Why the Arba Minim? (Part Two)

  • 40 minutes
  • Grades: 5 - 6
  • Lesson Plan

Students learn about the symbolism of the arba minim.

Lesson objectives

The student will:

1. Identify the arba minim in modern Hebrew, Biblical terms and modern English.

2. Describe the historical significance/symbolism of each of the arba minim.

3. Describe the growth characteristics of each of the arba minim.

4. Describe the physical look/distinguishing characteristics of the arba minim.

5. Explain various midrashic and Talmudic commentaries on the arba minim.


The student should be able to:

1. Use the Internet to do basic research.

2. Identify the arba minim by looking at pictures.


The student will:
1. Appreciate that people are dependent on God for everything


I. Teacher Preparation

1. Make cards saying 20 points, 30 points and 50 points.

2. Preview website.

3. Preview Talmudic and Midrashic sources for HW (see appendix).


II. Class opening and review Show arba minim to class. 

T: Which of these are considered symbols of victory?

S: Etrog.

T: Why?

S: Because they are unnecessary for survival. They are luxurious.

T: And what else could be considered a sign of victory out of the remaining three? (Hint: the shape of the min is important here.)

S: Lulav.

T: Why?

S: It is similar to the layout of a spear.

T: If I was a lulav, where would I be found? If you don’t remember, take out your charts from yesterday.

S: In an oases in the desert.

T: Isn’t it difficult to grow vegetation in the desert?

S: Yes! Perhaps the lulav’s mere existence in such a punishing place is also a symbol of life and victory.

T: And which part of history did we find Bnei Yisrael in a desert, from which they also emerged victoriously alive, against all the punishing elements of a desert?

S: The 40 years of Bnei Yisrael wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt.

Say: Before we check our next website, let’s review the rest of the minim.

T: Where do ערבי נחל grow?

S: On the banks of the Jordan.

T: What does this remind us of?

S: Crossing the Jordan River when Bnei Yisrael were entering the land.

T: Remember that these grow near the water and tell me later why that’s important. Where do ענף עץ עבות grow?

S: On hilly, uncultivated regions.

T: What does this remind us of?

S: When Bnei Yisrael conquered the land, they had to clear many fields of this to cultivate the land and turn it into farmland.

T: Now that we’ve completed a brief history of the arba minim, we are going to further exploring our question, “why these arba minim, and not just a lemon?”

We will use the symbolisms you discover to play a game.


III. Website search 

T: Now we are going to read more about the arba minim on the web.

Go to http://www.akhlah.com/holidays/sukkot/sukkot_arba_minim.php .

Distribute handout #2. See appendix.

T: This handout has a list of statements, each one describing a min. After reading about the minim on the site, you will have to identify the min which is being discussed. You may work in pairs. You will have an opportunity to review the material in a few minutes, after which we will play a game. Begin now. Raise your hand if you don’t understand what to do.


IV. Class Review 

T: Pair up with another team and review your answers together. If you have any differing responses, check the website again to see which is correct, or ask me for help. You have 5 minutes. When you are done, we will play a game.


V. Play “Who Am I? ID Me in Arba Minim

T: Now we are going to play a game using the same questions.

Divide class into teams. Take out cards with 20 points, 30 points and 50 points written on it. Call up a student from one team to choose a card. Ask a 20, 30, or 50 point question (see points below), depending on the card chosen. 

Explain the rules, as follows. The representative students have to bang the table to answer first. The banger has 15 seconds to answer. If correct, his team collects points. If not, the opponent has 30 seconds to answer. If both are wrong, the question is passed for later on. Then two more teams compete. The team with the most points at the end wins. 

Make sure each question has been asked at least once.


VI. Homework: The Midrash Minim Match

Hand out worksheet (see appendix). Explain instructions and answer first one in class together to ensure comprehension.


VII. Bonus Questions for Discussion (if time)

T: The reference to haddasim indicate its bounty and blessing. What is the agricultural wonder regarding haddasim?

S: They can regrow even after enduring severe climate changes such as fire or drought. Most vegetation requires regular watering. This teaches us about its powerful endurance.

T: Dreaming about haddasim indicates prosperity in one’s life. What is the connection?

S: The tree not only survives, but flourishes, after enduring severe conditions. So too will a person rebound and be successful even if life throws him tough problems.

T: What is so significant about the etrog tree?

S: It blossoms throughout the entire year. Most fruits and vegetables ripen once per year.

T: Why is this significant then for us to acquire and hold an etrog throughout Sukkot?

Student answers will vary. Discuss better ones. 


VIII. Conclusion 

T: We have analyzed where the arba minim originate and what each represent. Which min represents fertility?

S: Etrog.

T: Which represents victory?

S: Lulav.

T: Which represents success?

S: Haddasim.

T: They symbolize fertility, success, victory. How would you therefore categorize them?

S: Positive living style.

T: They’re like an ad for the latest wonderdrug. Swallow me, and you’ll have all these things. But God doesn’t want us to think that holding the arba minim is like taking a pill. What about aravot? What do they represent?

S: Dependence on water.

T: Which is really dependence on whom?

S: God.

T: So the arba minim symobolize wonderful things which we would love to have in our lives. But they it reminds us that they are inexplicably tied to our faith in God. Before Sukkot ends, we are left with one last day of chol hamoedHoshanna Rabba, where we hit the aravot.

No matter how much we’ve shaken the arba minim during Sukkot, no matter how much we pursue and strive toward these goals: fertility, victory and success, the aravot are there to remind us that we are entirely dependent on God’s help to attain them. A farmer controls all aspects of his farm; where and what to plant, how much of each crop. Ironically, the one thing he cannot control is the factor that will bring him a fruitful harvest, which is what?:

S: Rainwater.

T: When we recognize God for providing us with our necessities, He will bless us with the bountiful blessings of the arba minim. Have a bountiful chag.