What type of things should I be on the look out for when buying my Four Species for Sukkot?Answer:
First of all, there are lots of laws regarding the "Arba Minim," or Four Species. Therefore, one should take care to buy them from a reliable source that has rabbinic approval. For instance, the Etrog is sometimes grafted with lemons. The resulting species looks like an Etrog, but it is not kosher for use on Sukkot. Therefore, when one buys an Etrog, it is important to verify that the grove where the fruit grew has a reliable tradition of producing genuine Etrogim and not lemons.
The Torah states: "You should take for yourself on the first day, the fruit of a beautiful tree." Since the Torah requires that the Four Species be of exceptional appearance, the splendor of the Etrog is of utmost concern. The most common disqualification is a discoloring of the skin; including even one tiny black dot on the upper half of the fruit, or more than two dots on the lower half. Since gray or brown dots may seem black to an untrained eye, either the use of magnifying glass, or an expert opinion is vital in cases of doubt.
The Lulav should be from a date palm, at least four handbreadths in length (approximately 40 centimeters,) green and fresh, and as straight as possible. Also the top middle leaf should not be split.
The three Hadasim, myrtle branches, must be at least three handbreadths (approximately 25 centimeters,) green, and most of the branch must be covered with the myrtle’s characteristic three-clustered leaves.
The two Aravot, willow branches, should not be from a weeping willow tree. The branches should be reddish in appearance; the leaves should be elongated and not serrated; and they should not be brittle and dry. In fact, there are people who change their Aravot every day of the holiday to make sure they are fresh. Keeping them in a vase of water or the refrigerator should do the trick.
Whenever in doubt about the kashrut of a species, it is imperative to ask a rabbi for his halachic decision.
When the first day of the Sukkot holiday falls on Shabbat, we do not wave the species on the first day. Because the laws regarding the Four Species are less stringent on the other days, some borderline species may be perfectly kosher. Again, it is best to ask a rabbi when in doubt. However, all those who desire to be saintly with their Maker should certainly strive to have the most beautiful set of species for the whole holiday.
A common element of the Four Species is that they all grow around water. At this time of the year, at the beginning of the rainy season in Israel, let us all pray that the Almighty will look favorably on our waving of the Four Species and bless us abundantly with rain, and with every other good blessing in the New Year.