THIS SITE IS NO LONGER SUPPORTED            בית מדרש הוירטואלי עבר דירה
PLEASE FIND US AT OUR NEW TORAT HAR ETZION WEBSITE                                  
     English shiurim @          לשיעורים בעברית @

"The Bough of a Thick-Leaved Tree"

  • Harav Mosheh Lichtenstein
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Lecture 19: "THe BOugh of a thick-leaved TRee"


By Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein



"And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the hadar tree, branches of palm trees, and the bough of a thick-leaved ("avot") tree, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. (Vayikra 23:40)


"Branches of palm trees" mentioned in the Torah refers to branches of the date-palm before their leaves have spread out, that is, when they still have the form of a scepter – what we call a lulav. "The fruit of the hadar tree" mentioned in the Torah refers to the etrog. "The bough of a thick-leaved tree" mentioned in the Torah refers to the hadas (myrtle), whose leaves cover its stem, and grow in clusters of three or more leaves from the same point on the stem. But if only two leaves grow from the same point on the stem, the third being slightly higher, it is not "avot," and is called a "hadas shote." "Willows of the brook" mentioned in the Torah does not include all plants growing along a brook, but rather refers to a specific species – "willow of the brook," whose leaves are long and smooth-edged, and whose stem is red – what we call an arava. This plant is called "willow of the brook," because it usually grows along a brook, but even if it grew in the desert or on a mountain it is still fit for the mitzva (Rambam, Hilkhot Lulav 7:1-3).


            These definitions, with which the Rambam opens Hilkhot Lulav, are familiar to every schoolchild. There is, however, what to examine here, inasmuch as the Torah does not refer to all four species in the same manner. Whereas the lulav and arava are referred to by their names, the species being explicitly mentioned in the Torah, the etrog and the hadas are not mentioned by name. The Torah merely offers a description of them, from which we are supposed to understand which species to take. We must understand why Scripture distinguishes between the various species, rather than dealing with all four in the same manner.


This is especially pertinent to the hadas, which is the only one of the plants (that is to say, where we take the plant itself, and not its fruit, as in the case of the etrog) that is not identified by name. Surely the three plants are bound together and constitute a single unit within the context of the mitzva of the four species, and yet the hadas stands out in that it is not mentioned by name. It should also be noted that according to the Ramban,[1] who says that "the fruit of the hadar tree" is indeed the Hebrew name of the fruit, and the name etrog is merely the Aramaic translation of the word "hadar" - the difficulty is even greater. For according to this, the hadas is the only one of the four species that the Torah does not refer to by name. It cannot be argued that "avot tree" is the name, and not merely a description of the species. For the word hadas appears several times in Scripture, and thus we see that it is not merely rabbinic Hebrew, like the word etrog according to the Ramban, but rather biblical Hebrew.[2]


            In this shiur we will focus on the hadas. We will not discuss the etrog which requires a separate discussion.


II.                 ii. the number of Hadasim and the law of a Hadas Whose head was cut off


            The Ramban writes (in the two places cited in note 1):


"The 'hadar' mentioned in the Torah with respect to the etrog is like the 'avot' mentioned with respect to the hadas and the 'kapot' mentioned with respect to the lulav – all are called by the names of their species.


            The Ramban appears to disagree with our assumption; according to him, the Torah does indeed mention the species of the hadas. It seems, however, that this very point – whether the Torah refers to the hadas by the name of its species or it merely describes its qualities – is the subject of dispute and constitutes the key to understanding the talmudic discussion.




            We learn at the beginning of chapter Lulav ha-Gazul:


A hadas that is stolen or dry is unfit. [If it is] from an ashera or a condemned city, it is unfit. [If its] head was cut off, or its leaves separated or its berries were more numerous than its leaves, it is unfit; but if he reduced them, it is fit.


            In and of itself, there is nothing new in this Mishna; it fits in well among the four Mishnayot that open chapter Lulav ha-Gazul and repeat the same details [stolen, dry, ashera, condemned city, cut-off head, and the like) with respect to each of the four species.[3] However, the fifth Mishna in the chapter (34b) presents us with a serious difficulty. There we learn:


Rabbi Yishmael says: Three hadasim, two aravot, one lulav and one etrog, even if two are cut off and one is not cut off. Rabbi Tarfon says: Even if the three of them are cut off. Rabbi Akiva says: Just as there is one lulav and one etrog, so too there is one hadas and one arava.


            Now, besides the contradiction between this Mishna and the previous Mishna regarding a hadas who head is cut off, which occupied the major Rishonim, as we shall see below, there is an even greater difficulty in the Mishna. Whether we agree with the Rif, the Rambam and the Ramban, that the two Mishnayot disagree regarding a hadas with a cut-off head, or we adopt the view of the Ra'avad and the Ba'al ha-Ma'or, that there are two kinds of cut-off heads, we do not understand why Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi did not bring this dispute (or view) in the first Mishna. Surely the first Mishna deals with the disqualifications of the hadas, and with the matter of a cut-off hadas in particular. If Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yishmael indeed disagree with this Mishna (or add a distinction regarding a cut-off head), the place where their dissenting opinions should have been recorded is in the Mishna which lists the disqualifications of a hadas, adjacent to the view of the anonymous first Tanna.


Moreover, not only is there no logic in pushing them off to some other place, but in the place where they were inserted, they disturb and interrupt the continuity of the Mishna. The theme of the later Mishna, which follows the disqualifications of the four species, is the number of each species that must be taken, and on this point the Tannaim disagree. However, in the course of the presentation of the disagreement between R. Tarfon and R. Yishmael, on the one hand, and R. Akiva, on the other, the discussion of cut-off hadasim is inserted into the Mishna, creating an interruption in the middle of the dispute. Consider this: were we to separate the various components that make up these two Mishnayot, and ask a child to put them back together again, he would certainly join the two discussions of cut-off hadasim and then combine the various opinions about the number of each species into one uninterrupted continuum. If the child's rearrangement is not convincing, who is greater than the Rambam, who acted in this very manner. The matter of the numbers he recorded in Hilkhot Lulav 7:7, whereas the matter of the cut-off hadasim he pushed off to a later chapter (8:5), where he discusses the disqualifications of all the species. And he did this in spite of the fact that in both places he ruled in accordance with the view of Rabbi Tarfon that is taught in a single stroke in the Mishna.


            What emerges from all this is that there are two difficulties with the arrangement of Mishna 5: 1) Why isn't the disagreement regarding cut-off hadasim brought in the expected place earlier in the chapter? 2) Why does the Mishna interrupt between like matters with the dispute between Rabbi Akiva and the other Tannaim?


The Mitzva of Hadas – is it fulfilled through the species of hadas or any species that is "Avot"?


It seems that there is one answer to the two questions, and that there is a close and substantive connection between the two disputes. There is no interruption in the Mishna, but rather one successive continuum, for the very allowance of a cut-off hadas depends on the number of hadasim that are required, and it also attests to the very essence of the hadas, according to the opinion that there must be three hadasim. Thus, Rabbi Yehuda ha-Nasi does not interrupt the continuity of the Mishnayot; there is no interruption whatsoever, for the two disagreements are interdependent.


            These two questions reveal to us whether the "bough of the thick-leaved tree" is the name of the species, as argued by the Ramban, or rather a description of the plant.


As we noted above, the plain sense of the text is that "the bough of the thick-leaved tree" is not the name of the species, but a description of the required plant, and the hadas is the plant that fits this description. In truth, it may be argued that fundamentally speaking, we do not need the hadas, but rather any thick-leaved plant fulfills the requirements of the mitzva, as is implied by the talmudic passage on p. 32b, which examines the possibility of allowing other plants as "the bough of the thick-leaved tree," and only rejected this possibility because those other plants do not fully fill all the requirements of "avot":


Our Rabbis have taught: "The bough of the thick-leaved tree" – whose leaves cover its stems. And which is that? Say the hadas. – But say the olive-tree! – "avot" is required, and this is lacking. - But say the plane-tree! - We require that its leaves cover its stem, and this is lacking. – But say the hirduf tree! – Abaye said: "Its ways are ways of pleasantness," and this is lacking. Rava said: From here: "Therefore love the truth and peace."


            The Ramban will argue that these characteristics merely resolve the uncertainty and prove that this is the species that the Torah had in mind when it said, "the bough of the thick-leaved tree." But according to the simple understanding of the passage, the possibility indeed exists that other thick-leaved species are fit for the fulfillment of the mitzva, as was understood by the Tosafot (33a, s.v. ve-eima). Consider this: It was only with respect to the etrog and the hadas that the Gemara considered the possibility of taking other and/or additional species; it did not do this with respect to the arava or the lulav, but rather it understood as self-evident that a particular species is required. The reason for this is simple: it is not that the names of these two species (lulav and arava) are better known, whereas the designations of the hadas and the etrog are more unclear and require clarification; but rather, it is that here the Torah offered a description and not a name, and anything that fits the description should be fit for the mitzva. This is especially true about the hadas, because the Torah could have used the name, but failed to do so. Thus the use of the expression, "the bough of the thick-leaved tree," was not a linguistic necessity, but rather a conscious choice of a description over the name.


            This is what underlies the Tannaitic dispute regarding the number of hadasim, and the details of the laws about which they disagree revolve around this issue. If "the bough of a thick-leaved tree" is a description, then the Torah is not demanding the hadas plant in particular, but rather any thick-leaved plant that expresses the abundance of the plant kingdom. We are not interested in the symbolic value or any other element of the particular plant, but only in giving expression to the abundance that is found in the plant world in general and finds particular expression in the thick growth of the hadas leaves. Therefore, the Gemara considered the possibility that other plants as well, e.g., the olive-tree or the plane-tree, might qualify in addition to the hadas (and not in its place, for the fulfillment of the mitzva depends on the plant as a plant, and not in the particular species).


            Now, it is stated there in the Gemara with respect to the Egyptian hadas (that grows with clusters of seven leaves):


Abaye said: This implies that the Egyptian hadas is fit for the mitzva. – This is obvious! – You might have said that since it has a qualifying name, it is not fit. Therefore it teaches you [that it is fit]. – And say thus [that it is not fit]! – The Torah said "a thick-leaved tree" – any one.


            It might be understood that this is the novelty of this law. The Egyptian hadas has a qualifying name, and therefore it is not regarded as the same species as an ordinary hadas. Nevertheless, it is fit for the mitzva, because it too is thick-leaved, and we do not require a particular type of hadas. And this is what the Gemara means when it asks: "And say thus [that it is not fit] – i.e., that an Egyptian hadas is a different species and therefore unfit. And the Gemara answers that there is no requirement of the species of hadas, but of a thick-leaved tree, and the Egyptian hadas is thick-leaved. This is what the Gemara means when it says: "The Torah said 'a thick-leaved tree' – any one" – (it cannot mean anything else, for there is no extraneous word or letter in the verse) – we do not require the species of hadas, but rather any thick-leaved tree. We see then that the two sides of our question are presented as the Gemara's initial assumption and conclusion regarding the Egyptian hadas.[4]


            See further in the Gemara:


Our Rabbis taught: Resembling plaiting and similar to a chain – this is a hadas. Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya'akov says: "The bough of a thick-leaved tree" – a tree whose woody part and fruit are the same – this is a hadas.


            We see that the first Tanna sees the essence of the hadas in the form of its leaves, whereas Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya'akov focuses on a different characteristic of the hadas. What we said about the significance of the thickness of the hadas's foliage corresponds well to the position of the first Tanna, but not to that of Rabbi Eliezer ben Ya'akov.


THe dispute regarding the number of Hadasim


            We can now say that this is the controversy regarding the number. If the fulfillment of hadasim lies in the expression of the abundance and vitality of the plant kingdom, then – so argue Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Tarfon – this should find expression not only in the form of the plant, but also in its number. Indeed, if we are interested in taking the plant in and of itself and nothing more, then one should suffice, and a person should fulfill his obligation with a single hadas just as he fulfills his obligation with a single lulav and a single etrog, as argued by Rabbi Akiva. If, however, the fulfillment of hadas is connected to the expression of the abundance of the plant world, this should also be expressed in the taking of three hadasim, in order to express this idea not only through the form of the plant, but also through its number.


            This being the case, it is no surprise to find that the Ramban, proponent of the view that "thick-leaved tree" is the name of the species, writes as follows:


According to the plain sense of Scripture, we are to take the fruit of the hadar tree, the branch of a palm-tree, one bough of a thick-leaved tree, and one willow of the brook – one of each species, for "the branches of palm-trees" is connected to "and you shall take for yourselves," which is in the plural. For the law is in accordance with Rabbi Akiva who says: Just as there is one lulav and one etrog, so too there is one hadas and one arava. And therefore Onkelos translated them all in the plural, connected to "and you shall take for yourselves," which is in the plural. As for the reason for this mitzva, the [Sages] said (Ta'anit 2b), homiletically, that these species come to appease with respect to water. But according to the true path, "the fruit of the hadar tree" is the fruit which stirs up the most delight, and through which the first man sinned, as it is stated (Bereishit 3:6): "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit, and did eat." Now the sin was because of it alone, and we appease before Him with the other species. And "the branch of the palm-tree" is …. And "the bough of the thick-leaved tree alludes to the three sefirot in one branch, as it is stated…. And "the willow of the brook…."


We see that the Ramban is interested in the species of the hadas, because of its shape, and not because of the abundance to which it alludes. He therefore rules in accordance with Rabbi Akiva, that even a single hadas suffices.


And see further in the talmudic passage (34b):


It was taught: Rabbi Yishmael says: The fruit of the hadar tree – one; the branch of the date-palm – one; the bough of a thick-leaved tree – three; the willows of the brook – two.


            The Tosafot (ad loc.) raise the following objection:


Rashi explains: Anat etz avot - anaf – one; etz – one; avot – one. But this is difficult, for above (32b) we explained: Anaf etz – whose branches cover its stem. And we also interpret: Etz avot – resembling a plait.


And they leave the matter unresolved – how to account for two derashot from the same verse. The explanation, however, seems simple. We do not derive the requirement of three hadasim from extra words – anaf etz avot, which brings us to the difficulty how do we account for two derashot from the same verse. Rather the three hadasim is derived from the plain meaning of the verse, for if we need thick foliage, then we also require multiple branches, both of which coming to express the idea of the abundance found in the plant world. Thus, the number is not derived through a derasha, but rather it is implicit in the very idea of anaf etz avot, and the verse may be used for a different derasha.


THe dispute regarding the law of a hadas whose head is cut-off


            What emerges from here is that Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Tarfon disagree with Rabbi Akiva with respect to the very essence of the mitzva of hadas, and not just about the detail regarding the number. This also explains why this Mishna deals with cut-off hadasim, for the disagreement on this issue also depends on this question. If we require the species of hadas as hadas, and not as a representative of the plant kingdom, and there is a special law regarding the cheftza of the hadas, then there is room to disqualify a hadas whose head was cut off, as is the case regarding the other species. Since we maintain that regarding the four species, the essence and beauty of the species is at its head and for this reason a blemish at its head disqualifies the species, the same applies to the hadas. Therefore, the first Mishna disqualifies a hadas whose head was cut off, as in the case of the other species, and it does not distinguish between them. However, when the Tannaim disagreed about the number in the second Mishna, and Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Tarfon introduced the novel idea that the mitzva is not interested in the hadas itself, but in the abundance of the plant kingdom that is reflected through it – both through its form and through its number – it is possible to pronounce fit even a hadas whose head is cut off, for even such a hadas reflects the abundance of the plant world, and we do not require hadar of the species itself. Thus, Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yishmael who require three hadasim as reflections of the abundance of the plant world regard cut-off hadasim as fit, whereas Rabbi Akiva, who is interested in the species of hadas itself, does not require more than one, but disqualifies a cut-off hadas.


What we see from all this is that Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yishmael disagree with the underlying assumption of the first Mishna, and that the two disputes are really one, and therefore the two positions are presented together. There is no interruption, but rather two positions that strengthen and confirm one another. It is more appropriate to bring them together and see the matter of cut-off hadasim as another expression of the same idea, than to deal with the specific issue of cut-off hadasim in the previous Mishna.




Now, Rabbi Yishmael's position that two cut-off hadasim are fit, but one must be whole and not cut-off, is difficult, for if a cut-off hadas is fit, all three should be fit, and if it is unfit, then how is it possible to pronounce two cut-off hadasim fit? This question was already raised by the Gemara, which is left with no other alternative but to conclude that Rabbi Yishmael retracted his position:


Either way – if he requires whole [hadasim], they should all be whole; if he does not require whole [hadasim], even one should not [be fit]. Bira'a said in the name of Rabbi Ami: Rabbi Yishmael retracted [his position].


            The Yerushalmi, however, upholds Rabbi Yishmael's position in the Mishna, and does not suggest that he retracted; this requires explanation. So too, even if the Bavli is right that he retracted his view, we must still understand his initial position.


            Now, however, in light of what we have said above, Rabbi Yishmael's position is quite clear. According to him, there are two aspects to the mitzva of hadas, and we require both of them, both the specific species and the abundance reflected in its thick foliage. Thus, we need three hadasim to express the idea of abundance, but for this we can make do with three cut-off hadasim. There is, however, an additional fulfillment of hadas as a species, and for this the hadas must be whole, but we do not need more than one. Thus, one that is not cut-off suffices for the taking of the species, but two more are needed to fulfill the element of "thick-leaves," though these can be cut-off and need not be whole. Thus, Rabbi Yishmael maintains that we need two that may even be cut-off in order to fulfill "avot," and another one that must be whole in order to fulfill the species. In contrast, Rabbi Tarfon (and according to the Bavli, even Rabbi Yishmael following his retraction), maintains that there is only the fulfillment of abundance, and that not even one whole hadas is required.


THe view of the Ra'avad and Ba'al ha-Ma'or


            It should be added that what we just said regarding the disagreement regarding cut-off hadasim, was said according to the Rif and his followers (the Rambam and the Ramban) who understand that the two Mishnayot deal with the same case, and thus perforce they disagree with regard to cut-off hadasim. However, even according to the Ra'avad and the Ba'al ha-Ma'or, who maintain that "any wise man with eyes in his head will see that the 'cut-off' [hadasim] discussed by Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yishmael are not the 'cut-off' [hadasim] discussed at the beginning of the Mishna" (Ra'avad, Chibbur ha-Lulav, p. 14) and that a distinction must be made between the cut-off hadas declared fit by the second Mishna and the hadas whose head is cut off that is unfit, our words are still valid, and with even greater force.


For according to the Ra'avad, the second Mishna discusses whether the entire plant must be whole, "and not cut-off from the trunk, but rather the whole trunk with its branches," or whether we regard as fit even a branch that was cut off from the trunk, which is only a part of the whole. We must understand why we should require a whole plant, and not suffice with a branch. And furthermore, what does Rabbi Tarfon teach us when he says that a cut-off hadas is fit, and what is the position of Rabbi Yishmael (if he did not retract or prior to his retraction) who requires a whole plant with respect to one of the hadasim, all these laws being specific to the hadas. Already the Ramban sharply objected to this understanding, stating: "This explanation is totally unreasonable, for if so, why did any Sage declare as unfit that which is cut-off more so in the case of the hadas than the other species. On the contrary, the hadas should be fit according to all opinions, for regarding the hadas it says "anaf" – branch."[5] Indeed, his objection demands an answer.


            It seems that we can explain the Ra'avad and the Ba'al ha-Ma'or following the approach proposed above. Since the mitzva of hadas is fulfilled not by the taking of the species of hadas, but by the taking of a plant with thick foliage, we might have thought that one must take the entire plant together with its trunk, and not just a branch cut off from the plant. Therefore, Rabbi Tarfon said that despite the fact that he maintains that the mitzva is to take a thick-leaved plant, practically speaking it suffices to take a single branch, and there is no need to take the entire plant or a branch growing directly out of the ground. On this matter, the hadas is different from the lulav and the arava, and thus the objection raised by the Ramban falls by the wayside. The Ramban himself could not give this answer, for according to him, "anaf etz avot," is not a description, but rather the name of the species, and thus there is no difference between the hadas and the other species, and therefore he raised the question why is hadas different than the other species.




            If what we said is correct that the number of hadasim attests to the fact that the mitzva is fulfilled with abundant foliage, and not with a particular species, we can easily explain the well-know position of the Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav 7:7) regarding the number of each species and additions to them:


How many does he take of them? One lulav, one etrog, two arava branches, and three hadas branches. If he wishes to add hadasim so that there be a large bunch, he may add, and this is a beautification of the mitzva. But as for the other species, one should not add to them, nor detract from them, and if he added or subtracted, it is [not] fit.


            The Rambam distinguishes between the hadas and the arava regarding adding to the number, unlike many other Rishonim who allow adding to both species. The commentators have already asked why is hadas different from arava, and why is there a difference between them regarding an addition? Surely the Mishna set a number to each of them, and made no distinctions. According to our approach, however, there is no difficulty. The fulfillment of arava is a fulfillment of taking a particular species, and the reason for taking two aravot is a scriptural superfluity. Thus there is a specific number of aravot that must be taken, and so one cannot add or detract from the number of branches derived from the verse, but rather he must take two and only two. Regarding hadas, on the other hand, there is no law of a species, and the number of hadasim that must be taken is not derived from the verse, but rather there is a fulfillment of taking abundant foliage, both in the form of the leaves and the number of the branches. Therefore, whoever adds is to be praised.


This is also the reason that many Rishonim say that even a hadas shote is fit for adding, and there is no problem of bal tosif because of the addition of a fifth species, for the addition of the hadasim is done on the basis of the assumption that there is no law of species, but rather one of abundant foliage, and therefore even the hadas shote works (as will be explained at length below).


See Maggid Mishne who distinguishes between hadas and arava, arguing that the hadas comes for beauty, as opposed to the arava (and it is possible that the Rambam himself proposed this distinction[6]), but this explanation still does not suffice, unless we accept what we said that the arava is taken as a particular species, whereas the hadas is taken not as a particular species for the sake of its beauty – for in that case one should fulfill the mitzva with a single branch, and taking more should involve a violation of the problem of bal tosif – but as an expression of the principle that it represents, and the greater the expression, the better the fulfillment of the mitzva. Therefore, even if the Maggid Mishne's explanation of the fulfillment of the mitzva of hadas differs in its details from our explanation, they both share this principle (in any case, our understanding accounts for the position, even if it differs from that of the Maggid Mishne).


            [Despite the fact that the Rambam's view is well explained in this manner, it is by no means certain that this indeed is his position. The wording of Hilkhot Lulav 7:2 seems to incline – even if this is not absolutely necessary – to the view that "anaf etz avot" is the name of the species, rather than its description. This is also what seems to follow from his position regarding a hadas whose leaves have fallen off, as is explained in the continuation. On the other hand, the Rambam rules in accordance with Rabbi Tarfon, both with respect to the number and the matter of cut-off hadasim. Thus, we come here only to explain the position, and not to argue that this indeed is the Rambam's view on the matter.]





Now, if we return to the question with which we opened our discussion, why did the Torah describe the hadas, rather than refer to it by its name, the answer is – according to Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Yishmael – that the essence of the fulfillment of the mitzva of hadas lies in the taking of a thick-leaved plant and not in the taking of the species of hadas. Thus, the verse is not making an indirect reference to the hadas, but rather it is stating that the mitzva is fulfilled through the taking of a thick-leaved plant.


            In light of this, we must discuss the disagreement among the Rishonim regarding a hadas whose leaves have fallen off. Logic dictates that there should be more room to say that the hadas remains fit even if its leaves have fallen off if the mitzva is take the species of hadas, for even after the leaves have fallen off, it still remains the same species, even if this is not evident from its appearance. But if the mitzva is to take a thick-leaved plant, after the leaves have fallen off, it is no longer a thick-leaved plant, and should be unfit for the mitzva. See Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav (8:8) who states: "If most of its leaves have fallen off, but three leaves remain in one cluster, it is fit," for it is still the species of hadas. The Ra'avad, however, says: "If its leaves have separated, it is unfit. Avraham says: Most of its leaves, for we require that on the majority of its length that its thick foliage remain." That is to say, there is no fulfillment of "avot," even if it is the correct species.[7]


See also Ritva (32b, s.v. tanu rabbanan: nashru), who records a view that disqualifies the hadas even if only a single leaf has fallen off, because "we require that it be 'avot' in its entirety," and the response of the Re'a that there are two laws – a definition of the species and a law of "avot"; regarding the definition of the species, the entire length must be "avot", and if it is not entirely "avot", it is not the correct species; but if leaves have fallen off, it is still the correct species, but we still need "avot", but for this it need not be entirely "avot", and it suffices if it is mostly "avot".


IV. Hadas shote


            Having said this, we must consider the issue of a hadas shote. The Amoraim disagree about a hadas shote – where the three leaves do not all grow from the same point on the stem – whether or not it is unfit for the mitzva. It is also not clear that according to the Gemara's conclusion a hadas shote is unfit.[8]  However, since the Gemara's conclusion inclines toward disqualification, the Rishonim discuss whether it is merely a disqualification, i.e., that one does not fulfill his obligation with such a hadas, or perhaps it is not at all a hadas, but rather a different species. There are three practical ramifications: 1) Is a hadas shote disqualified all seven days of Sukkot or only on the first day; 2) May it be used in a time of great need? 3) Regarding the length of the hadas, must it be entirely meshulash (three leaves growing from the same point on the stem), or does it suffice if it is mostly meshulash?


            Now, it is clear as day that if a hadas shote is not a hadas then it is unfit all seven days, and even in a time of great need, and so too it is clear that if it is fit on the other days or in a time of great need, then it must be regarded as a disqualified hadas, which nevertheless bears the name of hadas. The Ra'avad has already ruled (Chibbur ha-Lulav, p. 13) that "'avot' and non-'avot' are different species, and 'avot' is required on all days, for it is not required because of hadar, but because of itself, as it is written: Etz avot, and that which is not 'avot' is a different species." The Ramban (Hasagot to Chibbur ha-Lulav, p. 34) who agrees to this, even compared hadas shote vis-a-vis a hadas to a tzaftzefa vis-a-vis an arava. So too write the Meiri and the Ritva at the beginning of our chapter (29b on the Mishna, in their discussions regarding disqualifications that apply all seven days of the festival). And the Maggid Mishne (7:2) said this with respect to the measure of "avot" in a hadas that is meshulash: "And I say that they are all precise, for whatever is not 'avot' is like a separate species, and the measurement is lacking." However, the Rema rules that in a time of great need, one can fulfill his obligation with a hadas shote, and thus we must say that he disagreed with these Rishonim.


            These questions should be connected to what we said above. If "avot" is the identifying mark of the species of hadas, then a hadas shote should be unfit, and it is even reasonable, though not absolutely necessary, that the Torah views a hadas shote as an entirely different species, as argued by some Rishonim. If, however, the law is that there is no specific species and that the fulfillment of the mitzva rests on "avot," then clearly there is no disqualification of species, but only a lack of "avot," in which case it is not at all clear that one may not take a hadas shote, for it too is essentially "avot," i.e., thick-leaved. Therefore, there are opinions in the Gemara that declare hadas shote absolutely fit. For according to them, it is "avot," and that suffices. In any event, it is very reasonable to say that in times of great need or after the first day, one may fulfill the mitzva with the lower level of "avot" found in a hadas shote, as argued by the Rema.


            In light of this, we can explain the additional argument of the Rema, which justifies the prevalent use of hadas shote in the countries of northern Europe:


And there are those who write that our hadasim are not called hadas shote, since they are two above two, and thus they are not like the hadas shote mentioned in the Gemara, and therefore it is customary to be lenient. (Orach Chayyim 646:3)


            The Acharonim had difficulty with this argument, as the Mishna Berura (ad loc.) attests:


See Be'urei ha-Gra and the other Acharonim, all of whom questioned this custom, which has no foundation, not with two and one, and not with two on two. The Rema forced the issue only in order to uphold the custom. Therefore, one who fears the word of God should exert himself to find proper "avot," namely three leaves growing from the same point on the stem.


            And in the Be'ur Halakha, he adds:


See Bikkurei Ya'akov who objected to this, arguing that in any event it is not included in the category of "avot" as stated in the Torah, for that is only with clusters of three leaves. And see there where he proves that even those who are lenient in times of great need, that is only with two and one. But regarding two over two, there is nothing to rely upon…


            It would seem that the Rema's critics are absolutely right, for the hadas is not meshulash, and there is no way to regard a hadas that only has clusters of two leaves as if it had clusters of three leaves. For this reason the Bikkurei Ya'akov argues that a hadas whose leaves are two and one is better than a hadas whose leaves are two and two. For those who allow a hadas of two and one, e.g., Tosafot 32b, s.v. telata, say that such a hadas is fit because they regard such a formation as meshulash. This cannot be said about a hadas whose leaves grow in clusters of two. Thus, the words of the Rema require clarification.


            It seems, however, that all this is true only if we see the element of meshulash as defining the species, and therefore we can declare fit only that "anaf etz avot" that is meshulash (whether like Rashi or like the Tosafot), and we cannot declare fit a hadas of two over two, which does not belong to the species of "anaf etz avot." However, if the entire fulfillment of hadas is only a fulfillment of "avot,"  and the law of meshulash merely stems from the fact that we require thick foliage, then the words of the Rema are very understandable. If clusters of three are regarded as thick-leaved, the same applies to clusters of two, for there are four hadas leaves creating the thick foliage required for "avot." For if three suffice, then all the more so should four be regarded as fit, for in the end, there are many leaves, and a hadas with clusters of two leaves is better than a hadas with two and one, against the Bikkurei Ya'akov.


            I subsequently saw a responsum of the Rema (no. 117), where all this is stated almost explicitly. He was asked there why an etrog that is the product of grafting is unfit, whereas a hadas that is the product of grafting is fit. And he answered:


Because the grafted etrog is not called an etrog, and it is not called the fruit of the hadar tree. But a hadas the Torah made dependent on "avot." Thus, in the case of an Egyptian hadas, where we see that it is "avot" – why should we disqualify it?[9]


(Translated by David Strauss)


[1] In his commentary to the Torah on the aforementioned verse, and in his hasagot to the Ra'avad's Chibbur ha-Lulav, s.v. aval akhshav (p. 31). All references to Chibbur ha-Lulav, both to the words of the Ra'avad and to the hasagot of the Ramban, are according to the edition of Rav Kafih.

[2] Yeshayahu 41:19; 55:13; Zekharya 1:8-11; Nechemya 8:15. One could argue, however, the word hadas is late Biblical Hebrew found only in the Prophets and the Writings, but not in the Torah. But the verse in Nechamya demonstrates that there is a linguistic distinction between anaf etz avot and hadas, and that the difference lies not only in the different historical strata of the language. In the absence of anything that forces us to distinguish between these strata, it seems that the Torah preferred to use the expression "anaf etz avot" rather than hadas, as will be explained. In any event, the argument that "anaf etz avot" is descriptive, and not the name of the species, does not depend upon the possibility of using the word hadas, but on the decision to use a description, rather than a name, whatever it might be.

[3] The Ramban (Chibbur ha-Lulav, p. 48, s.v. inyan ha-pesulim) emphasizes this point of the disqualifications shared by the various species, and even drew from it halakhic conclusions.

[4] The Ramban will argue, of course, that the Gemara is arguing that an Egyptian hadas is the same species as the ordinary hadas, and the qualifying name does not turn it into a different species. But it is difficult to understand how this is derived from "the bough of a thick-leaved tree." See Tosafot (ad loc.), who understood the Gemara's conclusion as we do, and regarded this understanding as so obvious that they did not understand what the Gemara thought at first. It is clear, however, that this matter is not so simple, and therefore the Gemara initially understood that it was necessary to take a particular species in order to fulfill the mitzva.

[5] This citation is taken from the Milchamot (15b in Alfasi), in his response to the position of the Ba'al ha-Ma'or, who adopted a position similar, but not identical to that of the Ra'avad. His words in his hasagot to the Ra'avad's work are similar in content, but more moderate in their formulation.

[6] In the commentary of Rabbenu Mano'ach (cited by Kesef Mishne), this explanation is brought as a citation from a responsum of the Rambam, unlike the wording of the responsum before us (ed. Blau, no. 313), where this point is missing.

[7] In his Chibbur ha-Lulav, the Ra'avad repeats this argument, but also draws a comparison between the hadas and the lulav and arava regarding fallen leaves and the like; see there (p. 21, s.v. od shaninu be-mishnatenu, and p. 16 [top]).

[8] See Arukh ha-Shulchan, Orach Chayyim 646:3.

[9] Of course, we are not surprised to find that many Acharonim have disqualified a hadas that is the product of a graft. See Sha'arei Teshuva 646, no. 4, and the sources cited in Encyclopedia Talmudit on the matter (s.v. hadas, vol. 8, p. 341).