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Lulav before Sukkos?!

Written by D Fine

The Netziv (32:43) quite correctly asks why, when our sedra speaks about the festival of Sukkos, does it put the mitzvah of the 4 minim (‘species’) before the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah? Given that the festival is named after the mitzvah of sitting in the sukkah (and a name is the essence of a thing), surely that mitzvah should be put first? Not only that, but chronologically, the mitzvah of sukkah comes first – it’s from the first night of sukkos – whilst the mitzvah of the 4 minim does not begin until the following morning. So why IS the mitzvah of the 4 minim put first?
Perhaps one can draw upon the Midrash to reveal an answer here. The Midrash remarks that the 4 minim represent weapons of a battle – signifying our victory in the judgment of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. When we hold our lulav(etc.) aloft on Sukkos, it is a sign that we have come throuh judgment unscathed. If so, we can say that the reason the 4 minim is put first by the Torah is because they reference us back to Rosh HaShanah & Yom Kippur. Before we start the main mitzvah of Sukkos (the mitzvah of sukkah), we must be reminded that Sukkos is not an isolated festival – it is part of a process from Rosh HaShanah, through Yom Kippur, to Sukkos. We are moving up levels – from the Teshuva from fear of the Days of Awe to simcha and ahavas HaShem of Sukkos. And it is all one large process. Thus, the placing of the 4 minim before the mitzvah of sukkah reminds us to pick up where we left off; to increase, concretise, and build on our work of Rosh HaShanah-Yom Kippur and fuel our service of HaShem of Sukkos.

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