As we near the end of our Sukkot holiday, we want to take a moment to reflect on the symbolic meaning of several aspects of this wonderful biblical holiday!
In addition to commanding us to build sukkot (tabernacles), temporary dwellings to remind us of our time in the wilderness before entering into the Promised Land when we were completely dependent upon God for our sustenance, Leviticus 23:40 also tells us to rejoice before the Lord with the branches and fruit of four different trees – traditionally called the Four Species:
“And ye shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees (etzay hadar-citrus trees), branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.”
The Four Species
During the times of the First and Second Temples, the branches of the date palm, brook willow, myrtle and the citrus fruit were used in the waving ceremony in the Temple on the first day of Sukkot. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, the ceremony is performed in synagogues or in people’s sukkot: after blessings are recited, the citron fruit and the branches of the date palm, myrtle and willow are bound together and shaken several times in each of the four directions-declaring God’s sovereignty over all creation.
The Prophetic Meaning
According to rabbinic tradition, the four species represent different kinds of people – more specifically – four different kinds of religious Jews in their service to God. However, Zechariah 14 explains that after the Lord destroys the armies of the Antichrist at the end of the tribulation and sets up His kingdom in Jerusalem, the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) will be the holiday that all the survivors of the nations will come up to Jerusalem to worship the King (Messiah Yeshua).
Keeping that in mind, it seems that a more inclusive interpretation of the Four Species makes sense. I believe that the Four Species represent all the different nations who will come to worship the Lord in Jerusalem from the four corners of the earth! The various kinds of trees God commands us to use in our Sukkot holiday, which are variously beautiful, fragrant, tasty and sweet, point to the various and different kinds of people from all over the world who will be a part of God’s family: each one different, but brought together to worship and rejoice before the Lord. It’s a beautiful image!
A Prophetic Act
Each time we take up the Four Species, recite the blessing, and wave them in the four directions, we are declaring God’s will to gather to Himself worshipers from all the nations – a beautiful, fragrant and sweet gathering – who will rejoice before Him in Jerusalem during His millennial reign here on earth. May He do it speedily and in our day!