In a few days time it will be Succos, concerning which the Torah says:
Leviticus 23:40 ויקרא כג מ And you shall take you on the first day the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. וּלְקַחְתֶּם לָכֶם בַּיּוֹם הָרִאשׁוֹן פְּרִי עֵץ הָדָר כַּפֹּת תְּמָרִים וַעֲנַף עֵץ־עָבֹת וְעַרְבֵי־נָחַל וּשְׂמַחְתֶּם לִפְנֵי ה׳ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם שִׁבְעַת יָמִים׃
Here in northern Europe, one doesn't exactly find palm or citrus trees growing, so we have to import these at some expense, but in the southern Mediterranean in which Judaism originated, it's quite a different matter. aviva_m and I were recently in the beautiful Kolymbetra Gardens in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily; and, seeing a section devoted to citrus trees, got excited at the thought of seeing esrogim growing on trees. When we found in turn each one of the Four Species, we wanted to find a rabbi to check if they were kosher, but since there were no rabbis around, we asked a rabbit instead.
The first species listed above, the "fruit of a beautiful tree" is traditionally identified (and has been so for well over two thousand years, and possibly since the word go) as a citron. It was rather early to find mature ones when we were in Agrigento; here Bar Navi points out an immature one growing on the tree:
This one's more mature, but not yet the yellow colour of the ripe fruit:
Sadly, this one has a blemish visible, so Bar Navi would look for a better specimen to use on yomtov.
Next up is the date palm branch. Bar Navi inspects one:
That looks good, but it's a rather too unfurled to use as a lulav. This one looks better:
But is it a date palm?
Seems it is. Better move on before Bar Navi scoffs all the dates.
Now what about the myrtle branches? Well, we found a myrtle tree, but it was quite a different kind to the kind we're used to seeing as part of the Four Species; is it kosher, Bar Navi?
Evidently not! Lastly, what about the willow branches? How about this?
Bar Navi is not convinced. The problem is that there are at least two types of tree from Israel for which "willow" is a translation in English. We want what's called עֲרָבָה in Hebrew, but this is an example of a צַפְצָפָה. You can tell because it's got serrated edges to its leaves; most willows one sees in northern Europe are like this. עֲרָבוֹת, by contrast, have straight edges:
Now that we've got all four species, we bind the last three together with
willow leaves, with the myrtle on the right and the willow on the left, take
them in our right
hand paw, with the citron in our left, and
wave them like so: