The Mitzva of Lulav
Yeshivat Har Etzion
SHIUR #09: THE MITZVA OF LULAV
By Rav Shmuel Shimoni
1. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MITZVA OF SUKKA AND THE MITZVA OF LULAV
We move today from occupation in the mitzva of sukka to study of the second unique mitzva of the festival of Sukkot, namely, the mitzva of lulav. In our consciousness, these two mitzvot constitute two important layers of the same festival, and therefore it is quite surprising to see the following suggestion raised in Torat Kohanim (beginning of parasha 12):
"And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of booths for seven days to the Lord" (Vayikra 23:33-34). What does this teach you? Since it is stated: "You shall dwell in booths seven days" (ibid. v. 42), and I don't know whether this refers to the seven first days or the seven last days - when it says: "The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the feast of booths for seven days to the Lord" the first seven days and not the last seven days.
The commentary attributed to R. Shimshon of Sens explains:
For it is written: "You shall celebrate it in the seventh month" (Vayikra 23:41), and adjacent to it: "You shall dwell in booths seven days" (ibid. v. 42), and I don't know whether the first seven days of lulav are the seven days of sukka or the last seven days. For [perhaps] the seven first days are for lulav, as it is stated above, and the eighth day is Shemini Atzeret, and after these eight [days] are seven other [days] for the mitzva of sukka. Therefore it is stated regarding the fifteenth, "the festival of booths." Thus you learn that they are the first seven days, and sukka and lulav constitute a single festival.
In other words, we might have thought that there are two different festivals - a festival of lulav and a festival of sukka and therefore it was necessary for the Torah to emphasize that we are dealing here with a single festival. But now there is room to raise certain questions. It is possible to understand that indeed we are dealing here with two unconnected mitzvot, both of which share the same time frame. This, of course, is not by chance, and it is connected to the reasons underlying the mitzva of the harvest festival, but from a halakhic perspective, we are dealing with two unconnected elements. Moreover, in last week's shiur we made use of the fundamental distinction between the two mitzvot suggested by HaRav Aharon Lichtenstein, shelita:
It seems obvious that a distinction may be drawn between eating matza and dwelling in a sukka, on the one hand, and lulav and maror, on the other. For the taking of a lulav, and so too the eating of maror are only mitzvot that must be observed on their [respective] festival, but they do not shape and define that festival. Go out and see, that in the scriptural verses and in the formulation that the Sages gave to the blessings, these festivals are called the festival of matzot and the festival of sukkot, on account of the eating and the dwelling, whereas the lulav and the maror do not determine the name of the festival. It is also possible that this distinction is reflected in the fact that these two mitzvot apply only on the first day. (Alon Shevut, no. 150).
It is, however, possible to suggest a different understanding, according to which the Torat Kohanim's initial assumption is entirely rejected, and that now we are dealing with two mutually-connected mitzvot that join together to fashion the character of the festival. A radical expression of this position is found in the viewpoint of Rabbi Yehuda:
As it was taught [in a Baraita]: "You shall dwell in booths" a sukka out of anything; these are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehuda says: A sukka can only be [made out of] the four species in the lulav. Logic dictates this: If lulav, which does not apply at night as during the day, only applies to the four species, sukka which applies at night as during the day, is it not right that it should apply only to the four species? (Sukka 36b)
There is no doubt that Rabbi Yehuda sees a strong connection between the four species and sukka, for they constitute the only raw material from which the sukka may be constructed. And while alongside this there is also a separate mitzva to take the four species without any connection to sukka, this teaches us about the connection between the two mitzvot. Of course, the kal va-chomer argument brought by Rabbi Yehuda to support his position is very astonishing, for the fact that lulav is limited to the four species is not a particular law governing lulav that can be applied to another mitzva, but rather the essence of that mitzva. In this context, it seems that we should adopt the explanation proposed by Rav Elyakim Krumbein in his article, "Netilat Lulav ke-Kiyyum Tzibbur":
Rav Yehuda's kal va-chomer argument may be understood in light of the assumption that part of the mitzva of lulav is impressing the seal of the four species on the day. If the Torah obligates this in the mitzva of taking the lulav, despite the fact that its ability to have an impact on the character of the day is limited to the daylight hours, it is certainly reasonable to use for this purpose the mitzva of sukka, which applies even at night, and is therefore most effective for this end. (Alon Shevut 150)
HaRav Lichtenstein, in the aforementioned article (note 23), concedes that Rabbi Yehuda's position cannot be reconciled with his distinction. In my humble opinion, however, it is not at all clear that the Sages completey reject Rabbi Yehuda's position. Let us examine the argument that they raise and the proof that they adduce as support:
They said to him: Any [kal va-chomer] argument that starts with a stringency and ends with a leniency, is not an argument. If he did not find the four species, should he sit about idly, when the Torah said: "You shall dwell in booths seven days" a sukka out of anything. And similarly it is stated in Ezra: "Go out to the mountain, and fetch olive branches, and branches of wild olive, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written" (Nechemya 8:15). (Sukka 36b-37a)
The implication is that fundamentally the Sages accept the kal va-chomer, only that there exists the problem that it leads to a leniency, and here a special derivation enters into the picture: "'You shall dwell in booths' a sukka out of anything." This also finds expression in the proof that they adduce from the verse in Nechemya. Surely the verse is exceedingly surprising in the way it mixes together the two mitzvot. For it mentions terms clearly connected to the mitzva of the four species palm branches and myrtle branches in connection with the mitzva of sukka, and the Sages bring proof from that verse against the position of Rabbi Yehuda, since other materials are mentioned there as well. Thus, it seems possible to suggest that according to the Sages, le-khatchila, one should build a sukka out of the four species. This, however, does not lead to a leniency; if one doesn't have a sufficient quantity of the four species, other materials may be used.
I have not found any mention of such a stringency in the posekim, but the Magen Avraham brings a different connection between the two mitzvot:
The Shela writes that a person should wave [his lulav] in the sukka before he goes to synagogue. (Magen Avraham 652:3)
This position is also cited in Peri Etz Chayyim (sha'ar ha-lulav, 3) in the name of the Ari. Many do not follow this custom, because they prefer (based on the Shulchan Arukh 644:1) to take the lulav immediately prior to Hallel without putting the lulav down in between, and thus to include the waving of the lulav in Hallel in the framework of the mitzva of taking the four species and its blessing. It stands to reason that the Ari's view is based on the approach of Tosafot (37b, s.v. be-hodu), that there is a law of waving at the time of reciting the blessing, and another law of waving during the Hallel, as a fulfillment of "Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy" (Tehilim 96:12). This in itself strengthens the position that the four species share in shaping the nature of the day, for we see that they find expression in other mitzvot besides the mitzva of the taking the lulav itself: in the Hallel of Sukkot there are obligations that do not exist in the Hallel of the other festivals.
In this context, mention should also be made of the customary practice of the people of Jerusalem:
It was taught: Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok says: Thus was the practice of the people of Jerusalem. A person leaves his house with a lulav in his hand; he goes to synagogue with a lulav in his hand; he recites shema and prays with a lulav in his hand. When he reads from the Torah and recites the priestly blessing he sets [the lulav] down on the ground. He goes to visit the sick and comfort the mourners with a lulav in his hand; when he enters the study hall he sends the lulav with his son, his servant, or his agent. What does this teach us? It teaches us about the alacrity with which they performed the mitzvot. (Sukka 41b)
We see then that the idea of carrying the lulav continues even after it was already set down on the ground. While it is possible to understand that we are dealing here with nothing more that a fitting custom, some authorities appear to have understood that we are dealing here with a real halakhic fulfillment. The Meiri even noted that the two Talmuds disagree about whether or not a blessing should be recited over it:
And only when he takes it to fulfill [his obligation]. But regarding the taking based on custom, whereby a person takes [the lulav] all day, as we mentioned regarding the custom of the people of Jerusalem, even on the first day he does not have to recite a blessing, even if he already set it down and then took it up again. [This is true,] even though the western Talmud [= the Yerushalmi] implies the opposite. (Meiri, Sukka 45b)
On the assumption that we are dealing with a real halakhic fulfillment, there is room to ask whether we are dealing with an expansion of the mitzva of taking the lulav (as is implied by Rabbenu David [Pesachim 7b], who defined the practice as shayarei mitzva nonessential components of the mitzva and explained thereby the laws governing the blessing over the lulav; see there), or a separate fulfillment of establishing the nature of the day, similar to what we saw in Tosafot. Either way it seems that the custom of the people of Jerusalem strengthens the approach that sees the mitzva of lulav not as a specific obligation, but as a significant element in establishing the nature of the festival.
It should be mentioned as an aside that the Tur (652) codifies this customary practice as law:
One who is meticulous in his actions should do as did the people of Jerusalem. A person leaves his house with a lulav in his hand; he recites shema and prays with a lulav in his hand. When he reads from the Torah and recites the priestly blessing he sets [the lulav] down on the ground. He goes to visit the sick and comfort the mourners with a lulav in his hand; when he enters the study hall he sends the lulav with his son or his servant.
The Mishna Berura (no. 50) writes, however, that this is no longer the practice today, when it would appear as arrogance.
2. THE MITZVA OF LULAV ON THE FIRST DAY AND ALL SEVEN DAYS
The Mishna on p. 41a states:
At first the lulav was taken in the Temple [all] seven days, and in the provinces (medina) [only] one day. After the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai enacted that the lulav should be taken [all] seven days [even] in the provinces, in remembrance of the Temple.
At this point let us try to focus on the Torah obligation. The simple implication of the Mishna is that by Torah law there is an obligation to take the lulav on the first day in all places, and in the Temple for seven days. The source for this distinction is in Parashat Emor, where it is stated (Vayikra 23:40):
And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the hadar tree, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick leaved trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.
The Torat Kohanim (chap. 16) expounds this verse as follows:
"And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" and not in the provinces all seven days. And after the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai enacted that the lulav should be taken in the provinces seven [days] in remembrance of the Temple.
In other words, "And you shall take for yourselves on the first day" is a mitzva in all places, and there is an additional mitzva before God for seven days, which is also performed with the lulav.
The Yerushalmi (halakha 11, according to the reading of the Penei Moshe), however, records a dispute concerning the meaning of the aforementioned rejoicing:
It is written: "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days." There are some who teach: The verse refers to the joy of lulav. Others teach: The verse refers to the joy of peace offerings. According to the one who says that the verse refers to the joy of lulav, the first day is by Torah law and the rest of the days are by Torah law and Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai added an enactment to the Torah law. According to the one who says that the verse refers to the joy of peace offerings, the first day is by Torah law and all the other days are by rabbinic decree, and Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai added an enactment to rabbinic law, and there is an enactment following an enactment.
It seems, however, that it was the first position that was accepted (the Penei Moshe understands that the Yerushalmi rejects the second possition), in accordance with the plain sense of the Mishna that the obligation all seven days in the Temple is by Torah law. Now we must examine the relationship between the obligation on the first day in the provinces and the obligation all seven days in the Temple. It is possible to understand that we are dealing with different obligations: there is an obligation of taking on the first day; and there is an obligation of joy before God all seven days there is an opinion that this joy is achieved through peace offerings, and while this position is rejected, and we rule that this joy is achieved through lulav, the lulav is not the substance of the mitzva but the vehicle through which we express our joy before God. Even if we are dealing with a single mitzva in the count of mitzvot, it is composed of two obligations, different in their very essence. This understanding has various practical ramifications:
1) R. Y.F. Perla in his commentary to Rabbenu Sa'adya Gaon's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot (addenda, no. 5) argues that the rule "that the moment he lifts it up he fulfills his obligation" (42a) applies only to the mitzva of taking the lulav. Regarding the mitzva of joy, however, the waving is part of the essential obligation.
2) If a person has a lulav that is kosher only for the mitzva of joy, but not for the mitzva of taking, and he is in the Temple on the first day of Sukkot, he must take the lulav in order to fulfill at least the obligation of joy (see Responsa Chacham Tzvi, no. 9, and Kehilot Yaakov, no. 28).
3) If a person took a lulav outside the Temple on the first day of the festival, and then he arrived in the Temple, he must take the lulav a second time, for on the first day there is a double obligation, and he fulfilled thus far only the obligation of taking the lulav.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, ztz"l, appears to have adopted this position:
It stands to reason that in addition to the mitzva on the first day that exists even in the provinces, in the Temple there is also another mitzva of taking the lulav for seven days from the verse, "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days," which applies also on the first day. It is not merely an expansion to take the lulav in the Temple another six days, but rather a new mitzva imposed upon those who are found in the Temple to rejoice with the taking of the four species because of the law of joy regarding them, all seven days. Even the first day is included in this mitzva. The mitzva on the first day that applies even in the provinces is not connected to the idea of joy, for with respect to joy there is no difference between the first day and the rest of the days of Sukkot, for they are all obligated in joy. Regarding the extra element of joy that was added on Sukkot, in addition to the joy of the meat of peace offerings and other aspects of joy that apply on every festival, it is unreasonable to distinguish between the first day and the rest of the days. It is not like Shemini Atzeret which is a festival in its own right, and its law of joy is from the law of joy of other festivals, on which there is no joy of lulav. Rather, without a doubt it because in the provinces, this mitzva of joy through the lulav was not stated. Rather it is a command of taking the lulav itself, and not joy, and regarding this, the first day is distinguished from the other days. And in the Temple where a mitzva of joy through the lulav was added on the festival of Sukkot, there is truly no distinction, and so they are obligated all seven days in taking the lulav. Perforce, then, that in the Temple there is this mitzva of joy through the taking of the lulav even on the first day. When a person is in the Temple on the first day, with a single taking he fulfills his obligation regarding the mitzva of taking the lulav unconnected to the joy, and also this second mitzva. And therefore, even though there is no obligation to come for this to the Temple, if he already fulfilled the obligation of appearing in the Temple, all the people of Jerusalem wished to fulfill this mitzva. And therefore they brought their lulavs to the Temple Mount already on Friday. (Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Yore De'a, IV, no. 63)
Alternatively, it is possible to understand that we are dealing with a single obligation having two stages: A wide-scoped obligation at the first stage, which constricts in the second stage. This is what is implied by the wording of the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or: "For it is written: 'And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days' (Vayikra 23:40). And it is as if it said until the completion of seven days, for on the first day there is a mitzva by Torah law in all places" (21a in Alfasi).
This may be understood in one of two ways:
1) Even the obligation in the Temple is one of taking, that is to say, that the obligation of the provinces continues in the Temple for seven days.
2) The obligation of rejoicing by means of the lulav widens on the first day to include even the provinces.
The Rambam implies that we are dealing with a single obligation. In his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot (positive precept no. 169) he writes:
By this injunction we are commanded to take a lulav and rejoice with it before the Lord seven days It is only in the Temple that this mitzva is obligatory for seven days; elsewhere it is binding, under the Torah, on the first day [of Sukkot] only.
The implication is that the basic definition is rejoicing before God for
seven days, only that in the provinces this obligation is constricted to one
day. In principle no.
In the headings to Hilkhot Shofar, Sukka ve-lulav, however, the Rambam writes: "To take a lulav in the Temple all seven days of the festival." Here the wording is "to take," rather than "to rejoice," but it would seem that in light of the previous citations, we should understand that he is referring to the practical manner of fulfilling the mitzva, which is by way of taking. In any event, here too it is clear that the basic mitzva is all seven days in the Mikdash, and that on the first day it applies even in the provinces.
We find an expression of this understanding in the Rambam in his famous words in his commentary to the aforementioned Mishna:
Medina refers to the rest of Eretz Israel outside of Jerusalem, as we have already explained in tractate Ma'aser Sheni.
Many have raised questions about the Rambam's novel understanding that the seven-day Torah obligation applies not only in the Temple, but in all of Jerusalem. If we are dealing with a law of rejoicing before God, there is indeed room to compare the law regarding lulav to the law of ma'aser sheni, so that all of Jerusalem should be included.
It may be noted as an aside that based on this position of the Rambam it is possible to suggest a different explanation of the custom of the people of Jerusalem, that it is not a general law that expands the mitzva of lulav as it was understood by the Tur, but rather a part of the special mitzva that applies in the Temple, i.e., in all of Jerusalem. This may be inferred also from the wording of the Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav 7:24), who did not see this as a custom of the people of Jerusalem, but rather a custom in Jerusalem:
In Jerusalem, in ancient times, the custom was as follows: In the morning one would leave home carrying his lulav, go to the synagogue with lulav in hand, pray holding the lulav, and then go visit the sick and comfort the mourners with the lulav still in hand. But when one was about to enter the schoolhouse, he would send his lulav home with one of his sons or servants.
A full clarification of the relationship between the mitzva in the provinces on the first day and that mitzva in the Temple all seven days must relate to the question which of the various disqualifications that apply on the first day, apply also the rest of the week, but we shall deal with this issue in one of the upcoming shiurim. Those who are interested in other aspects of this question are advised to see the words of R. Y.P. Perla on the issue (positive commandment no. 52, and addenda, no. 5), and in the article written by R. Mosheh Lichtenstein in Alon Shevut no. 83.
Let us conclude with the relationship between this topic and the first topic we dealt with do we see the mitzva of lulav as a specific obligation that applies on the festival of Sukkot or as a factor that fashions the basic character of the holiday. It is very reasonable to say that even if the mitzva of taking the lulav is a specific obligation, as argued by Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein, who among other things based his view on the fact that in contrast to the mitzva of sukka, the mitzva of lulav applies only on the first day, the mitzva of rejoicing with a lulav all seven days assuming that it constitutes an obligation that is separate from that of taking the lulav expresses the fact that the lulav is part of what fashions the character of the holiday. On Sukkot there is a special mitzva of rejoicing, as the Rambam writes:
Although a commandment prescribes rejoicing on all festivals, there was a day of special rejoicing in the Temple during the festival of Sukkot, in accordance with the verse, "And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days" (Vayikra 23:40). (Rambam, Hilkhot Sukka 8:12)
In the framework of this obligation of "And you shall rejoice," there are also specific obligations. According to one opinion in the Yerushalmi, as we have seen, we are dealing with a special obligation of peace-offerings, and according to the accepted opinion, we are dealing with an obligation of lulav. But the lulav serves here as an obligation that is not at all part of the specific mitzva of lulav, and this obligation indeed applies all seven days of the festival, just like sukka. There is no reason to be surprised that we find a specific law that applies only on the first day, for we find the same thing regarding sukka and matza on the first night of the festival.
In the next shiur, we shall clarify the disqualification of yavesh and the law of hadar as they apply to the four species:
1) 29b, "Lulav ha-gazul," until 30a, "de-hava lei mitzva ha-ba'a be-aveira."
2) 31a, "Tanna yavesh pasul be-etrog divrei ha-kol hadar be'inan"; 31b, "Ta shema: Etrog ha-yashan teyuvta de-Rava, teyuvta"; ve-ela le-Rabbi Yehuda ha mi-shana le-shana."
3) Ramban, Vayikra 23:40. Is hadar a quality of the etrog? Can an analogy be drawn between an etrog and the other species?
4) 29b, Tosafot, s.v. lulav; Meiri 29b (see below).
Meiri 29b: "After having explained the law of gazul (stolen), we must explain the law of yavesh (dry). Yavesh is disqualified, and it too is disqualified for all [seven] days, in our view. And so is it explicitly demonstrated by what is stated in the Gemara: There is no difference between the first day of the festival and the second day of the festiva. Granted yavesh we need hadar and it is lacking. But gazul why? Surely when it says 'for yourselves,' it is on the first day. And it answers: Because of a mitzva that is performed by way of a transgression, and by rabbinic law. This implies that yavesh is disqualified all [seven] days, in the Temple, by Torah law, and in the provinces, on the first day by Torah law, and on the rest of the days by rabbinic law, and for the reason that it is not hadar.
And the great rabbis explained this hadar, that it is not an embellished mitzva, and we require an embellished mitzva, since it is written, 'This is my God, and I will beautify Him.' But Tosafot reject this explanation, for if for this reason, bedi'eved it should not be disqualified. For we say below that there is a mitzva to tie them, but if he did not tie them, it is kosher, and it says there: What mitzva the mitzva of 'This is my God, and I will beautify Him.'
They explained that it refers to the hadar in the verse. And even though the hadar in the verse refers to the first day, the great commentators write that, according to the one who raises the objection, the verse is interpreted so that 'on the first day' attaches to 'for yourselves,' and 'seven days' is also attached to what is in front of it until 'on the first day.' Thus hadar refers to all seven days. But it seems to me that 'for yourselves' can only be cast onto 'first,' for 'on the first day' interrupts between it and the other things. But 'peri etz hadar' and the rest can be cast either on 'first' or on 'seven days,' and we cast it on the more stringent and disqualify yavesh all [seven] days. Still it is difficult in my eyes to explain it in reference to the hadar mentioned in the Torah, for the hadar in the Torah refers to the etrog. Even its name testifies to this, that is to say, etrog having the sense of 'beautiful'
Thus I go back to explain it like the great rabbis, on account of 'This is my God, and I will beautify Him.' And even though without tying, it is kosher after the fact, the disqualifications rooted in an absence of hadar are nota all the same. For a dry lulav all its vitality and beauty are gone, like a person whose vitality is gone. And in the manner of how they disqualified it in the Jerusalem Talmud, because of 'The dead shall not praise You.' But if it was not tied, its beauty has not been entirely removed, and bedi'eved it is kosher. And even though in this passage they said: A dry lulav the Rabbis say it is disqualified, and Rabbi Yehuda says it is kosher. 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 kosher, and he interprets the hadar of the verse as 'it lives [hadar] 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 interpret the analogy at all."
(Translated by David Strauss)
 The Ibn Ezra writes in reference to the mitzva of the four species: "And the Saduccees said that from these materials you must make sukkot. And they adduced proof from the book of Ezra. But they are blind in the heart. Surely they would see that in the book of Ezra there is no mention whatsoever of willows of the brook nor of the fruit of any kind of tree, but only the branches of five species. And the [double] mention of the branches of myrtle tree and the branches of thick trees is not an argument against our ancient [authorities]" (Vayikra 23:40).
 Rabbi Y. F. Perla, in his commentary to Rabbenu Sa'adya Ga'on's Sefer Ha-Mitzvot (positive precept 52-53) inferred from a precise reading of the words of the author of the Azharot, "Ata hinchalta," that it should be counted as two separate mitzvot. He notes, however, that this is an exceptional position.