The Dual Mitzva of Lulav

  • Harav Yehuda Amital

 

Translated by David Strauss

 

 

            The obligation to take the lulav in the Temple differs from the obligation to take it in “the provinces” (according to some, this means outside the Temple; according to others, outside Jerusalem). In the Temple the mitzva of lulav extends for all seven days of Sukkot, as it is stated: “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (Vayikra 23:40; Yerushalmi and Rashi on the Mishna in Sukka 41a). In the provinces, the obligation is limited to the first day of Sukkot, as it says: “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the hadar tree, etc.” (ibid.). According to some Rishonim, the difference between the first day and the rest of the days is not restricted to this point. The Rambam, for example, maintains that all the disqualifications of a lulav listed at the beginning of chapter 8 apply only on the first day, but not on the rest of the days.

 

            What is the meaning of the distinction between the mitzva of lulav on first day of Sukkot and the rest of the festival? Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, in his Kovetz Chiddushei Torah, asserts that these are two separate fulfillments (kiyyumim). When one takes the lulav on the first day, one fulfills the mitzva of taking the four species, whereas when one takes it on the other six days, one fulfills the mitzva of rejoicing. This distinction is supported by the source of the two obligations. The verse that is the source of both mitzvot is divided into two parts: the first part states, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of the hadar tree,” while the second part teaches, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” (that is to say, by taking the lulav, you shall rejoice before the Lord).

 

According to Rabbi Soloveitchik, this explains why the Rambam distinguishes between the first day and the rest of the days with respect to the disqualifications of a lulav. On the first day, the mitzva is to take the four species, and therefore the disqualification of “hadar” and all the other disqualifications apply. On the other days, these things do not disqualify the lulav, as the mitzva is one of rejoicing.

 

            R. Yerucham Fischel Perlow (in his edition of Rav Sa’adya Gaon’s Sefer ha-Mitzvot) states this point somewhat differently.  He maintains that one who takes the lulav on the first day in the provinces, and then comes to the Temple, must take the lulav a second time, for the mitzva of lulav in the Temple is different from the mitzva of lulav in the provinces.  The former is a mitzva of rejoicing which extends for seven days, whereas the latter is a mitzva of rejoicing which is limited to the first day.

 

            A difficulty may, however, be raised against this understanding from what is stated in the Mishna:

 

How was the mitzva of lulav carried out? If the first day of the festival fell on Shabbat, they brought their lulavs to the Temple mount [before Shabbat], and the attendants received them and arranged them in order upon the portico, while the elders laid theirs in a chamber. And the people were instructed to say, “Whosoever gets my lulav in his hand, let it be his as a gift.” On the morrow [i.e., on Shabbat] they arose early, and came [to the Temple mount] and the attendants threw down [their lulavs] before them, and they snatched at them, and so they used to come to blows with one another. When the court saw that they reached a state of danger, they instituted that each man should take [his lulav] in his own home. (Sukka 4:4)

 

            Now, if indeed there is an essential difference between taking the lulav in the Temple and taking it in the provinces, how was it possible to cancel the practice of taking the lulav in the Temple, and institute that each person should take the lulav in his own home (on the assumption that Jerusalem itself is considered as “the provinces” and not as “the Temple”)?

 

            From here it follows that we cannot say that there is a difference regarding the mitzva on the first day between the Temple and the provinces. Indeed, Rabbi Soloveitchik makes his distinction only with respect to the other days, but on the first day, the mitzva in the provinces and the mitzva in the Temple are identical.

 

An objection may, however, be raised against this understanding that divides the mitzva of lulav in the Temple and in the provinces into separate mitzvot.  The Rambam himself, in his Sefer ha-Mitzvot, principle 13, asserts that there are certain obligations, whose times of fulfillment are different, but nevertheless they are counted as a single mitzva. The Rambam offers the mitzva of lulav as an example, and from this we see that according to him, taking the lulav in the Temple and taking it in the provinces are not two separate mitzvot.

 

            Similarly, in the count of the mitzvot at the beginning of Hilkhot Shofar, the Rambam lists taking the lulav as one mitzva and makes no distinction between the mitzva in the Temple and the mitzva in the provinces.

 

            From here it follows that there is one mitzva of taking the lulav, but that it involves two fulfillments: the first – the taking itself; and the second – a fulfillment of rejoicing. On the first day, there is a fulfillment of taking the lulav, and in the Temple, there is the additional fulfillment of rejoicing. On the rest of the days, in the Temple, there is a fulfillment of rejoicing without a fulfillment of taking. In any case, these are both fulfillments within the mitzva of taking the four species.

 

            The Mishna at the beginning of the third chapter of Sukkat establishes the minimum measure of a lulav: “A lulav which is three handbreadths in length, long enough to wave, is valid.” The implication is that the obligation to wave the lulav is by Torah law. This poses a difficulty for the Ittur, who rules that the blessing is recited on the taking of the lulav, while the waving is merely a Rabbinic obligation.

 

            According to what we have said, it may be suggested that waving the lulav is an expression of rejoicing. Accordingly, in the Temple, where there is an obligation of rejoicing, there is a Torah obligation to wave the lulav. But in the provinces, where the mitzva is to take the lulav, waving the lulav is merely a Rabbinic obligation. Hence, the blessing is recited over the taking and not over the waving.