Checking the Myrtle (Hadass) Branches, 1933
This picture, taken from Adi Hirschbain’s collection housed in the National Library of Israel, shows two ultra-orthodox Jews checking myrtle for the Four Species needed for Sukkot. The man looking on is likely to be the vendor.
The festival of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) has two central commandments: the first is living in a temporary dwelling (Sukkah) for seven days (or eight days outside of Israel); and the second is waving the Four Species (Arba’at HaMinim) and making a blessing over them on each day of the festival.
Each of the Four Species has certain requirements enabling them to be fitting (kosher), and therefore the buyer must check thoroughly before purchasing. The Four Species consist of lulav (palm branch), etrog (citrus fruit), hadass (myrtle branches), and aravah (willow branches).
In this photograph, the men are checking that there is a pattern of three leaves protruding from the same point in the branch. According to Jewish law, this three-leaf pattern must be repeated over at least half the length of the branch. Furthermore, each of the three required myrtle branches should be at least 29 cm long. Finally, the branch cannot be dried out.
Teachers of Jewish Studies could use this photograph when teaching about the Four Species. As this is a typical photograph of Hassidim, the source could be used when teaching about different groups in Jewish society.
The photograph could be used in Science or Environmental Studies lessons to discuss the connection between Sukkot and the environment: water (in particular its importance in Israel), different plants (i.e., the biological differences between the Four Species), and nature and conservation.
What do you see in the photograph?
Who are the people depicted?
What do you think they are doing?
When do you think the photograph was taken? Which year? What time of the year?
Reading Between the Lines
The photograph shows people checking myrtle (hadass) branches.
What will the myrtle be used for?
When will it be used?Why are they checking the myrtle?
Why were myrtle and willow chosen for the Four Species?
Have you or your family ever had your owned a Lulav? Have you ever held and waved them?
The photograph shows a group of ultra-orthodox Jews before Sukkot.
What other kinds of Jews live in your community? How are they similar to you? How are they different to you?
Does your family buy the Four Species for Sukkot? How did you choose your Four Species?
What other special traditions do you have for Sukkot?
Imagine a conversation between two of the characters in the photograph.
Write the conversation in your exercise book or draw it as a comic strip.