"Bal Tosif" with Respect to Lulav

  • Rav Shmuel Shimoni
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

 

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


SHIUR #16: "BAL TOSIF" WITH RESPECT TO LULAV

Rav Shmuel Shimoni

 

 

THE ADDITION OF AN EXTRA SPECIES

 

A lulav may only be bound with its own species; [these are] the words of Rabbi Yehuda. - What is the reason? Is it not because it requires "hadar" (beauty)? – No. For Rava said: Even with the bast, and even with the root of the palm-tree. – What then is the reason of Rabbi Yehuda? – He maintains: A lulav requires binding, and if he brings a different species, there will be five species. (Sukka  31a)

 

            The Gemara implies that the problem of five species exists only according to Rabbi Yehuda who requires binding. What is the explanation for this? Rashi suggests two different explanations. On the parallel Gemara, below p. 36b, Rashi writes:

 

Since he says that lulav requires binding – even the binding is part of the mitzva.

 

            In other words, taking a fifth species is problematic even according to the Sages. According to them, however, that which is used for the binding is not a fifth species that is part of the taking, but only a functional component that allows one to take the four species as one and constitutes an adornment. Thus, even if the lulav is bound with a different species, the person is not regarded as taking five species. Only according to Rabbi Yehuda, who sees the binding as part of the mitzva, is there a problem if it is a different species, for now the mitzva is comprised of five different species. According to this, we understand the continuation of the Mishna:

 

A lulav may only be bound with its own species; [these are] the words of Rabbi Yehuda. Rabbi Meir says: Even a string or the cord used for surveying. Rabbi Meir said: It once happened that the people of Jerusalem bound their lulavs with bands of gold. They said to him: They bound it at the bottom with its own species. (36b)

 

            The Mishna implies that even according to Rabbi Yehuda, there is no problem with binding the lulav with a different species, provided that the binding done for the mitzva is of the same species as the lulav. Why is there no problem here with a fifth species? According to Rashi, the matter is simple: We are not dealing with the taking of a fifth species, but merely with the tying of the various species with additional decorations, and since this tying is not part of the mitzva, there is no additional species.

 

            However, Rashi on our passage offers a different explanation:

 

Because he maintains: A lulav requires binding – Therefore, whatever is bound with it is part of the mitzva, and thus he violates the prohibition of bal tosif if he binds [the lulav] with a fifth species.

 

            According to this explanation of Rashi, the discussion does not relate to the binding qua binding – the binding is merely part of "whatever is bound with it." The uniqueness of Rabbi Yehuda's position lies in the principles that we saw last week. According to Rabbi Yehuda, the binding defines the four species as a single cheftza of mitzva, or according to another understanding, as a single act of taking. The addition of a fifth species creates a cheftza that is different from the one about which the Torah speaks, a set of five species, rather than a set of four species; or alternatively, an act of taking that is different and greater than the one about which the Torah commanded. According to the Sages, the four species are four separate units that are held together in the hand, and perhaps even four different acts of taking that by chance take place together. This being the case, according to the Sages, the addition of a fifth species does not constitute a violation of the prohibition of bal tosif. For there is no creation of a cheftza different from the one about which the Torah speaks, and according to the second understanding, there is no act of taking different from the one defined by the Torah, since in any event the taking of each species is an act of its own.

 

            This explanation emerges also from a passage in Sanhedrin:

 

He [= the rebellious elder] is liable only for a matter of which the fundamental law is biblical, while its interpretation is rabbinic, and in which there is room for addition, which addition, however, is the equivalent of subtraction. Now, the only precept [fulfilling these conditions] is that of tefilin. Now, this statement was made according to Rabbi Yehuda. - But is there not the lulav, the fundamental law of which is biblical, and the interpretation rabbinical, there being room for addition, which addition amounts to subtraction? Now, what is our opinion? If we hold that the lulav need not be bound [with the other two species], each stands apart. And if we maintain that the lulav needs binding, it is defective from the very outset. (88b)

 

            Without going now into the details of the laws of a rebellious elder, it seems that according to the Sages there is no bal tosif in lulav, because according to them, "each stands apart."

 

            In this context, however, we must also examine a passage in Sukka, p. 31b. According to the printed reading, it says:

 

Just as one must not subtract from them, so too one must not add to them. – This is obvious! – You might have said: Since Rabbi Yehuda says: A lulav requires binding, and if he brings a different species, each one stands apart. Therefore it teaches you [that this is not true].

 

            It stands to reason that we are dealing with an addition outside of the binding, and therefore the Gemara suggests that we might have thought that according to Rabbi Yehuda, this does not constitute bal tosif, for the addition is outside the bounds of the unit. But the implication is that according to the conclusion, the law of bal tosif according to Rabbi Yehuda does not require that the addition be inside the binding, and that according to the Sages there was never any initial assumption that in such a case there would be no law of bal tosif. This is all against what is implicit in the passage on  p. 31a.

 

            According to Rashi's approach on p. 36b, we can answer that indeed the taking of a fifth species involves the problem of bal tosif irrespective of the binding, and the entire discussion on p. 31a relates to the use of a fifth species as the binding itself, and it is about this case that the Gemara says that only according to the view of Rabbi Yehuda is there a problem of bal tosif. The difficulty, however, remains according to Rashi on p. 31a, and according to the Gemara in Sanhedrin.

 

            Truth be said, Rabbi Chananel had a different reading of the passage on 31b:

 

You might have said: Since they said: A lulav, whether it is bound or it is not bound, is fit, therefore binding is not required, and the additional [species] that he adds to the four stands apart and does not disqualify it. Therefore it teaches you that it disqualifies it.

 

According to this reading, the initial assumption is in fact according to the view of the Sages, and it matches the approach taken by the passage in Sanhedrin, that there is no bal tosif according to the Sages because each one stands apart. A difficulty still remains, however, from the Gemara's conclusion, according to which even the Sages agree that the prohibition of bal tosif applies in such a case.

 

Let us examine the ways in which the Rishonim dealt with this contradiction

 

THE TOSAFOT IN SUKKA

 

Since Rabbi Yehuda says: A lulav requires binding, and if he brings a different species, each one stands apart. – This is difficult, all the more so according to the Sages, for it is implied above, that according to Rabbi Yehuda, since he requires binding, if he bound it with a different species, it is regarded as five species. But according to the Sages, who do not require binding, this is not so, because each stands apart. And thus it is also stated explicitly [in Sanhedrin 88b], regarding whoever adds, subtracts, that if we say that lulav does not require binding, each stands apart.

It may be suggested that here we are dealing with [a case] where he puts the [added species] outside the binding according to Rabbi Yehuda.

And if you say that according to this, the extra species that he brings should not be regarded as an addition, just like according to the Sages above who do not require binding – it might be suggested that they are not similar. For if he binds them with that which is not its species, it is not regarded as an addition, because this is not as the plant grows, for regarding lulav we require the way it grows, as is stated below (p. 45b). But according to Rabbi Yehuda who requires binding, it is regarded as an addition, because every binding is not as the plant grows. But here, we say that even according to Rabbi Yehuda, if he brings an extra species and takes it as the plant grows, then even outside the binding it is regarded as an addition, and all the more so, according to the Sages. And that which we said in Sanhedrin (88b) that according to the one who says that lulav does not require binding, each stands apart, that is regarding that it is not a case of whoever adds, subtracts. For in fact he fulfills the mitzva, only he violates the prohibition of bal tosif. And now we understand the first Tanna of Rabbi Yehuda, who says that regarding the four species of the lulav, one must not add to them, and presumably this is the Sages who disagree with him and do not require binding, but nevertheless there is bal tosif, and that is in the case where he takes it as the plant grows. (Tosafot, Sukka 31b, s.v. ho'il)

 

            The Tosafot distinguish between two different ramifications of adding to a mitzva: violation of the prohibition of bal tosif, and disqualification of the mitzva. Regarding the prohibition, when taking a fifth species as the plant grows, there is a violation both according to Rabbi Yehuda and according to the Sages, and even if the fifth species is outside the binding according to the position of Rabbi Yehuda. As for using the fifth species as the binding itself, there is a distinction similar to the one suggested above, but for a different reason – the binding is not as the plant grows, and therefore it does not constitute a taking of a species the way the four species are taken, and thus there is no addition according to the Sages. Why according to Rabbi Yehuda, who requires binding, is there a violation of the prohibition? The answer is not connected to the fact that according to him the binding is part of the mitzva, but to something else: "But according to Rabbi Yehuda who requires binding, it is regarded as an addition, because every binding is not as the plant the grows." This formulation is not clear, and the distinction may be understood in different ways:

 

1.         Since the binding is never the way the plant grows, but nevertheless it is part of the mitzvah according to Rabbi Yehuda, if it is of a fifth species, it is regarded as an addition of a new species to the halakhic unit. According to this we understand why it is permissible to add bands of gold – for it is neither the way it grows, nor a part of the mitzvah.

 

2.         My teacher, Rav Ezra Bick, suggested a different explanation: The expression, "because every binding (aguda) is not as the plant the grows," refers not to the knot (egged), but to the bunch (aguda) of species, which according to Rabbi Yehuda is a cheftza of mitzva. According to the Sages, each species by itself is a cheftza of mitzva, and it is indeed as the plant grows, but according to Rabbi Yehuda, the cheftza of mitzva is not a single species, and therefore "as it grows" does not apply to it (though there is a condition that the various components of which it is comprised must each be "as it grows"). Thus, it is possible to violate the prohibition by adding to it, even with a species that is not as it grows. According to this, however, the allowance to add bands of gold requires explanation.

 

As stated above, adding to a mitzva might have a second ramification, namely, disqualification of the mitzva, based on the idea that "whoever adds, detracts," discussed by the Gemara in Sanhedrin. As may be remembered, it says there that it is difficult to find a situation of adding that is subtracting in lulav: "If we hold that the lulav need not be bound [with the other two species], each stands apart. And if we maintain that the lulav needs binding, it is defective from the very outset." The Tosafot understand that despite the fact that we are dealing with the addition of a fifth species the way it grows, which according to them involves a violation of the prohibition of bal tosif according to everybody, there is a difference regarding disqualification of the mitzva.

 

In order to understand this distinction, that on the hand there is a violation of the prohibition of bal tosif, but on the other hand the mitzva is not disqualified, we must ask why in fact does the addition disqualify the mitzva. It is possible that the prohibition of bal tosif is not the reason that the mitzva is disqualified, but merely a sign that we are not dealing with a mitzva that the Torah commanded, for the Torah commanded that one take four species, and not five species. According to this, we understand why there should be a difference between Rabbi Yehuda and the Sages. According to Rabbi Yehuda, the Torah commanded that we take a single unit comprised of four species, and here we are dealing with a different unit, and thus the mitzva is disqualified. According to the Sages, on the other hand, the mitzva is comprised of four separate units. When a person adds a fifth unit, that does not impair the four units that the Torah commanded; he merely adds a unit to his action, and violates thereby the prohibition of bal tosif.

 

It is also possible to temper this explanation, and say that the prohibition of bal tosif is the reason for disqualification, namely, that the Torahs says that a person who adds to the mitzvot violates a prohibition and even fails to fulfill the basic mitzva – something similar to mitzva ha-ba'a be-aveira. Nevertheless, it is possible for there to be a violation of the prohibition, without a disqualification of the mitzva. For it stands to reason that even if a person violates the prohibition of bal tosif when he sleeps in a sukka on the night of Shemini Atzeret, this does not disqualify the mitzva fulfilled on the festival of Sukkot. It seems, therefore, that the prohibition only disqualifies the mitzva when it is part of its very fulfillment. Here, according to the Tosafot, there is a difference between Rabbi Yehuda and the Sages: according to Rabbi Yehuda, there is a change in the unit about which the Torah commanded, whereas according to the Sages, it is merely an external addition.

 

According to the Tosafot, both Rabbi Yehuda and the Sages agree that there is a prohibition of bal tosif in lulav, and Rabbi Yehuda adds that an addition within the binding also disqualifies the mitzva. The Tosafot see no contradiction between the fact that the mitzva is disqualified and the fact that one violates the prohibition of bal tosif. However, the author of the novellae on Sanhedrin attributed to the Ran maintains that when the mitzva is disqualified because of the addition, there is no room to speak of a violation of the prohibition of bal tosif (and it is clear from what he says that the disqualification of the mitzva is not a result of the prohibition to add, but rather of the addition, namely, that the Torah did not speak of such a case):

 

That which we say "it is defective from the very outset" means that he is not liable for it because of bal tosif. For it is clear that a person who on the first day of the festival take a branch of an olive tree or a pomegranate tree, does not violate the prohibition of bal tosif. For he is not required to bind his hands so that he not take on that day anything other than those four species. For that taking is not regarded as anything either for the mitzva or for the prohibition. And similarly, if he takes a lulav comprised of five species in a single binding, according to the opinion that the lulav requires binding – surely it is defective from the very outset, and it is like taking the branch of an olive tree or a pomegranate tree, about which they said that the taking is not regarded as anything either for the mitzva or for the prohibition. And when the rebellious elder rules about it, his ruling does not involve an act of transgression, but merely the passive cancellation of a mitzva, in that it prevents him from taking a kosher lulav. There is liability for bal tosif only when the mitzva is first completed and properly fulfilled, but because of the addition, it becomes disqualified. As when he dons the four parshiyot [of tefilin] and then adds a fifth – he adds to the mitzva and subtracts from it because of the outer compartment that does not see the air.

 

THE POSITION OF THE TOSAFOT IN SANHEDRIN

 

            The Tosafot in Sanhedrin disagree with this distinction between the prohibition of bal tosif and the disqualification of the mitzva. They understand that indeed according to the Sages there is no prohibition of bal tosif in lulav, for each species stands apart, as is implied also in the passage in Sukka, p. 31a. As for the passage in Sukka, p. 31b, that is dealing with a rabbinic prohibition to add despite the fact that the species stand apart. According to our reading, the Gemara initially assumes that according to Rabbi Yehuda, there is no prohibition when the addition is outside the binding, and according to the conclusion, both Rabbi Yehuda and the Sages agree that there is a prohibition to add, regardless of the fact that the various species stand apart. The rabbinic prohibition, it would seem, does not apply to the binding which is not as it grows, and according to the Ran on our passage (17a in Alfasi), it does not apply to anything that serves as a mere adornment.

 

            The Ritva on our passage, in his explanation of the words of the Tosafot in Sukka, proposes this argument even with respect to the Torah prohibition: "According to the Sages, the prohibition of bal tosif only applies when the added species is not for adornment, but whenever it comes merely for adornment, there is no bal tosif, even when it is in the way that it grows." The Meiri explains: "Whatever is for adornment, the adornment is nullified by the main thing." The Rashba adds in a responsum that this is true even according to Rabbi Yehuda, with the exception of the binding done for the mitzva:

 

The prohibition of bal tosif only applies when [the added species is taken] as it grows and when it is not for adornment. But if it comes for adornment, according to the one who says that [a lulav] does not require binding, he may add. For whatever is for adornment does not constitute an intervening object, nor does it involve [the prohibition of] bal tosif, according to the one who says that [lulav] does not require binding. Even according to the one who says that it requires binding, as long as he has bound it at the bottom with its own species, whatever is above that binding according to Rabbi Yehuda is like what is inside the binding according to the Sages. This is [the custom of] the people of Jerusalem who bound their lulavs with bands of gold, about which Rabbi Yehuda said that they would bind it with its own species at the bottom. I, therefore, say that the Rambam, z"l, is right in what he said (Hilkhot Lulav 4:4) that there is bal tosif regarding the lulav, the etrog, and the arava, but regarding the hadas, there is no bal tosif. And similarly, among the Gaonim, z"l, there are those who say that one may add hadasim in the number of hadas, and some say, in the number of lulav. The reason for this is that in the addition of a lulav, etrog, or arava there is no adornment, but the addition of a hadas involves "He is my God, and I will beautify Him."  (Responsa Rashba, I, no. 535)

 

[Many have accepted this principle, but set the dividing line between lulav and etrog on the one side, and hadas and arava on the other. See Meiri: "The addition of a lulav or an etrog does not involve adornment, and one should not nullify it to the main one, for it too stands on its own and does not become nullified like a hadas or arava."]

 

(Translated by David Strauss)

 

Sources for next week's shiur:

 

Daf 31b – Ashira … the first colon on page 32a. The shiur will deal with "kitutei mekatet shiureha" – primarily with the Tosafot.

In addition, please see the following sources:

Rosh Hashana 29a. Rashi s.v. ketutei.

Ran Gittin 29a. "Get she-katvu al issurei hana'a kasher."

Eiruvin 80b (the line prior to the first mishna), Tosafot s.v. aval.