the description in the Mishnah, and the photograph number.
All photographs are from the Dan Hadani Archive at the National Library of Israel
2. Identify the Species
The Mishnah gives the basics rules for the Arba Minim. Law codes that were written later explain the rules further. To make it easier for a person to check that each component of their Arba Minim set meets the specifications (i.e., is kosher), Aish.com has written a summary of the requirements for each.
Below is the list from Aish.com with the name of the species removed. Follow these instructions for each of the four species:
Identify the species and add its name.
Add the name where it has been removed in the text.
Highlight according to the colours used for the previous activity on this worksheet.
For an extra hint, see the Mishnah quote at the bottom of the page.
Should preferably be turning yellow rather than green.
The peel cannot be punctured through in any spot, nor can it lack any of its inner skin.
The peel cannot be overly soft, cracked, dry or peeled.
Even a small black dot on the upper part may invalidate it.
The shape should preferably be like a tower – wider at the bottom and narrow at the top.
If this particular ____ grew with a protruding stem (called a pitom), then that stem cannot be broken off. (However, if the ____ grew in the first place without a pitom, it is still kosher.)
You will need three ____ branches.
A kosher ____ has a pattern of three leaves coming out from the same point in the branch. This three-leaf pattern must be repeated over at least half the length of the branch.
Each branch should be at least 11 inches (29 cm.) long.
The branch cannot be dried out.
You will need two ____ branches.
The stem should preferably be red.
The stem should be at least 11 inches (29 cm.) long.
The leaves should be oblong, not round in shape.
The leaves should have a smooth edge, not serrated.
Look at the very top of the branch and make sure that the center-most leaf is not split, but rather is closed (at least half-way down).
The top cannot be cut off.
The branch cannot be dried out.
It should be at least 16 inches (39 cm.) long.
The straighter the branch, the better.
3. Discussion Questions
Choose at least two questions to discuss with your partner.
Be prepared to participate in a class discussion about the Arba Minim.
- Have you or your family ever had your own Arba Minim?
Where were they grown? Did you buy it as a set or select each individual component separately?
Why do you think the people in the photographs chose to buy each component separately?
How do you think you would feel about the Arba Minim if you chose each component yourself?
How do the photographs enhance your understanding of the mitzvah (commandment) of the Arba Minim?
What is the reason for the Arba Minim?
What do they represent? (There are many answers to this question.)
How are the Arba Minim used?
The festival of Sukkot is also called zman simchateinu (the time of our happiness).
Why is Sukkot a happy time?
How do the Arba Minim add to or express our joy?
Sukkot is the final harvest festival of the year.
How do you think the farmers felt at the end of the harvest?
What emotions, besides happiness, do you think are experienced on Sukkot?
4. Creative Activity (Individually or in Pairs)
Choose one of the following:
- Design an infographic of the Arba Minim. Include photographs and the requirements for each component. Suggested websites: Venngage and Canva.
Imagine you are walking around the Arba Minim market where the photographs were taken and you meet people who are assembling their own sets of Arba Minim.
Record a conversation with the people that you meet. (Note: Although the photographs are of Haredim choosing their Arba Minim, Jews from all walks of life buy Arba Minim.)
What are they buying/selling?
What are they looking for when they choose the best one?
What does the mitzvah of the Arba Minim mean to them?
What is their favourite aspect of the festival of Sukkot?