Succot might be a frustrating holiday since the Lulav and Etrog world is full of unique terms, many used only on Succot and not always understood by the layman. So let’s take a moment to explain each term before we run to the Arba’at Haminim (Four Species) market.
Arba’at Haminim (Arbah Minim): A central rite of Succot, as commanded in the Torah (Bible), is to hold together, bless and wave four kinds of plants. ”פרי עץ הדר, כפת תמרים, וענף עץ עבות וערבי נחל” These are traditionally known as Etrog, Lulav, Hadas and Arava.
Etrog : The Etrog, citron in English, resembles a lemon. It is considered the most splendid specie of the four and therefore the most expensive. Jewish people are always seeking the most perfect Etrog, one having no blemishes. Many people never compromise, even if it is very expensive. Every self respecting merchant offers high quality Etrogs at the best price.
Lulav: The Lulav, palm frond in English, is the tallest, most prominent specie of the four. It has a spine in the middle that appears as a pale white stripe. The spine has double leaves at its sides. The center midpoint is called the “middle tiomet” or just “tiomet”. The tiomet should be closed so you cannot discern that it is actually two leaves. The more tightly closed the tiomet, the more prized the Lulav and the price rises accordingly.
Hadas: Hadas, myrtle in English, is a bush with a pleasant fragrance. Its leaves grow in groups of three. Three myrtle branches are bound together with the Lulav. In large markets, like those in Jerusalem or B’nai Brak, you might see religious Jews using magnifying glasses searching for the best Hadas branches where on every level the three leaves grow from the same point.
Arava: The Arava, willow leaf in English, is the least expensive of the species as there are many willow trees in Israel and they are readily available. Two willow branches are bound together with the Lulav. Willow leaves dry out quickly, so it is recommended to store them in the shade or in a vase of water. They can also be wrapped in wet newspaper, placed in a plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator. You may want to buy extra branches. If needed, more can be bought or gathered during the intermediate days of the festival.
Koishalach: The purpose of the Koishalach is to bind the three leafy species (lulav, hadas and arava) together. It is a “V” shaped holder with compartments for the Hadas on the right, the Lulav in the middle and the Arava on the left. It is made from woven dried strips of palm fronds since there aren’t a wide variety of materials suitable for holding these species together. You should receive the Koishalach free of charge with the set you buy. If you don’t receive it, demand it!
Tiomet: As mentioned above under Lulav , the Tiomet is the middle leaf of the Lulav that should be tightly closed. In the market, you might see people who check the Tiomet by separating the Lulav leaves. Please do not do that because by checking with such devotion, you may unintentionally open the Tiomet causing a defect in the Lulav.
Kaftor (button): “Kaftor” is a nickname for a very rare kind of Lulav where the Tiomet’s end twists and forms a hook shape. The reason it is considered special is because it is rare and the hook keeps the two leaves stuck together and reduces their chances of separating.
Lool (crib): When a merchant orders Lulavs wholesale, he receives them in a long box called a lool. You never know what kind of Lulavs are included. Some may be of excellent quality, some totally defected and most of acceptable quality. On the box there is an arrow indicating in which direction the Tiomet is facing.
Bika’a Lulavs: A Lulav species that grows in the JordanValley. These Lulavs are considered strong and large. They are mostly covered with a tissue of “Kora” (see entry). There is a dispute about this type of Lulav. Some considering it special since the Kora keeps the leaves tightly closed and others believing they are dry Lulavs due to their yellow hue.
El Arish Lulavs: A Lulav species imported from Egypt and considered smaller and thinner. The price fluctuates according to market forces.
Gartel (belt): Some Etrogs have a concave area that looks like the Etrog has a Hassidic belt called a Gartel. Those who search for this type of Etrog are usually old or small handed people who need a comfortable grip.
Bletalach: Bletalach are small white dots frequently found on the Etrog. Don’t worry! It doesn’t make the Etrog unkosher. These are just wounds the Etrrog gets from its thorny leaves. Even though, there are some very particular people who look for the perfect Etrog that doesn’t have even one dot. You can imagine how much such an Etrog costs!
Pitam: On some Etrogs there is a small thin stalk at the top with a small round nodule. This is the Pitam. Actually, every Etrog grows with a Pitam, but many fall off during the growing season. There is no Halachic problem with an Etrog which doesn’t have a Pitam. Just make sure that when the Pitam fell off, it didn’t take a bit of the fruit itself.
Meshulash (triangle): Meshulash is a term from the Hassidic world and means that from every level of the Hadas (myrtle) branch the leaves emerge in groups of three. If single or twin leaves are present, the Hadas is disqualified.
Tzfati: The Biblical Hadas is called a branch of the “avot” tree. Since avot is related to the word that means thick, our sages taught that the Hadas leaves should thickly cover the branch so the branch itself could not be seen. This kind of Hadas is called Tzfati. Therefore, you can find Hadas bags with the label, “Hadas Tzfati Meshulash”.
Kora: The Kora is a thick brown tissue surrounding the Lulav. This is acceptable, this is how the Lulav grows. Some people prefer a Lulav with Kora since it keeps the Lulav closed. Some prefer a Lulav with, “Rishrush” (see entry)
Rishrush (rustling): Many Ashkenazi customers are searching for a Lulav which has double leaves separated from each other so when it’s shaken, you can hear rustling. Beware, those people can accidentally take your eye out…..
Nartik (case): The Lulav case is long and narrow and is necessary to keep your set safe. It costs a few dollars and if used carefully, can be used for many years.
Sharvul (sleeve): This is a spongy web shaped to encase and protect the Etrog while it’s inside its box. Both the Sharvul and the box should keep your Etrog from harm. However, if you really want to buy the best, you can search for a silver container that might cost you a bundle.
Lavluv: Lavluv is one of the few items that can adorn the Arava (willow). It is a small leaf that grows on the edge of the Arava. On many Arava bags, you might see the label, “Arava with Lavluv”.
Etrog Murcav (hybrid Etrog): An Etrog Murcav is a cross between an Etrog and a lemon. The problem is that it is forbidden to use this on Succot, but it is very hard to identify. To make sure you buy a kosher Etrog, look for a merchant who has certification that confirms that his Etrogs were checked and determined not to be Murcav.
Etrog Teimani (Yemenite): This is a special Etrog type imported from Yemen. These Etrogs are known as reliable and not hybrids. Therefore, many people, not only Yemenites, search for them.
Grach Na’e/Hazon Ish: These two sages, Grach Na’e and the Hazon Ish had a dispute about the length of the “Tefach” and you can see the consequences in the length of the Lulav, Hadas and Arava. According to the Grach Na’e, the Tefach is 8 cm, so the Hadas and Arava should be 24 cm and the Lulav should be 32 cm. According to the Hazon Ish, the Tefach is 10 cm. the Hadas and Arava should be 30 cm and the Lulav, 40 cm.
Kasher L’bracha/Mehudar/Mehadrin: The scale that rates the species from the most basic to the most adorned. It starts with Pashut (simple) or Kasher L’bracha (kosher for the blessing). It continues with Mehudar meaning adorned with some special characteristics and ends somewhere in Mehadrin of the Mehadrin of the Mehadrin…(most stringently fulfilling and beautifying the commandment).
Set: This might be a little confusing because when you buy an Arba’at Haminim” (Four Species) set, there is no Arava. That is because the Arava dries rapidly and people prefer to purchase it closer to the start of the Succot holiday.
Rav Shuk: He is the market Rabbi who is an expert in the religious laws of the Four Species. Every self-respecting market has a Rabbi and you can feel free to ask him questions.
Hoshanot: A nickname for the five branches of Arava (willow branches) that are held on Hoshana Raba and struck five times on the floor during the prayer for rain.