The Hadar Clause for the Four Minim

  • Rav Moshe Taragin


The first mishna in the third chapter of Sukka (29b) lists the various conditions which invalidate a lulav. Subsequent mishnayot provide similar lists regarding the various other minim (species, i.e. etrog, hadas and arava). The second condition which invalidates any of the minim is if it is "yavesh" - literally, dry. Though the gauge for a dry lulav is different from the yardstick for a dry etrog, the basis for this disqualification is the same. As the gemara immediately explains, if a specimen is dry, it no longer possesses the trait of hadar (beauty). This shiur will examine the quality of "hadar."

The apparent source for the rule of hadar is Vayikra 23:40, which describes the etrog as "peri etz hadar" (a beautiful fruit). A seminal dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and the Rabbis (Sukka 31a) could potentially unlock the different ways of understanding hadar. The Rabbis extend the notion of hadar from etrog to the other three minim. By contrast, Rabbi Yehuda limits hadar to etrog.

Quite possibly, their argument about the scope of hadar is a product of different perspectives upon the halakha itself. The Rabbis might have viewed the demand for hadar as part of the process of the mitzva of the four minim. The Torah demands that the mitzva of the four minim be performed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Even though hadar is written concerning etrog, it is quite logical to extend the requirement to all four minim since it describes the performance of the mitzva.

Rabbi Yehuda, on the other hand, might have envisioned hadar as a stipulation regarding the species of etrog. Just as an etrog must possess a pitum (crown), an oketz (bottom connection to the stem), and unpenetrated skin, so must it be physically appealing. If an etrog completely lacks hadar (for example, if it is dry), then even though it is the botanically correct species, it is not considered to be it a valid etrog. Just because hadar constitutes part of the definition of the species of etrog, however, does not necessarily mean that it should apply to the other minim as well. If hadar is part of the halakhic definition of the species of etrog, it is likely that this requirement cannot be extended to the other minim.

Halakha rules according to the Rabbis, who extend the hadar clause to all the minim. Conceivably, they view the hadar clause not as a condition of the species but as an aspect of the mitzva, and therefore extend it to all the minim.

A slightly different structuring of the Rabbis' position emerges from the comments of the Ritva. The gemara describes a situation in which people would use the lulavim which they inherited from their parents and even grandparents. At first, this story is cited as evidence that hadar does not apply to lulav (just as Rabbi Yehuda maintained). Ultimately, the gemara responds that even the Rabbis might accept this practice at a time when lulavim are scarce. If no suitable lulav has been procured, the stipulation of hadar can be suspended.

Conceivably, the same allowance would apply to the other minim as well – INCLUDING ETROG. Tosafot (31a s.v. lo) adopt this position. The Ritva, however, claims that such a leniency would not apply to etrog, since the Torah specifically wrote the term "hadar" alongside etrog. Seemingly, the Ritva adopts a complex position regarding hadar. By affixing the term "hadar" to etrog, the Torah establishes hadar as part of the species definition of etrog. When the Rabbis extend hadar to all the minim, they do so not as a determination of the species themselves, but as part of the performance of mitzva. In the case of etrog, however, hadar plays two functions: it defines the species, and it also describes the manner in which the mitzva should be performed. The Rabbis extended hadar as part of the mitzva performance to all the minim, but not the hadar which defines the species of etrog. Consequently, during a shortage of minim, a non-hadar lulav is acceptable, whereas a non-hadar etrog cannot be employed.

An interesting comment in the Ramban's commentary on Torah evokes a similar position. The gemara in Sukka (35a) attempts to associate the term "peri etz hadar" with the actual etrog. Among the interpretations of "peri etz hadar" which the gemara considers are a tree whose wood also possesses taste and a tree whose fruit resides upon the tree on an annual basis. The Ramban attempts a different etymology: in Aramaic the actual scientific name for an etrog tree is HADAR. Hence, by indicating "peri etz hadar," the Torah actually was referring directly to the etrog tree by its scientific name.

The Ramban thus recognizes the term "hadar" as a specific designation of the etrog – even though we embrace the position of the Rabbis, who extend hadar to all the minim. Like the Ritva, he asserts that hadar comperises two different components: one which defines the species, and one which accentuates the performance of the mitzva. Though the latter can be extrapolated from etrog to the other minim, the former is specific to the etrog.

An interesting question surrounds the above-mentioned exemption in cases of shortage. Implicit in our previous discussion regarding the leniency in hadar in times of shortage was the notion that hadar was merely a description of the performance of the mitzva. Had it been an aspect defining the species, we would not be able to suspend hadar in any situation. A different approach toward defending the shortage allowance regarding hadar might be to claim that hadar is always defined in a relative and subjective manner. Generally, a dry lulav does not possess hadar. In a situation in which it is impossible to obtain a nicer one, the best lulav available wins the award. Even if hadar were an essential aspect of the species, a dry lulav would be valid during a shortage because it possesses, relatively speaking, a hadar quality.

Earlier, we understood that a shortage allows the temporary suspension of hadar. This alternative view suggests that under these circumstances the dry lulav is defined as hadar. The difference between these two approaches would occur in a situation of shortage in which a dry lulav was taken, and subsequently, a nicer and more valid lulav was discovered. According to the earlier view, as hadar was suspended because of the shortage, the new lulav should be taken since at this stage hadar can be fulfilled. According to the second opinion, however, as hadar was realized with the best available lulav, there is no need to perform the mitzva a second time with the newly discovered lulav.

Our discussion about the nature of hadar should be assessed within the framework of Rashi's unique position about the source of hadar. As stated earlier, the most apparent source for hadar is the term itself, "peri etz hadar," which appears in Parashat Emor. Rashi (Sukka 29b), though, claims that the requirement of hadar stems from the verse "Zeh Keili ve-anveihu" ("This is my God and I will exalt Him," Shemot 15:2) - a general verse urging that mitzvot be performed in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Several questions are posed to Rashi by other Rishonim (see Tosafot), the most pressing being the fact that in general, the notion of hiddur mitzva (beautifying a mitzva) derived from this verse does not invalidate the mitzva in its absence. Those objections not withstanding, it is clear that Rashi felt that hadar qualifies the performance of the mitzva and not the definition of the species. Since he based hadar upon a verse describing the performance of mitzvot in general, he cannot view its application here as part of the special definition of etrog.


According to Rashi, it remains to be defined why beauty should be of the essence in fulfilling the mitzva of etrog, or the four minim, while it is usually just an enhancement of a mitzva. Can you think of any reasons?