Reducing the Hadas Berries on Yom Tov

  • Rav Shmuel Shimoni
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


Rav Shmuel Shimoni





Our Rabbis taught: One must not reduce [hadas berries] on Yom Tov. In the name of Rabbi Eliezer be-Rabbi Shimon they said: One may reduce.

But surely he is fixing a vessel [metaken mana] on Yom Tov?! (Sukka 33b)


            It is clear to the Gemara that one is forbidden to make the necessary adjustments on a hadas branch on Yom Tov, but it does not clarify either the foundation of the prohibition or its level. The Mordekhai at the beginning of our chapter (sec. 747) cites the words of the Riva in this context:


The Riva explained that this adjustment for the mitzva is full-fledged metaken and forbidden by Torah law.


            Which forbidden labor is involved? The Avnei Nezer (Orchot Chayyim, 217) explains that the prohibition falls under the rubric of boneh – building. The Kapot Temarim (on our passage) understands that we are dealing with makeh be-patish – the final hammer blow, the formation of a vessel by Torah law.[1]


            This connects with a principle that we discussed at length in the shiur dealing with a split tiyomet (no. 18), that while the lulav in and of itself is not a vessel, but merely a piece of wood, its status as an object fit for a mitzva on Sukkot can be understood as defining it as a vessel. The Riva understands that this applies also to the hadas, and therefore making adjustments so that it be fit for the mitzva involves the making of a vessel by Torah law.


            Rashi disagrees with the Riva, and suggests that we are dealing here with a rabbinic prohibition:


One must not reduce [hadas berries] on Yom Tov, on account of a shevut [rabbinic prohibition], because it is similar to forming a vessel and making it fit. (Rashi, Sukka 33a, s.v. avar)


            Does this mean that Rashi disagrees with the aforementioned principle? It seems not, and for three possible reasons:


1.         The Minchat Chinukh (mitzva no. 32, Mosakh ha-Shabbat, melekhet makeh be-patish) understands that liability for tikkun mana by Torah law is limited to the case where the vessel is formed for ordinary worldly purposes, to the exclusion of a case where the vessel is formed for the sake of a mitzva.


2)         As opposed to a lulav, that were it not for the mitzva it would be a meaningless object, the hadas is used all year round for its fragrance and beauty. Thus the change that transpires when it becomes fit for the mitzva is not as significant in the case of a hadas as in the case of a lulav.


3.         It is possible that the disqualification of a hadas whose berries are more numerous than its leaves is not absolute,[2] and therefore we are not dealing with an adjustment that turns the hadas into a mitzva object.


In any event, even if we are dealing with a rabbinic prohibition, its nature is very similar to that of the Riva's prohibition: "because it is similar to forming a vessel and making it fit."


In the aforementioned shiur we saw another ramification of the fact that the fitness of a lulav for the mitzva defines it as a vessel: its disqualification constitutes a change that effects a kinyan in the case of theft. In that context, we mentioned a conclusion proposed by Ri'az in his Pesakim (introduction to chap. 9 of Bava Kama, letter 9), that we are dealing here exclusively with a lulav designated for use for the mitzva on the holiday of Sukkot:


If a person stole a lulav that was to be used for the mitzva and the tiyomet split while in his hands, since it became disqualified for its mitzva, it no longer bears the name "lulav," and he acquires it with this change.


            According to this, it stands to reason that the prohibition of forming a vessel by making a hadas fit for the mitzva applies only over the course of the holiday of Sukkot, for only then are the four species regarded as vessels. Indeed, this is what the Ramban writes in his novellae to tractate Shabbat 111a, s.v. ha de-akshinin) in a section that we will cite in the continuation of the shiur:


We have never heard that reducing the hadas berries on Pesach is forbidden.


            It stands to reason that an article's status as an object of mitzva applies only during the time of the mitzva, as it also follows from the law governing dichui in mitzvot and others. There seems, however, to be a difficulty in light of the conclusion of the Gemara dealing with the possibility of viewing the use of a hadas for the mitzva as a change of name:


Let him acquire it through a change of name, for at first it was an asa and now it is a hoshana! – At first as well the asa was called a hoshana. (Sukka 30b-31a)


            The Gemara's assertion that a hadas is called a "hoshana" throughout the year is difficult according to the Ramban.[3] In order to reconcile his position, we can say that even though a hadas is called a "hoshana" even it if becomes fit for the mitzva on Pesach, we can't talk here about the prohibition of forming a vessel, for there is no "formation" here, as the Ramban says: "This involves no formation of the hadas, for it stands for its fragrance." We see then that in order to apply the prohibition of tikkun manna, two conditions are necessary: 1) a new name in the article. 2) an act that transforms the article into a vessel.[4]




Our Rabbis taught: One must not reduce [hadas berries] on Yom Tov. In the name of Rabbi Eliezer be-Rabbi Shimon they said: One may reduce.

But surely he is fixing a vessel [metaken mana] on Yom Tov?!

Rav Ashi said: For example, where he gathered them to eat, and Rabbi Eliezer be-Rabbi Shimon agrees with his father, who said: Unintentional activity [davar she-eino mitkaven] is permitted.

But surely Abaye and Rava both said: Rabbi Shimon agrees where the melakha is unintended but inevitable [pesik reisha, lit. "cut off its head, but let it not die"]!

Here we are dealing with a case where he has another hadas. (Sukka 33b)


            The Gemara hangs the position of Rabbi Eliezer be-Rabbi Shimon on the dispute between Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Yehuda regarding an action performed unintentionally. Rabbi Shimon maintains that in all realms of the Torah, when a physical action leads to a permitted occurrence, but is also liable to lead to a forbidden occurrence, one is permitted to perform that action if one's intention relates to the permitted occurrence. For example, a person is permitted to drag a chair on the ground on Shabbat for the purpose of moving it, even though it is possible that he will cause a groove in the ground which is forbidden because of plowing. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees and says that the action is forbidden.[5]


In the continuation of the passage, the Gemara cites the qualification of Abaye and Rava, that Rabbi Shimon agrees about a situation of pesik reisha, namely, where the prohibited occurrence is an inevitable result of the action in question – that the action is forbidden.[6] It may be argued that the allowance in the case of an unintended violation of a prohibition is based on the fact that when an action has two possible outcomes, and a person's intention relates to one of them, we see the second outcome as a side-effect; but when the second outcome is inevitable, we are effectively dealing with a single outcome – cutting off an animal's head is killing it.


Rashi in our passage suggests a different explanation: "Since it is impossible for it not to die, he is regarded as having intended [for it to die]." In other words we see a person as having intention for all the inevitable outcomes of his actions.


The practical ramification between these two understandings is the case of pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei, where the inevitable forbidden outcome is detrimental to a person. According to Rashi, it is very reasonable to require that the inevitable outcome of a person's action be such that a person desires it, for only in such a case is it appropriate to say that the person had intention for it. According to the first explanation, however, there is no room for such a distinction.


The Rishonim disagree on the issue. The Gemara in Shabbat 103a states:


He who weeds and he who trims trees… if in order to effect an improvement of the soil, [the standard of culpability is] however little.

… Are not all in order to improve the soil?

… Abaye said: You may even say [that they spoke] of a field that is not uncleared, but in a case where he has no intention.

But surely Abaye and Rabba both said: Rabbi Shimon agrees in a case of "cut off his head but let him not die"!

This holds good only when he works in his neighbour's field.


The Rishonim cite the Arukh's explanation (s.v. savar) of this Gemara, that a pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei is permitted even lekhatchila. It seems that according to him the law of pesik reisha is indeed based on the idea that the person has intention for the forbidden outcome, and this applies only when he is pleased by that outcome.[7] Most Rishonim, however (see Tosafot, ad loc., s.v. lo, ve'od), understand that even a pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei is forbidden by rabbinic law. In the framework of this position there are two different understandings:


1)         By Torah law, the law is like the Arukh, that this is not in the category of pesik reisha, but the Rabbis were more stringent and forbade it (see Rosh, Shabbat, chap. 12, sec. 1).


2)         The Tosafot in our passage (s.v. modeh) write, in contrast to the Arukh, that this too is a pesik reisha for all purposes, for there is no need to define the person as having intention, but merely that the two outcomes be defined as a single act, and therefore the rule of lack of intention is irrelevant. Why then is there no prohibition by Torah law? Because in the case where the person has no desire for the forbidden outcome, he is exempt for a different reason: it is a melakha that is performed for a purpose other than that which was needed for the Mishkan (melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufa), which according to Rabbi Shimon is only forbidden by rabbinic law. This explanation has a two-fold ramification: 1) Rabbi Yehuda, who holds that a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufa is forbidden by Torah law, will say that a pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei is also forbidden by Torah law.[8] 2) Regarding areas of Halakha outside the realm of Shabbat – where there is no exemption of melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufapesik reisha de-lo nicha lei will be forbidden by Torah law.


Let us now continue in our passage. After having explained that the allowance to reduce the hadas berries refers to a case where he wishes to eat them, and after having raised the objection that this is a case of pesik reisha, the Gemara answers: "Here we are dealing with a case where he has another hadas." The Rishonim adopt two utterly different approaches to understanding this argument.


Many Rishonim understand that the fact that "he has another hoshana" turns the case into one of pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei, for the person derives no benefit from having made the hadas fit for the mitzva when he has another hadas (according to the prevailing opinion, a pesik reisha about which a person is indifferent is treated like a pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei). The Arukh even brings this passage as proof to his position that a pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei is permitted, as cited by the Ritva (ad loc. s.v. ve-ha).


Most Rishonim, however, disagree with the Arukh, and thus they must refute his proof from our passage. This they did in a variety of ways. The Tosafot (in our passage) write:


That which they answer here that he has another hadas – this is because then it is regarded as a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufa. And even though, even according to Rabbi Shimon, [in such a case] one is exempt, but it is [nevertheless] forbidden, here it is permitted because of the mitzva.


            In other words, since a pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei is forbidden only by rabbinic law (according to the Tosafot here – because it is a melakha she-eina tzerikha le-gufa), it may be argued that for the sake of a mitzva it is permitted.


            A different formulation is found in the Tosafot in tractate Shabbat:


Regarding a minor improvement, like the reduction of the berries, which is only forbidden by rabbinic law, the Sages did not issue a decree when the person derives no benefit.


            Here, the Tosafot follow Rashi in Sukka 33a, that the prohibition of tikkun mana in our case is only by rabbinic law, and according to them, pesik reisha de-lo nicha lei in the case of a rabbinic prohibition is permitted lekhatchila. This point is discussed at length among the posekim, but this is not the forum to expand on the matter.


            The common denominator between the two formulations of the Tosafot and the Arukh is that even according to the conclusion of our passage, the allowance to reduce the hadas berries is based on the law governing a lack of intention. There are, however, those who understood that according to the Gemara's conclusion, the allowance has an entirely different basis, which is not connected in any way to "melekhet machashevet."




Rashi explains our Gemara's conclusion as follows:


Where he has another hadas – and does not need this one. Therefore there is no formation of a vessel, for he does not need to make it fit, and it is no longer similar to pesik reisha, for there there is a taking of life in any event, and here there is no formation of a vessel. But if he does not have another [hadas], he forms a vessel, for he needs it. And even if this is not his intention, it is forbidden, because it is a case of pesik reisha.


            The Ramban expands upon this understanding in his novellae to Shabbat (111a, s.v. ha de-akshinan):


And Rav Natan, Ba'al ha-Arukh, z"l, wrote that any melakha that a person performs not for the sake of deriving benefit, and he derives no benefit, even if it is a pesik reisha, it is permitted according to Rabbi Shimon, for it is regarded as unintended. And when Rabbi Shimon agreed [about pesik reisha], it was only in a case where the person says I will cut off its head for my needs, and it will not die. And he derives benefit from the head being cut off and the animal dying, only that he only intended for the head to be cut off. And he brings a proof from what is stated in tractate Sukka: One must not reduce [hadas berries] on Yom Tov, and if he has another hadas it is permitted. This implies that it is regarded as unintentional even though the melakha will certainly be performed, since he derives no benefit from that melakha, and he did not do it for his benefit…

I do not agree with this argument, and these proofs can be refuted. For that which they said in tractate Sukka that he has another hadas means as follows: The reduction of the hadas berries is only regarded as tikkun mana for one who wishes to use it to fulfill his obligation. But for one who wants it for something else, it is not tikkun mana, and the hadas is not set aside to fulfill one's obligation with it, but to smell it, or for some other purpose.[9] Therefore, when he does not have another hadas, and he reduces [the berries] in order to fix it for his obligation, it is as if he formed a vessel and it is forbidden. But when he reduces [them] for another purpose, and he has another hadas, he does not fix anything, for there is no improvement for the hadas, for it is intended for smelling or for some other purpose, and he did not do any melakha, not intentional and not unintentional. And we have never heard that reducing the hadas berries on Pesach is forbidden.


            According to Rashi and the Ramban, when the Gemara rests the allowance on "he has another hadas," it no longer relies on lack of intention, but rather it argues that in such a situation, there is no tikkun whatsoever.[10] As we explained at the beginning of the shiur, the tikkun is in changing an ordinary branch into an article to be used for a mitzva, and for that – these Rishonim understand – the hadas must be essential for the mitzva.


            Now, in the past (shiur no. 18), we dealt with Rashi's position on p. 42a, that the fact that a lulav is fit for use for a mitzva for men, defines it (with respect to muktze) as a vessel for all people, women included. There seems to be a certain difficulty with this, for in our passage Rashi asserts that there is no liability for forming a vessel when in the particular circumstances of the one reducing the hadas berries, he has no need for the hadas.


            It seems that we can reconcile the difficulty according to what we said above regarding the two conditions needed for liability for tikkun mana. Even when a person has a hadas, when he forms another hadas he causes the name "hoshana" to rest upon it, and from this perspective there is room to find him liable. The exemption comes from a different direction: Even if he creates a new "hoshana," there is no tikkun for him, for he does not need it, and therefore there is no liability for tikkun mana.[11]


            In this context, let us add a concluding note. Combining the position of Rashi, which bestows upon a lulav the objective status of a vessel, with the words of the Gemara that we saw above that the name "hoshana" exists all year long, will lead us to the conclusion that according to him, a lulav may be handled (tiltul) even when it is not Sukkot. In truth, however, it is not necessary to accept this far-reaching conclusion: Indeed, the name "hoshana" exists all year round, but a "hoshana" is defined as a vessel only on the holiday of Sukkot.[12] According to this, the change discussed by the Gemara in Bava Kama cited above, is not the removal of the status of vessel from the lulav – for this in and of itself would not suffice as a change (as follows from the Gemara in Sukka 30b) – but rather the removal of the name of lulav of mitzva.


(Translated by David Strauss)

[1] See also the continuation of his words, where he proposes that we are dealing with the melakha of mechatekh (cutting).

[2] See Sefer ha-Hashlama (ad loc.), and Shulchan Arukh 646:11.

[3] In this context, the Meiri at the beginning of our chapter suggests an interesting distinction between the hadas and the lulav: "Regarding lulav, only with yi'ush and a change of name, for at first it was a lulav and when he bound it for the mitzva, it is called 'hoshana.' And even though below we say that this is not a change of name, that is only with respect to the hadas, which already at first was called 'hoshana' because of its end, because the hadas is the main element of the 'hoshana.'"

[4] This does not reconcile the words of the Ri'az cited earlier, that only in the case of the theft of a lulav that was to be used for the mitzva can we talk about acquiring the lulav through the change caused by disqualifying it for the mitzva. The matter requires further study; see below.

[5] In the rest of the Torah, Rabbi Yehuda forbids davar she-lo mitkaven by Torah law. Regarding Shabbat, the Rishonim disagree: The Tosafot (Shabbat 41b, s.v. meicham) understood that he too agrees that it is only forbidden by rabbinic law, because of the requirement of melekhet machshevet. The Ramban (Shabbat 75a) does not make this distinction. See also the view of the She'iltot cited by the Tosafot (Shabbat 110b, s.v. talmud), according to which in the rest of the Torah the law is in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, who imposes liability in a case of davar she-lo mitkaven, and only in Shabbat, is the law in accordance with Rabbi Shimon (see the Tosafot who disagree).

[6] The Terumat ha-Deshen (no. 64) proposes the novel position that in rabbinic prohibitions, davar she-eino mitkaven is permitted even if it is a pesik reisha. According to him, we must understand that in our Gemara we are dealing with a Torah prohibition, as argued by Riva above, and against Rashi.

[7] The Rosh (Shabbat, chap. 14, no. 9) qualifies the position of the Arukh: "This is only with respect to Shabbat, where melekhet machshevet is required. But regarding other prohibitions, we do not require nicha lei." According to him, there are two laws regarding pesik reisha: 1) defining the situation as a single action – which is required in all the Torah, and for this nicha lei is not necessary; 2) defining the person as having intention – which is necessary only on Shabbat, and for this it must be nicha lei.

[8] The novelty in this is according to the Rishonim whom we mentioned in a note above, who understood that even Rabbi Yehuda agrees that davar she-eino mitkaven is not forbidden by Torah law with respect to Shabbat law.

[9] See also the Ritva on our passage: "It is as if he were removing them from a hadas shoteh, which does not involve metaken."

[10] The Tosafot raised an objection against Rashi: "One cannot say that since he has another hadas, there is no tikkun, for if so why is it stated there that he agrees with his father who said that davar she-eino mitkaven is permitted?" (Shabbat 103a, s.v. lo). It stands to reason that Rashi understood that this position is rejected according to the Gemara's conclusion.

[11] This might have a practical ramification. In Shemirat Shabbat ke-Hilkhata (chap. 9, note 61, in the name of Rav S.Z. Auerbach, ztz"l), in the framework of a discussion regarding tikkun mana with respect to the removal of a bottle cap on Shabbat, it is suggested, following our passage, that one is permitted to remove the bottle cap if he has other such caps. In the continuation, it is noted that this leniency is questionable, for with the removal of the bottle cap, a real vessel is created, whose definition is not influenced by the incidental circumstances of its owner. This stands in contrast to a hadas of mitzva, whose definition as a vessel depends on the context. According to what we have said, however, it seems that the allowance is valid, for the allowance in our passage does not follow from the fact that in such circumstances there is no formation of a new name (in which case it would be possible to make such a distinction), but rather that in such a situation, the person derives no benefit from the removal of the berries, and therefore his act is not defined as one of tikkun mana – an argument that is valid even with respect to bottle caps.

[12] According to this we can resolve the difficulty in the position of the Ri'az that we raised above (note 4). We can say that that a change that can effect a kinyan in a lulav is not only one that cancels the name of lulav of mitzva (something that can occur all year long when the tiyomet is split), but also one that cancels the name of vessel – which can occur only on the holiday of Sukkot.