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Hadar, Hiddur and Yavesh

  • Rav Shmuel Shimoni
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


By Rav Shmuel Shimoni


I.          "The fruit of the Hadar tree"


The anonymous Mishna asserts that a lulav that is dry (yavesh) is disqualified for the mitzva. The Gemara (31a-31b), however, brings a Tannaitic dispute on the matter:


It was taught in a Baraita: Yavesh is disqualified. Rabbi Yehuda says: It is fit. Rava said: They disagree about lulav, for the Sages maintain: We learn about lulav by analogy from etrog: just as etrog requires "hadar," so too lulav requires "hadar." And Rabbi Yehuda maintains: We do not learn about lulav from etrog.[1]  But regarding etrog, all agree that we require "hadar"… Come and hear: An old etrog is disqualified. And Rabbi Yehuda says: It is fit. This is a refutation of Rava… But according to Rabbi Yehuda, surely it says "hadar"! That refers to that which is found (ha-dar) on its tree from year to year.


The plain sense of the Gemara implies, and thus maintain the Tosafot (29b, s.v. lulav), that the disqualification of yavesh, according to the Sages, stems from the law of hadar, which is extended by way of an analogy from etrog to the other three species. The word hadar regarding the etrog has many explanations. The Gemara on p. 35a tries to identify the species referred to in the verse on the basis of that word:


"The fruit of the hadar tree" – a tree the taste of whose woody part and fruit is the same… Rabbi [Yehuda Ha-Nasi] says: Do not read hadar, but rather ha-dir [animal pen] – just as in a pen, there are large and small, unblemished and blemished animals, here too – where there are large and small, unblemished and blemished fruit, [i.e., an etrog]. Other species do not have large and small, unblemished and blemished fruit? Rather, he said as follows: When the small ones arrive, the large ones are still on the tree. Rabbi Abahu said: Read not hadar, but rather hadur, for in Greek water is called hadur. What grows on abundant water – say the etrog.


            Many have argued that we are dealing here with asmakhtot, allusions to the law, but not its actual source. The Rambam in the introduction to his commentary to the Mishna claims that we are dealing here with an explanation that was received by Moshe at Sinai:


Explanations passed down from Moshe are not subject to dispute whatsoever… We do not find a disagreement about that which is written "the fruit of the hadar tree," that one says this refers to the etrog, and another says it refers to a quince or a pomegranate or some other fruit. Nor do we find disagreement about the "the thick leaved tree" that it is a hadas… For these are explanations received from Moshe, and about them and the likes of them they said: The entire Torah, its principles, details and particulars were stated at Sinai. But though they are received and there is no dispute about them, they may be derived from a precise reading of Scripture by way of logical argumentation or asmakhta or allusions. When you see in the Talmud that they discuss and disagree and adduce proofs to one of these explanations or the like, as they said regarding what He said, "the fruit of the hadar tree" – perhaps it is a pomegranate or a quince or some other fruit, and they brought proof saying a tree the taste of whose woody part and fruit is the same, and another said, a fruit which is found on its tree from year to year, and another said a fruit that grows on abundant water, this is not because they were in doubt about the matter so that they had to learn about it with these proofs. For we have seen without a doubt from the days of Yehoshua[2] until our day, that it is the etrog which is taken with the lulav every year, there being no disagreement about the matter. They merely inquired about the indication in Scripture concerning this received explanation. And similarly their derivations regarding hadas.


            In contrast, there are those who understood that the identification of the etrog is indeed learned from the term hadar, but in ways different than those mentioned in the Gemara. Ibn Ezra (Vayikra 23:40) writes:


And in truth there is no fruit tree more beautiful than it. And [the Sages] expounded "which lives [ha-dar] on its tree" by way of an asmakhta.


            That is to say, the quality of hadar, beauty, helps us identify the species under discussion. The Ramban (ad loc.), however, presents a different understanding:


And what is correct in my eyes is that the tree that is called etrog in Aramic is called hadar in the holy tongue. For the meaning of the word etrog is "desirable," as the expression "nechmad le-mar'e" (Bereishit 2:9) is translated into Aramaic as "merageg le-michzei," "desirable in appearance"; "lo tachmod" (Devarim 5:17) as "lo tirog," "you shall not covet"… The terms chemda and hadar are equivalent in meaning.


            In other words, hadar is simply the name of a certain fruit, and not its description. Just as it is possible that an ugly person be named Hadar, so is this a possibility in the case of a fruit. Presumably, the fruit was given the name "hadar" because of its beauty, but the term is not connected to the qualities of any specific etrog.


            Let us now return to the Gemara with which we opened, and which understood that according to the Sages a dry etrog is disqualified because it is not hadar, and from here the disqualification was extended by way of an analogy to the other species. According to the Ramban, this is difficult, for hadar is not a quality of the etrog, but rather the name of its species. Indeed, the Meiri argues that at the very least we should not extend the law of hadar to the other species:


It seems difficult to me to understand that it refers to the "hadar" mentioned in the Torah, for the "hadar" mentioned in the Torah refers to the etrog, and even its name attests to that, that is to say, etrog has the meaning of "chemda," in the sense of "merageg le-michzei"….


            It stands to reason that even the Ramban would admit that we are dealing here with a requirement that goes beyond the name of the species, i.e., that the fruit must be hadur, beautiful, and that this requirement is extended to the other species. Indeed, the Ramban relates to his etymological novelty in another place, giving the term a different meaning:


The "hadar" mentioned in the Torah regarding an etrog is like the avot mentioned regarding the hadas and the kapot mentioned regarding the lulav. All of them are written together with the names of the species. Wherever we need a hadas it must be avot, but a plain hadas is considered like a different species, and not one of the four species… And needless to say, one cannot fulfill his obligation on the second day with the branch of an olive tree or a plane tree. Because the Gemara excluded them because of Avot… But certainly whatever is written together with the names of the four species applies on all days. And hadar is also written together with the name of the etrog. And likewise linguists explain that etrog in Aramaic is hadar in Hebrew, for rigug has the sense of desirability….


            In other words, alongside the botanical identification of the species of etrog, hadar is also a vital quality of the very essence and name of the species. Just as a hadas shote is a different species than a hadas, but nevertheless a hadas meshulash (whose leaves grow in clusters of three from the same point on the stem) whose leaves were removed is disqualified all seven days, because the basic definition of "thick leaved trees" is not fulfilled therein, so too it is possible to disqualify a dry etrog because we require hadar and it is lacking. And it is even possible – though this involves a significant novelty – to extend this by way of an analogy to all four species, as did the Sages. Thus writes the Ritva on our passage:


And because Scripture says about the etrog, "fruit of the hadar tree," for rigug has the meaning of desirability and beauty, as it says: "and the tree was desirable," and it is rendered in Aramaic as "u-merageg ilana." Scripture refers to it as "hadar," to teach as a noun that it refers to the etrog, and to teach as an adjective that it must be attractive and beautiful in appearance. And Chazal learned that we draw an analogy between the other species and the etrog that they too must be hadar… Regarding hadar they are all equivalent; anything that is not hadar is disqualified by Torah law.


            It is interesting to note that in the continuation of the passage, the Ritva maintains (against the Tosafot) that even after the extension, there is still a distinction between the etrog and the other species, regarded she'at ha-dechak – a time of special need:


And regarding yavesh as well, only in the case of lulav, hadas and arava, about which there is no explicit mention of hadar, but this is learned from etrog. But in the case of an etrog, about which there is explicit mention of hadar – surely the verse was particular, so that whatever is not hadar cannot be used for the fulfillment of the mitzva, even in a time of special need. (31b)




As stated above, the Tosafot understand that the disqualification of yavesh follows from the law of hadar, in accordance with the plain sense of the passage. Rashi, however, proposes a different understanding:


Dry – because we require an embellished mitzva, as it is stated (Shemot 15:2): "And I will beautify Him."


            A Baraita in tractate Shabbat states:


For it was taught: "This is my God, and I will adorn Him": [i.e.,] adorn yourself before Him in [the fulfillment of] precepts. [Thus:] make a beautiful sukka in His honour, a beautiful lulav, a beautiful shofar, beautiful fringes, and a beautiful Scroll of the Law, and write it with fine ink, a fine reed [-pen], and a skilled scribe, and wrap it about with beautiful silks. (133b)


            The verse that Rashi cites is the source for the general law of hiddur mitzva – embellishing a mitzva. Here the Tosafot raise a two-fold objection against Rashi:


1)         The Gemara derives the disqualification of yavesh from "hadar."


2)         "'I will beautify Him' is a factor only lekhatchila, but it does not disqualify, as is evident from the first chapter (11b), for the Rabbis said that there is a mitzva to bind the lulav, as it is stated: 'This is my God, and I will beautify Him,' but if one did not bind it, it is still fit." It is interesting to note another source besides Rashi that maintains that the law of "I will beautify Him" can be an indispensable element regarding the mitzva of lulav. The Gemara on p. 45b states that the four species must be taken in the manner of their growth, and according to the simple understanding, this is derived from a special scriptural decree. The Behag, however, in Hilkhot Lulav (no. 15), proposed a different understanding: "One who takes a lulav or etrog upside down, does he or does he not fulfill his obligation? Do we say that the Gemara said to take, and this too is taking? Or perhaps, since it says, 'This is my God, and I will beautify Him' – adorn yourself before Him with the mitzvot, this is not the manner of beauty and so he does not fulfill his obligation."


The Meiri resolves the objection raised by the Tosafot as follows:


And even though without binding, bedi'eved it is fit, the [various] disqualifications rooted in an absence of hadar are not all the same. For a dry lulav – all its vitality and beauty are gone, like a person whose vitality is gone… But if it was not bound, its beauty has not been entirely removed, and bedi'eved it is fit. And even though in this passage they said: A dry lulav – the Rabbis say it is disqualified, and Rabbi Yehuda says it is fit. And we explain the dispute that according to the Rabbis lulav is learned by analogy from etrog, and according to Rabbi Yehuda there is no analogy, which implies that we are referring to the "hadar" in the verse, and an analogy between lulav and etrog. Nevertheless that passage was left with a refutation, for Rabbi Yehuda says that even a dry etrog is fit, and he interprets the hadar of the verse as 'it lives [ha-dar] on its tree from year to year.' And since it is not reconciled for Rabbi Yehuda, it is also not reconciled for the Rabbis, and so we do not learn the analogy at all.


As for the objection from the Gemara, the Meiri understands that according to the passage's conclusion, the derivation of the law from "hadar" is rejected, and as was mentioned earlier, he even had trouble understanding the Gemara's initial assumption. As for the Tosafot's argument that the law of "I will beautify Him" is only lekhatchila, the Meiri proposes the exceedingly novel idea that at a high enough level of lack of hiddur, the mitzva is disqualified even bedi'eved. This connects with a general question concerning the obligation of hiddur mitzva: Are we dealing with an additional level beyond the mitzva itself, or with the manner in which the mitzva must be performed.[3] The Meiri, of course, must accept the second understanding, but still his position is novel.


            Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik suggested an understanding of Rashi that is more moderate than that of the Meiri. He relates to another source that implies that in certain cases the absence of "I will beautify Him" disqualifies even bedi'eved, namely, the Gemara in Gittin:


For it has been taught: If a scribe [copying a scroll of the Law] had to write in a certain place the Tetragrammaton and intended to write instead the name Yehuda and by mistake left out the letter dalet [thus actually writing the Tetragrammaton], he may go over the letters with his pen and so sanctify the Name. This is the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda, but the Sages say that such a Name is not of the choicest. Rav Acha bar Yaakov said: The analogy is not altogether sound; for perhaps the Rabbis ruled thus in regard to the Tetragrammaton on account of the maxim indicated in the words, "This is my God and I will beautify him," but here they would not [object]. (Gittin 20b)


            Rabbi Soloveitchik proposes that "I will beautify Him" only disqualifies in matters related to the name of God, e.g., the writing of a Torah scroll (see Chatam Sofer, ad loc., who limits this law to God's name, "because this is implied by 'this is my God,' i.e., the holy name, 'and I will beautify Him'"). Regarding lulav, Rashi himself writes on p. 36b: "We require an embellished mitzva, since he mentions God's name over it." It stands to reason that lulav contains an element of sacrifice, appeasement and praise of God. This also follows from the words of the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or (14b in Alfasi), who in addition to basing the disqualification of yavesh on the law of "hadar," based it also on the verse in Malakhi (1:8): "And if you offer a lame or a sick animal, is that not evil? Offer it now to your governor; will he be pleased with you, or will he show you favor."[4] But it seems that the clearest expression of this idea we saw three weeks ago in the framework of the position in the Rishonim that restricts the law of mitzva ha-ba'a be-aveira to sacrifices, when this includes the four species. As stated, for example, by Rabbenu David in Pesachim (35a): "And the law governing a lulav is similar to the law governing a sacrifice, for it too comes to appease and it is like a sacrifice."




The Yerushalmi paralleling our passage suggests yet another source for the disqualification of yavesh:


Rav Avin in the name of Rabbi Yuda bar Pazi said: Yavesh is disqualified on account of "The dead shall not praise the Lord."


            Here too, of course, we find expression of the idea that the four species serve as an instrument of praise, and therefore they can be disqualified because of "The dead shall not praise the Lord." [See also Yerushalmi 5:1: "Why do we read Hallel all seven days of the festival? Parallel to the lulav, the obligation regarding which renews itself on each of the seven days."]


            The Ra'avad in various places mentions this source cited by the Yerushalmi, and argues that it is possible that the Bavli would accept it as well, and that halakhic conclusions may be drawn from it.[5] Thus, for example, in the following passage from Hilkhot Lulav, where he deals with that which disqualifies the four species all seven days, with which we shall deal next week:


How fine in my eyes is the reason offered in the Yerushalmi regarding yaveshi, that it is disqualified because of "the dead shall not praise the Lord." And this reason applies all seven days… And even though our Gemara explains that the reason is because of "hadar," that was said for convenience's sake, because they wanted to hang the matter on a Torah law, as we explained above. And if it is dead, it is certainly not "hadar," for the dead lacks all his splendor and beauty. And certainly since it is dead, it is as if it does not exist, like that of an ashera or that of a city the majority of whose inhabitants practiced idol worship, which is regarded as if lacking the required measurement. Therefore it is disqualified all seven days. And so my mind inclines, and so too my heart agrees with my reason. The entire passage also supports me, for it was taught without distinguishing between the first day of the festival and the second day of the festival. And that is the way the entire passage ends. "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain to wise counsels; to understand a proverb, and a figure; the words of the wise, and their riddles" (Mishlei 1:4-5).[6]


            The Ra'avad brings another ramification relating to the definition of yavesh. The Rosh in sec. 1 summarizes the dispute between the Rishonim as follows:


The disqualification of yavesh should not be understood like the yavesh in chapter Ein ma'amidin, where we have learned: "The dried raisins of non-Jews are permitted," and it is explained there that dried means after twelve months. For surely we say regarding a dry hadas, "If its leaves became dry, and three fresh leaves remained, it is fit. This implies that dryness does not depend on time. But rather yavesh here should be understand like the yavesh of a firstborn's ear in chapter Elu mumin, for we have learned: Rabbi Yose ben Meshulam says: Dry enough that it crumbles with a nail. But Rabbi Zerachya Ha-Levi, of blessed memory, writes that the term "crumbling" applies only to foods… And it stands to reason that when they no longer fall in the category of withered, and the moisture is gone, it is called yavesh. And the Ra'avad distinguishes regarding dryness between the species. Regarding a lulav it is known that even after several years it does not crumble, and so its dryness does not depend on crumbling and breaking. Rather the correct sign in trees is their appearance. For as long as they have an appearance of greenness, that is a sign of moisture or withering, and they are not regarded as dry. But when they lose all appearances of green and turn white, they are like the dead, about whom it was said in the Yerushalmi: Yavesh is disqualified on account of "The dead shall not praise the Lord." Even though in our Gemara the disqualification is because of "hadar," nevertheless it is a great proof and sign that it is not called yavesh until it turns white and is like the dead. Therefore, regarding trees this is a fitting sign both for leniency and for stringency. For you sometimes find regarding the hadas that its leaves are dry to the point that they crumble, but nevertheless they are as green as ever. And I say that these are not considered yavesh, for if you soak them in water for a day or two, they will return to their former state in their feel and in their appearance. But once they turn white, even if you soak them in water for several days, they will not return to their former appearance, and they are like a dry tree, which even if you soak it in water for several days, will not leave the category of yavesh.


            It should be noted that the Ramban in his strictures to Hilkhot Lulav rejected the Ra'avad's novel approach:


This is difficult… for he sets aside our Gemara because of the reason of the Yerushalmi… The argument that the [Ra'avad], of blessed memory, adds that since it is dead, it is as if it does not exist, and it is regarded as if lacking the required measurement, how can we rely on something when we see just the opposite? Does a dry lulav crumble in the hands? Surely it remains for several years, and it is strong for straps, and made into rope and other strong things… And furthermore, where did the Rabbi find that something that is dead is regarded as if it lacks the required measurement? Surely regarding ritual impurity, they all defile with their measurements, but when something awaits to be burned it does not defile, because anything that awaits to be burned, is regarded as having been burned already.[7]




            Next week we shall discuss the relationship between the disqualifications of lulav on the first day and those of the rest of the days. In addition to our Gemara, please see also the passage on p. 36b, "Itmar etrog" until the colon; Tosafot 29b, s.v. be-inyan; Ritva, s.v. lulav ha-gazul ve-ha-yavesh pasul, s.v. ve-ha-yavesh, s.v. bishelama yavesh. [The primary sources with which he deals are the discussions between the Ra'avad, for the most part in his Hilkhot Lulav, and the Ramban in his strictures to this work. In the shiur we will refer to these sources, but for the purpose of preparation,  you may suffice with the Ritva, which is more readily available.


(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] "Rabbi Yehuda maintains that 'hadar' pertains only to an etrog, which is a fruit, but not to the lulav, which is a tree. And similarly 'avot' pertains only to the hadas, and is not applied to the other species" (Ritva)

[2] R. Ch. D. Halevi inferred from here that that the mitzva of the four species did not apply while Israel was still in the wilderness, for there was still no "When you have gathered in the fruit of your land" (Vayikra 23:39). See also Responsa Tzitz Eliezer, VII, no. 31.

[3] Rabbi Yosef Soloveitchik argues that this depends on the question raised in Bava Kama 9b: "Rabbi Zeira said: Regarding hiddur mitzva – up to a third of the mitzva. Rav Ashi asked: Is the third inside or outside? Let it stand."

[4] The Gemara in Bava Batra applies this disqualification which is rooted in the sacrifices to Kiddush. Rabbi Soloveitchik explains that both Kiddush and lulav involve an orderly arrangement of God's praises.

It may be added that the Ramban in his Milchamot (15a in Alfasi) attacks the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or: "This is an error and not in the Gemara, for surely it says: "We require 'hadar' and it is lacking"… Moreover, whatever is not 'hadar' is not repulsive, and does not involve 'Offer it now to your governor.' These are words of nonsense. For a dry etrog is beautiful and choice, and it is placed on royal tables on account of its fragrance. Only in its species it is not the 'hadar' about which the Torah spoke. Moreover, regarding an etrog that is deficient because of holes made by mice, they were not concerned about 'Offer it now to your governor,' but an etrog that is dry, though its smell and appearance are praiseworthy, you wish to disqualify? This is the opposite of self-evident truth." Interestingly, the Ramban does not question the very application of the principle of "Offer, etc."

[5] This stands in contrast to the position of the Ritva on our passage: "That which was said in the Yerushalmi, because of 'The dead shall not praise the Lord' is a matter of eloquence… for it is the way of the Talmud of the rabbis of the west to give ancillary reasons based on Scripture to Torah laws."

[6] See also his stricture to Rambam, Hilkhot Lulav 8:9 on this matter, and so too in halakha 1 regarding taking the lulav in times of great need.

[7] The Meiri comments about this in his Magen Avot, no. 21 (where he tries at length to refute the Ramban's strictures on the Ra'avad's Hilkhot Lulav): "I am astonished, for the Rabbi, of blessed memory, did not say about yavesh that its measurements are crushed, so that he disqualifies it because it lacks the necessary measurement, but rather because it is as if it did not exist… he does not mean to say that it lacks the required measurement, but that its beauty is gone to the point that it is as if it did not exist, so that he cannot fulfill his obligation with it. For anything whose moisture is gone is as if it did not exist. There is no comparison to something that does not defile because it lacks the required measurement, for regarding a corpse, its ritual impurity is from the time of death, this itself being the ritual impurity. But the qualification of this depends on its vitality, and anything that lacks vitality is as if it did not exist. This too brings us back to the idea that it is because it is not hadar, i.e., all its beauty is finished."