Bless and Shake

Assembling your lulav and reciting the blessing

(please print these instructions before Yom Tov)

(adapted from Tabernacles – Succot – by Zaide Reuven)

Assembling your lulav bundle

  1. Assemble your lulav bundle before the start of Yom Tov.
  2. Hold the lulav with the spine (smooth side) towards you and slide it into the middle hole of the koishekle (holder, made of palm fronds).
  3. Place one ring around the holder and one or two rings on the lulav itself so that the lulav rustles slightly when shaken gently.
  4. Place the three twigs of Hadas (myrtle – small leaves like eyes) in the pocket on the right of the holder with the tops about 4” below the top of the shidra (the part of the spine where the topmost leaves emerge from it).
  5. Place the two leaves of Arava (willow – long leaves, like lips) in the pocket on the left of the holder. Their tops should be a little lower than the tops of the hadassim.
  6. Tighten the rings.

Assembling your lulav bundle – Sephardi Style

Assembling the lulav – al pi kabbalah with Rabbi Zechariah Sionit of the Sephardi Torah Center of Dallas.
With the shidra (smooth side of the lulav) facing up, one hadas is placed on the left of the lulav, one on the right, and one on the top. The top of the hadas should be about a tefach (about 3.5″ – 10cm) from where the shidra ends – i.e. the last point where all of the leaves emerge). One arava twig is placed on either side, with the top a little below the top of the hadassim.
Three rings are placed around the entire bundle. The rings are placed in the usual way, except that after the “tongue” of the ring is placed through the “buckle” , the leave is split down the middle and tied back on itself.
Another four ties are made around the lulav only above the lulav/hadas/arava bundle, using “strings” made from lulav leaves. A simple double/reef knot is tied.

Reciting the blessing and shaking the lulav

The lulav bundle is picked up in the right hand with the spine facing you and the esrog (citron) in the left hand (reversed for left-handed people) with the pitam (protuberance) facing down. The blessing is recited:

ברוך אתה ה‘ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על נטילת לולב

“Blessed are You Hashem our Lord, King of the Universe Who has sanctified us by Your Commandments, Who has commanded us to take the lulav.”

On taking the Four Species for the first time the following is recited:

ברוך אתה ה‘ אלקינו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה

“Blessed are You Hashem our Lord, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.”

(because of the holiness of the Divine Names, they are written here as “Hashem” and “Elokeinu”)

The pitam is then turned uppermost. Facing east, and the lulav and esrog are held together and waved in the six directions: east (forwards), south (right), west (backwards), north (left), up and down, symbolizing God’s omnipresence. At each direction the bundle is shaken away from the body, then close to the body, repeating this three times before proceding to the next direction. There are variant customs on this. The main Askhenazi custom is to remain facing east but to point the lulav in each of the directions. In Sephardi and other customs, the person holding the lulav turns their whole body to each of the directions. Also, the order of the directions may differ by custom.  

It is most appropriate to take The Four Species in the succah. Many people prefer to conduct the above ceremony in their own succah before attending synagogue on the first two days of the festival. Entering the succah immerses us entirely in the commandment. The Four Species are brought close to us. The esrog, symbolizing the heart, is placed closest to the heart so that the expression of holiness brought about by the performance of this commandment is infused directly into the seat of human emotion. From there it can permeate the entire body, including the intellect. With the total physical immersion (entering the succah), and emotional and intellectual immersion (the Four Species) in the commandments, expressions of God’s will, we become one with God’s will. The appreciation of this fact results in the unlimited joy referred to in Deuteronomy 16:15. (Likutei Sichos by Rabbi Sholom Ber Wineberg, Sichos in English, Brooklyn).

Caring for your lulav and esrog

  1. Cut a rectangle of aluminium foil large enough to cover the willow and myrtle. Lay it flat and cover with a paper towel or newspaper slightly smaller.
  2. Moisten the paper slightly and wrap the paper and foil around the lulav bundle.
  3. Place the lulav bundle in the plastic bag and store in a cool place, preferably the refrigerator. If you do not have room in the refrigerator for the whole lulav, you can slide the holder off and just store that.
  4. When not in use, keep the lulav bundle wrapped with the moist paper/foil. Periodically moisten the paper.
  5. Keep the esrog in its plastic bag within the foam-lined box.
  6. Check your lulav for the appearance and smell of mold. Wipe of any mold spots with a q-tip. You can use a paper towel moistened with a dilute bleach solution ( 2 -5 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of water) to wipe the lulav down. Leave for 5 minutes and then rinse the lulav. Allow the lulav to dry completely before putting back in the plastic bag.