The Mitzva to Take the Arba Minim (1)
The Torah commands that one must take the “arba minim,” the “four species,” on the festival of Sukkot and “rejoice before God” for seven days:
And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of goodly trees (etrog), branches of palm-trees (lulav), and boughs of thick trees (hadassim), and willows of the brook (aravot), and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. (Vayikra 23:40)
The mishna records (Sukka 41a) that in the Beit Ha-Mikdash, the arba minim were taken all seven days of Sukkot, while outside of the Mikdash, they were taken only on the first day. Rashi (ad loc., s.v. ba-Mikdash) cites the Sifra (Parashat Emor, parasha 12), which explains the phrase “before the Lord” as referring to the Beit Ha-Mikdash. The gemara continues to explain that after the destruction of the Beit Ha-Mikdash, R. Yochanan ben Zakkai instituted a Rabbinic enactment that the arba minim should be taken for all seven days in remembrance of the Temple (zekher la-Mikdash).
This week, we will discuss the nature and scope of the Biblical and Rabbinic obligation to take the arba minim, and then we will begin our study of the laws pertinent to the performance of the mitzva.
Relationship Between the Biblical Mitzvot
R. Soloveitchik (Kovetz Chiddushei Torah, p. 114; see also R. Tzvi Reichman, Reshimot Shiurim, p. 115) asks the following question: How is one to understand the relationship between the beginning of the verse, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day” and the conclusion of the verse, “And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days” – which are understood to refer to the taking of the arba minim outside and inside of the Beit Ha-Mikdash respectively? On the one hand, we may suggest that the difference is quantitative – the same mitzva which is performed for one day outside of the Temple is performed for an entire seven days inside the Temple. On the other hand, one might understand that the verse points to two separate and qualitatively distinct mitzvot – one which is observed in the Temple for seven days, and the other which is observed outside of the Temple on the first day of Sukkot.
R. Solovetichik identifies numerous Rishonim who relate to this question. Rashi (Sukka 29b), Tosafot (Sukka 29b, s.v. ba’inan), and the Rosh (Sukka 3:1) agree that the mitzva of netilat lulav in the Mikdash shares the same characteristics and standards as the mitzva to take the arba minim outside of the Temple. As a result, the requirements of “lakhem” (ownership) and “hadar” (beauty) which we will discuss below, apply to both situations. The Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav 8:9), however, disagrees. He writes:
All the species that we categorized as unacceptable because of the blemishes we described or because they were stolen or taken by force are [disqualified for use] only on the first day of the festival. On the second day of the festival and on the other days, they are all kosher.
The Rambam implies that the requirements of ownership and of “hadar” apply only on the first day, even in the Beit Ha-Mikdash!
R. Soloveitchik explains that Rashi and Tosafot view the mitzva to take the arba minim in the Mikdash all seven days as an extension of the original mitzva, and all of the details that apply on the first day therefore apply throughout the week. The Rambam disagrees and apparently maintains that while the mitzva on the first day is one of “lekicha” (taking) – as the verse says “and you shall take” – the mitzva in the Mikdash is one of “simcha” (to rejoice) – as the verse says “and you shall rejoice.” Therefore, although certain “pesulim” that disqualify the arba minim themselves do apply all week (such as a lulav or etrog that must be burnt due to its involvement in pagan worship, “ketutei mikhtat shi’urei”), the external details that relate to the laws of “lekicha,” such as the laws of hadar (beauty) and chaser (incomplete), do not apply during the extended mitzva in the Mikdash.
The Ramban (Milchamot Hashem, Sukka 15a) offers a third approach. He insists that although one may use a borrowed lulav in the Mikdash after the first day, as the requirement of owning (“lakhem”) the arba minim only applies on the first day, the other pesulim (hadar and chaser) apply in the Mikdash during the entire week. R. Soloveitchik explains that the Ramban agrees with the Rambam, distinguishing between the mitzva in the Mikdash on the first day and during the rest of the week However, he views hadar and chaser as integral to the fulfillment of the mitzva of arba minim, and therefore would invalidate the arba minim throughout the week. (R. Soloveitchik attributes this explanation to his father, R. Moshe Soloveitchik). Alternatively, the Ramban views hadar and chaser as integral to the definition of the species of the arba minim. Thus, although the mitzva during the rest of the week differs from the mitzva of the first night, one must still adhere to certain, basic standards of the arba minim.
The Acharonim discuss whether the fulfillment in the Mikdash on the first day is strictly one of rejoicing or also one of taking. Theoretically, they suggest, one who takes the arba minim at home on the first day and then arrives at the Mikdash might be obligated to take the arba minim again in order to fulfill the additional requirement of “and you shall rejoice.”
Although this latter debate may seem somewhat theoretical, the question of whether we apply the pesulim of hadar and chaser after the first day is of extreme practical importance. We will devote the next section to a brief overview of when the various pesulim are applied.
Overview of When Each Pesul Invalidates the Arba Minim
As mentioned above, outside of the Mikdash, on the first day of Sukkot, one fulfills the Biblical obligation of “and you shall take for yourselves on the first day;” during the rest of the week, the obligation is Rabbinic, “zekher le-Mikdash.” The gemara distinguishes between different types of characteristics of the arba minim – those necessary for the entire festival and those which apply only on the first day.
For example, the measurements of the arba minim (etrog – larger than an egg; hadassim and aravot – three tefachim; lulav – four tefachim) must be observed for all seven days of Sukkot. Furthermore, the characteristics which are inherent to each specific species, such as a grafted etrog, a hadas shoteh whose leaves are uneven (Sukka 32b), or an invalid arava which is a “tzaftzafa” (Sukka 34a), apply during the entire week. Finally, as mentioned above, at times one may not discharge one’s obligation with the arba minim because they must be burnt, or because they were acquired through “illegal” means (mitzva ha-ba’ah be-aveira).
In addition, the Talmud speaks of three other requirements: “Lakhem," “hadar,” and “chaser." “Lakhem," derived from the verse “u-lekachtem Lakhem” (and you shall take for yourselves), teaches that the arba minim must belong to the person “taking” them. “Hadar,” derived from the Torah’s description of the etrog as a “peri etz hadar,” requires that each species must maintain a defined level of beauty, expressed in different physical characteristics for each species. Finally, the arba minim must be whole and cannot be “chaser,” physically incomplete. The physical expression of hadar and chaser differs from species to species.
Which of these pesulim apply on the first day, upon which one fulfills the mitzva mi-de’oraita of arba minim, and which apply throughout the week?
On the first day, upon which one is Biblically obligated to take the arba minim, one must ensure that the lulav belongs to the person fulfilling the mitzva, as the verse says, “And you shall take for yourselves (u-lekachtem lakhem)." In fact, the mishna (Sukka 41b) relates that when the first day of Sukkot would fall on Shabbat and people would be unable to bring their arba minim to the synagogue:
All the people bring their lulavs to the synagogue [on the previous day]. On the next day [i.e., Shabbat], they arise early [and come to the synagogue], and each one recognizes his own [lulav] and takes it, since the Sages laid down that no one can fulfill his obligation on the first day of the festival with the lulav of his fellow. But on the other days of the festival, a man may fulfill his obligation with the lulav of his fellow.
Then gemara then inquires:
From where do we know this? From what our Rabbis have taught: “And you shall take” (u-lekachtem) [implies] that there should be a “taking” with the hand of each individual; “to you” (lakhem) implies that it should be yours, excluding a borrowed or a stolen [lulav]. From this verse, the Sages deduced that no one can fulfill his obligation on the first day of the Festival with the lulav of his fellow, unless the latter gave it to him as a gift.
Thus, one may not use a borrowed, and certainly a stolen, lulav to fulfill the mitzva of arba minim on the first day of Sukkot. (The gemara [Sukka 29b – 30a] disqualifies a stolen lulav for an additional reason – mitzva ha-ba’ah be-aveira.)
Although nowadays, it is customary for each person to have own his own set of arba minim (although often one’s wife and children may not have their own set), this was not common until recently. How is one who does not own his own set of arba minim to fulfill the mitzva on the first day of Sukkot? The gemara (ibid.) reports:
And it once happened that when R. Gamliel, R. Yehoshua, R. Eleazar ben Azariah, and R. Akiva were travelling on a ship and R. Gamliel alone had a lulav, which he had bought for one thousand zuz. R. Gamliel took it and fulfilled his obligation with it; then he gave it as a gift to R. Yehoshua, who took it, fulfilled his obligation with it, and gave it as a gift to R. Eleazar ben Azariah, who took it, fulfilled his obligation with it, and gave it as a gift to R. Akiva, who took it, fulfilled his obligation with it, and then returned it to R. Gamliel.
Why does he need mention that he returned it? He teaches us something incidentally – that a gift made on condition that it be returned constitutes a valid gift. This also follows from what Rava said: [If a man say to his fellow], “Here is an etrog [as a gift] on condition that you return it to me,” and the latter took it and fulfilled his obligation with it, if he returned it, he is regarded as having fulfilled his obligation, but if he did not return it, he is regarded as not having fulfilled his obligation.
Accordingly, one may give his friend his arba minim as a “matana al menat le-hachzir,” a gift given on the condition that it is returned. As long as the arba minim are returned, this is considered to be ownership, and the recipient fulfills the mitzva of arba minim. Furthermore, the Shulchan Arukh (658:9) records that it was customary for an entire community to purchase one etrog under the assumption that each “partner” gives his portion to the person taking the arba minim as a “matana al menat le-hachzir.”
The Rema (649:5) cites the Terumat Ha-Deshen (100) who rules that after the first day, one may even take another person’s lulav without permission, when necessary, and it is considered to be “borrowed.” We can assume that the owner would willingly give permission for one to fulfill a mitzva with his money.
The Rishonim disagree regarding whether the requirement of “hadar” – expressed differently in each of the four minim – applies all week or only on the first day. Rashi (Sukka 29b), Tosafot (Sukka 29b, s.v. ba’inan), and the Rosh (Sukka 3:1) assume that “hadar” applies the entire week. The Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav 8:9), however, disagrees. Although the Shulchan Arukh (649:5) quotes the Rambam and rules that these halakhot do not apply after the first day, the Rema (ibid.) implies that he accepts the more stringent approach.
The gemara (Sukka 36a) teaches the an etrog that is “chaser” – incomplete – is valid after the first day. The gemara even relates that “R. Chanina tasted a part [of an Etrog] and fulfilled his obligation [with the remainder],” explaining that this passage refers to the rest of the days. Therefore, an Etrog which was cracked (nisdak) or punctured (nikav), or whose “oketz” (the bottom tip) fell off is valid after the first day. The Rema (649:5) rules that even an etrog whose pitom has fallen off is valid after the first day, assuming that an etrog whose pitom falls off is disqualified on the first day due to the pesul of chaser. The Mishna Berura (649:36) notes that the Acharonim disagree as to whether an etrog whose pitom has fallen off is considered to be “chaser” (see Magen Avraham 648:9), and therefore valid for the rest of the week, or whether it is not considered to be “hadar,” in which case it would be disqualified all week according to some Rishonim, as we saw above. He concludes that one should preferably use a different etrog with an intact pitom.
The Rishonim disagree as to why an etrog that is “chaser” is invalid on the first day. Some Rishonim (Rashi, Sukka 36b, s.v. u-mesaninan; Tosafot, Sukka 29b, s.v. ba’inan and 34b, s.v. she-tehe; Rosh, Sukka 3:3) relate this to another category: lekicha tama. The gemara teaches regarding other halakhot that one’s “taking” must be whole and complete – tama – and therefore, these Rishonim argue, if the etrog is incomplete, so is one’s “taking." Others (Ritva, Sukka 29b, s.v. bishlama) insist that “chaser” is invalid because it is not considered to be “hadar.”
Interestingly, the Rishonim discuss whether the arba minim standards of Yom Tov Rishon, the first day of Sukkot, should apply equally on Yom Tov Sheni, the second day of the festival, observed as a Yom Tov outside of Israel. While the Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav 8:9) implies that the second day should be similar to Chol Ha-Mo’ed, the Ritva (Sukka 29a, s.v. ve-khol she-amarnu) disagrees. The Shulchan Arukh (659:5) rules that if necessary, one may take arba minim on the second day that are generally invalid on the first day, but without a blessing (see Mishna Berura 649:50; R. Soloveitchik discusses this issue in his Kovetz Chiddushei Torah, pg. 148).
Relationship Between the Arba Minim
The Talmud discusses, in different contexts, the relationship between the four minim to one another. After all, the notion of one mitzva composed of four separate parts is a rare halakhic phenomenon. We will first discuss whether the lulav, hadassim, and aravot must be taken together, tied together in one bundle, or whether tying the minim together is merely a “hiddur mitzva,” a beautification of the mitzva. We will then discuss whether the four minim must be taken together or whether they may even be taken separately, one after the other.
Egged – Binding the Arba Minim
The Talmud (Sukka 33a) cites a debate between R. Yehuda and the Chakhamim regarding the relationship between the four species:
It has been taught: A lulav, whether [the other prescribed species were] bound with it or not, is valid. R. Yehuda says: If it is bound [with the others] it is valid; if it is unbound, it is invalid.
R. Yehuda maintains that “Lulav tzarikh egged” – the lulav must be tied together with the hadasim and aravot in order to fulfill the mitzva. The Chakhamim disagree – the arba minim do not need to be taken together.
Seemingly, R. Yehuda believes that not only must all four species be taken together at the same time, but they must also be tied together. The Chakhamim disagree, and reject the second assumption – the four species do not have to be tied together. The Ritva (11b), however, cites and rejects the view of his teacher, the Ra’ah, who understands that R. Yehuda only requires that the minim be held together, and the Chakhamim reject even this.
Interestingly, the gemara (Sukka 11b) concludes that “It is a pious deed to bind the lulav, but [even] if he did not bind it, it is valid… [and] the pious deed spoken of is due to ‘This is my God and I will glorify Him.’” The gemara maintains that even the Chakhamim prefer that one bind the species together, in accordance with the universal principle of hiddur mitzva (beautifying a mitzva), derived from the verse, “This is my God and I will glorify Him” (“zeh Keli ve-anvehu”).
Although one may bind the lulav, hadassim, and aravot together with any material, it is customary to tie them together with a leaf of the lulav (Maharil, Seder Tefillot Chag Ha-Sukkot; see Kappot Temarim, Sukka 36b, who relates that “chassidim ve-anshei ma’aseh” only use a leaf from the lulav).
Furthermore, R. Eliezer of Metz (Yerei’im 124; also cited in Mordekhai, Sukka 748) rules that this egged must follow the Torah’s standard of a knot, as defined in the laws of the Sabbath. Therefore, one should bind the arba minim with a double knot. The Shulchan Arukh (651:1) cites this position and adds that if one forgot to bind his arba minim together before Yom Tov, or if the knot became undone, he should tie them with a bow, since tying a double knot is prohibited on Yom Tov.
The Rema cites the Tur (651) who rules that on Yom Tov, one should make a loop around the lulav, hadassim, and aravot, and then put the head of the string through the loop and tighten it. The Rema adds that it is customary to tie this way during the week as well (see also Darkhei Moshe 651 and Magen Avraham 651:3). The Peri Megadim (Eshel Avraham 647) cites a similar custom, and records that this was his practice.
Nowadays, it is common practice of binding the arba minim with rings, and with a small basket made from lulav leaves, known as “koishiklech,” which hold the hadassim, aravot, and lulav together. The Mishna Berura (651:8) cites the Responsa Agura Be-Ohalekha, who justifies this practice, despite the fact that these “koishiklech” do not seem to qualify as a double knot. The Arukh Ha-Shulchan (651:7) also records that it was customary to use these baskets and then to bind them with additional rings; he explains that this is simply “nicer” (na’e yoter).
Some Acharonim (Chatam Sofer, Sukka 36a; Bikkurei Ya’akov 651:8) criticize this practice. Some suggest tying at least one double knot at the bottom of the four minim.
In addition, those who maintain that one must tie the arba minim with a double knot also insist that they be tied in a manner in which one cannot remove one of the species on Yom Tov. Therefore, one would not be able to replace one’s hadassim, as some do, on Yom Tov.
Preferably, one should prepare his egged before Yom Tov. What should one who forgot to prepare and bind the four minim do on Yom Tov? Some Acharonim (see, for example, Peri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 651:3) insist that one may rip off a leaf from a lulav on Yom Tov, as the labor of “tolesh” does not apply to items that have already been separated from the ground (see also Bikkure Ya’akov 651:5). The Sha’arei Teshuva (651:3) records that although it is customary to be stringent, one may cut the leaves of the lulav with one’s teeth, which is considered to be a “shinuy” (a melakha done in an abnormal manner), which would be permitted for the sake of a mitzva. However, one should only do so in private.
The Rema (651:1), citing the Mordekhai, writes that one should bind the lulav, hadassim, and aravot with three knots. The Magen Avraham (651:5) explains that the three knots correspond to our three forefathers. Some tie one knot around all of the species and another two around the lulav (Taz 651:1; Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav 651:11); others tie three knots around the lulav, aside from an additional knot around the three species (Eliya Rabba 651:6, Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 136:8). R. Shalom Shakhne Tsherniak writes in his Chaim U-Verakha (Hilkhot Etrog Ve-Lulav 288) that one should tie three knots around the three species and another two, above them, around the lulav. The Kaf Ha-Chaim (651:16) records that the Arizal would ties eighteen knots around his arba minim. Regardless of one’s personal custom, one should tie the four minim together at least once.
Taking Each Species Separately – Four Parts of a Whole
Unlike tefillin – a mitzva composed of two distinct parts (the tefillin shel rosh, worn on one’s head, and the tefillin shel yad, worn on one’s upper arm) – which most Rishonim (Rambam Sefer Ha-mitzvot, Positive Commandments 12-13; Semag, Asin 21-22; Chinukh 421-422) count as two separate mitzvot, all seem to agree that the arba minim together make up one single mitzva. How, then, are we to understand this mitzva and the relationship between the four species?
The Talmud (Sukka 36b) teaches that all four species must be taken; if not, it seems that one has not fulfilled the mitzva:
And from where do we know that they are a hindrance to one another [i.e. that one cannot fulfill the mitzva without taking all four]? Scripture teaches: “And you shall take” – [implying] that the taking must be complete (lekicha tama).
Elsewhere (Menachot 27a), the gemara asserts that “This was taught only in the case in which he did not have them at all, but when he had them all (yesh lo), one does not invalidate the other.” The Rishonim disagree regarding how to understand this passage.
The simple understanding of the gemara seems to indicate that one may fulfill the mitzva by taking all four minim consecutively, as long as “yesh lo,” “he had them.” Rabbeinu Tam (Tosafot, ad loc., s.v. she-tehe) wonders how one can fulfill the mitzva of arba minim when the four species are taken at different times, as the gemara implies, if taking the arba minim is considered to be one, single mitzva. He therefore rejects the simple understanding of the gemara and suggests that the correct text should read “however if he has them, even though he did not bind them together…” In other words, this passage simply supports that position of the Chakhamim that the four species need not be bound together. However, the arba minim certainly must be taken together.
Most Rishonim, however, reject this reading, and insist that under certain circumstances, one may take the four minim consecutively and still fulfill the mitzva. Indeed, the Behag, cited by Tosafot and the Rif (Sukka 17a), accepts the simple understanding of the gemara: One who takes all four minim, even consecutively, has fulfilled his obligation. The Rishonim differ as to how to understand the Behag’s position.
Some Rishonim insist that the four minim must all be in one’s possession in order to fulfill the mitzva. The Ritva (Sukka 34b, s.v. gemara), for example, explains that as long as one has all four species in his possession, he fulfills the mitzva even if he take one species after another. If, however, he does not have all four species in his possession, then he cannot fulfill the mitzva in this manner. While the Ritva implies that the arba minim must merely be in his possession, the Rosh (Sukka 3:14) writes that the four species should be “munachin kol arbatan lefanav” – physically present, in front of him. Interestingly, the Rambam (Hilkhot Lulav 7:6) explains that the four species must be “metzuyin etzlo” – which may imply that they must be “in one’s possession,” like the Ritva’s interpretation, or that the four species must be present physically in from of him, like the Rosh argued. The Ran (Sukka 17a, s.v. ve-af al gav; see also Ritva 34b, s.v. gemara) cites the Ramban, who explains that even one who does not have all four minim in his possession should take each one as he receives it, and after taking all four, he fulfills his obligation. The gemara only intended to exclude a case in which a person did not take all four species.
Seemingly, we must suggest that according to Rabbeinu Tam, had the Torah not required a “lekicha tama,” a complete taking, one may have been able to take the four species consecutively. The derasha teaches that the arba minim are to be viewed as one mitzva, which logic dictates must be taken at once. The other Rishonim (Ritva, Rosh, and Rambam) may maintain that without the derasha of lekicha tama, one might have viewed the four species as four separate mitzvot; one who takes even one or two of the species fulfills a mitzva. Indeed, some Rishonim (see Tosafot, Menachot 27a, s.v. u-lekachtem; Or Zaru’a 308; see also Mordekhai, Sukka 747 and Hagahot Asheri, Sukka 3:14) record that since “lekicha tama” only applies on the first day, as we saw regarding chaser, one who does not have all four species on Chol Ha-Mo’ed may still take some of them, and recite a blessing! These Rishonim maintain that the derasha requires that all four minim be taken together on the first day, and they simply disagree as to what constitutes “together.” The Ramban, however, insists that the derasha merely requires that one take all four minim, and not that they must be taken – in any way – “together.”
Interestingly, the Responsa Oneg Yom Tov (1) insists that all agree with the position of the Ramban; the Rosh, Ritva, and Rambam demand the presence of all four minim only for the sake of the berakha, lest one not actually take all four minim, in which case the blessing will be in vain.
The Sefer Ha-Michtam (Sukka 34b) offers a different explanation of the entire passage. He explains that one who does not have all four minim must take whatever he has at the same time. However, if he has all four minim in his possession, he can take them consecutively, one after the other. Apparently, although taking one of the minim has no value, one may either take some of them together or all of them, even consecutively. He also cites the Ra’avad, who writes that although one who does not have all four minim should not recite the blessing, he should still take them in order to “remember” the mitzva of arba minim.
The Shulchan Arukh (651:12) rules in accordance with the Rambam; one need not take all four species together in order to fulfill the mitzva, but rather, as long as they are “metzuiyim etzlo,” he discharges his obligation. If, however, one species is missing, he should take the rest as a “zekher be-alma” (a remembrance). The Rema adds that the four minim should be “le-fanav” – physically in front of him – and that one should first take the lulav and recite the blessing “al netilat lulav.” If he talks in between taking the four minim, he should recite a separate blessing on each remaining species. The Magen Avraham (521:25; see also Ritva 35b) disagrees.
Although the halakha permits one to take the four minim individually, but consecutively, it remains unclear whether one fulfills the mitzva only after all four minim have been taken, or whether there is an inherent fulfillment of a mitzva each time one of the minim is taken. (We saw a somewhat similar question regarding sefirat ha-omer – is the mitzva fulfilled only after one counted each of the thirty-nine nights, or does each night constitute a new mitzva?) This question may be relevant to next week’s topic: How and when does one recite the blessing over the arba minim?
Next week, we will discuss the proper manner in which to recite the blessing over the arba minim, and then we will examine the “na’anu’im” (waving) of the lulav and their halakhic significance.