The Mitzva of Lulav
THE MITZVA OF LULAV
By Rav Shmuel Shimoni
1. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MITZVA OF SUKKA AND THE MITZVA OF LULAV
In our consciousness, sukka and lulav 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; however, from a halakhic perspective, perhaps we are dealing with two
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, 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
It was taught: Rabbi Elazar bar Tzadok says: Thus was the practice of the people
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1) R. Y.F. Perlow 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).
If a person took a lulav outside the
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein 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
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:
Even the obligation in the
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
It is only in the
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
We find an expression of this understanding in the Rambam in his famous words in his commentary to the aforementioned Mishna:
Many have raised questions about the Rambam's novel understanding that
the seven-day Torah obligation applies not only in the
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
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. Perlow 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
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.
 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. Perlow, 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.