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The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Gemara Sukka
Yeshivat Har Etzion


SHIUR #15: BINDING THE LULAV AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE VARIOUS SPECIES

Rav Shmuel Shimoni

 

 

Lulav, whether it is bound or it is not bound – it is fit. Rabbi Yehuda says: If it is bound, it is fit, if it is not bound, it is disqualified. - What is the reasoning of Rabbi Yehuda? "Taking" is learned from "taking" regarding the bunch of hyssop. There it is written: "And take a bunch of hyssop" (Shemot 12:22). And here it is written: "And you shall take for yourselves" (Vayikra 23:40). Just as there - bound together, here too – bound together. - And the Rabbis: We do not learn "taking" from "taking." - According to whom was it taught: "There is a mitzva to bind the lulav, but if it is not bound, it is fit. If in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, if it is not bound, why is it fit? And if in accordance with the Rabbis, why is there a mitzva [to bind it]? - In fact, it is in accordance with the Rabbis, and because it says: "He is my God, and I will beautify Him" (Shemot 15:2) – beautify yourself before Him with mitzvot. (Sukka 11b)

 

THE POSITION OF RABBI YEHUDA

 

            Rabbi Yehuda's source is a passage relating to the paschal offering brought in Egypt: "An take a bunch (agudat) of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch with it the lintel and the two side posts, with the blood that is in the basin…" (Shemot 12:22). According to the simple understanding, the Gemara is working on the assumption that in the case of the paschal offering, there was an obligation to bind the hyssop, and Rabbi Yehuda extends that obligation to the four species by way of a gezera shava. The Tosafot (13a, s.v. mitzvot), however, remain with an unresolved question regarding this derivation, for from the hyssop of the paschal offering the Rabbis also learned the law of binding regarding the hyssop of the red heifer, and regarding that binding the Mishna states explicitly that it is not indispensable (Para 11:9), whereas binding the lulav according to Rabbi Yehuda is indispensable. We shall examine some of the resolutions of this difficulty suggested by the Rishonim.

 

The Ba'al Ha-Ma'or (7a) argues that the binding in the case of the hyssop of the red heifer is in fact indispensable, and the Mishna in Para is dealing with a case where the various hyssop stems share a common stalk through which they are connected, and binding by natural means is regarded as binding. The Ra'avad rejects the Ba'al Ha-Ma'or's position regarding binding by natural means, and argues that the binding in the case of the hyssop of the red heifer is not indispensable. As for the binding in the case of lulav, Rabbi Yehuda has another source from which he learns that it is indispensable:

 

Even according to Rabbi Yehuda who says that in the case of lulav [binding] is indispensable, it is [only] there because the mitzva of binding is derived from "He is my God, and I will beautify Him," and [the gezera shava] of "taking"-"taking" [teaches] that it is indispensable. But in the case of the hyssop [of the red heifer], the gezera shava of "taking"-"taking" [teaches only] that there is mitzva [to bind].

 

            The Ra'avad argues that the obligation of binding according to Rabbi Yehuda is not based on the laws of "taking," namely, that the nature of the taking must be that of a taking of a single entity (regarding lulav, hadas and arava). Rather it is based on the source from which even the Rabbis derive a mitzva to bind – "He is my God, and I will beautify Him," only that according to Rabbi Yehuda, this source makes the binding indispensable. Of course, the Ra'avad assumes that "He is my God, and I will beautify Him," is invoked here not as the source of the general law of hiddur mitzva, but rather as the source of a special law regarding the ideal manner of fulfilling the mitzva of the four species.

 

            The Ritva (11b, s.v. u-be-pelugta) brings in the name of his teacher, Rabbi Aharon Halevi (Re'a), a fascinating and entirely different explanation:

 

My master answered that there are two types of binding: one with a cord, and one by hand, that he takes them altogether and they constitute a [single] bunch in his hand. When we say there that there is a mitzva to bind them, but if he did not bind them, it is fit – that is with a cord. And when we say here that the hyssop requires binding – that is binding by hand. And it is about this that Rabbi Yehuda says that a lulav that is not bound, i.e., where he does not take all three species in his hand as a single bunch, but rather one after the other, is disqualified, namely, that he does not fulfill his obligation. That which he says "disqualified," means that each one by it itself is unfit to be used to fulfill the mitzva, and only becomes fit when bound together with the other species in his hand. And the Rabbis maintain that even if he did not bind them in his hand, but rather he took them one after the other, each one is fit. And we hold like the Rabbis that lulav does not require binding. It, therefore, follows that even if he took them one after the other, each one by itself, he has fulfilled his obligation, provided that they are all in front of him. Lekhatchila, however, there is a mitzva to bind them in his hand or with cords, because of "He is my God, and I will beautify Him."

 

            According to the Re'a, the law of tying the four species together is not indispensable even according to Rabbi Yehuda.[1] Rabbi Yehuda extended the law of the hyssop of the paschal offering to lulav, and it applies also to the hyssop of the red heifer, that one must take the various components together – "binding by hand," and if one fails to do so, it is disqualified. Here Re'a explains the meaning of the term "disqualified": "It is disqualified, namely, he does not fulfill his obligation. That which he says 'disqualified,' means that each one by it itself is unfit to be used to fulfill the mitzva, and only becomes fit when bound together with the other species in his hand." That is to say, we are not dealing here with a law in the act of taking, but rather with a definition of the cheftza (object) of the various species, that each one taken individually is void of meaning, and that the only way to turn them into fit species is by joining them together.

 

According to this we also understand that which is implicit in the words of the Re'a, that even according to Rabbi Yehuda, it is possible to take the etrog before or after the other species: "A lulav that is not bound, i.e., where he does not take all three species in his hand as a single bunch, but rather one after the other, is disqualified." The four species are divided into two groups: the etrog – a fruit – constituting one group, and the other three species – the branches of trees[2] - constituting the other. Rabbi Yehuda does not add anything new regarding the act of taking, but only about the definition of the object, namely, that the object that is fit as a unit of branches is a threesome of species, and none of them by itself is a fit species. As for the act of taking, he agrees with the Rabbis, that there is no problem in taking one after the other.

 

Of course, whether we are dealing with a law governing the act of taking or a law governing the definition of the object, this may be applied not only to binding by hand, but also in the framework of the simple understanding of the position of Rabbi Yehuda, that he requires binding with a cord by Torah law. That is to say, that this binding defines the taking of the three-pronged unit as a single taking, or in the words of the Re'a, it defines the three species as a single object.

 

This may have significance regarding the position of the Re'a himself. There is a certain difficulty in his position that Rabbi Yehuda does not require binding with a cord, for a number of talmudic passages suggest that Rabbi Yehuda's position is in fact connected to actual tying:

 

1)         The passage that we already saw on p. 30b, which suggests that only according to Rabbi Yehuda can the binding of the lulav be seen as a change in substance that effects a kinyan, for it thereby defines the lulav as a halakhic unit of four species.[3]

2)         The context of the passage on p. 11b (and so too below p. 33a), that adjustments of the hadas following the binding involves the problem of "'ta'ase' – and not that which was already made" (see also p. 33a, regarding dichui).

3)         The passage on p. 31b which states that according to Rabbi Yehuda who requires binding, that which is outside the binding is not regarded for the purposes of bal tosif, for "this stands on its own and this stands on its own."

 

Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik (as cited in the Notes from his Shiurim, p. 13a) understands that even according to the Re'a, binding by hand is not the only way to join the species together. Binding by way of a cord is another way of joining the species, and when there is a real tie, then the binding by hand is meaningless.

 

We may summarize by saying that there are two main ways of understanding the position of Rabbi Yehuda: one way which focuses on the tying itself, e.g., the view of the Ra'avad which is based on "He is my God, and I will beautify Him"; and another way that focuses on the joining together of at least three of the species. According to the second understanding, we must distinguish between a law in the act of taking and a law in the fitness of the object, and also between joining by way of a cord and joining by way of a hand.

 

THE POSITION OF THE RABBIS

 

And the four [species] connected to the lulav… hinder each other… "And you shall take" (u-lekachtem) – a whole taking (lekicha tama). Rav Chanan bar Rava said: This only applies when he is lacking [a species], but when he has them, they do not hinder. An objection was raised… And one does not fulfill his obligation with them unless they are all in one bunch… It is a Tannaitic dispute, for it was taught: Lulav, whether it is bound or it is not bound – it is fit. Rabbi Yehuda says: If it is bound, it is fit, if it is not bound, it is disqualified. (Menachot 24a)

 

            The Mishna states that the four species are indispensable for each other, and the Gemara offers a special derivation for this law. Clearly, even without this derivation we would know that there is an obligation to take all four species, and that the verse is not a menu from which we may pick and choose. But we might have thought that if one or more of them is missing, there is a mitzva to take those species that one has. According to the simple understanding, the law of "lekicha tama" teaches us that we are dealing here with a single mitzva¸ the performance of only part of which has no meaning, as the Rambam writes in the introductory principles to his Sefer Ha-Mitzvot:

 

Sometimes a single command which constitutes a single mitzva will have many parts, like the mitzva of lulav which involves four species. Now we do not say that the etrog constitutes a separate mitzva and the lulav constitutes a separate mitzva and the hadasim constitute a separate mitzva and the aravot constitutes a separate mitzva. For these are all parts of the mitzva. For He commanded to bring them together and after bringing them together, the mitzva is to take them all in the hand on the designated day… Everything about which the Sages said (Menachot 26a) that the various components hinder each other, it is clear that they are a single mitzva, like the four species of the lulav. (Principle 11)

 

            The Rishonim, however, disagree whether the law of joining the various species lies at the very foundation of the definition of the mitzva, which is to take this bunch of species, or as a particular element of the mitzva, which we could imagine being absent from the mitzva. As might be remembered, the Tosafot at the beginning of the chapter presented this law as an example that illustrates the fact that laws relating to the basic taking of the lulav disqualify the mitzva all seven days. The Or Zarua, however, records a disagreement on this issue:

 

Rabbi Yaakov of Orleans ztz"l answered that one who does not have an etrog should take the other species and recite the blessing on the second day of the festival, for the species are indispensable for each other only on the first day, as is the case with an etrog that is missing something. This does not appear correct to my teacher, Rabbenu Avi ha-Ezri, for it is different there, for even though the etrog is missing something, there are nevertheless four species. And it seems to me that the practical Halakha is in accordance with his [Ri of Orleans] opinion, for we learned from "And you shall take for yourselves" – lekicha tama, to the exclusion of an etrog that is missing, and we also interpret "And you shall take for yourselves" - lekicha tama, that the four species are indispensable for each other. Therefore, just as the lekicha tama which disqualifies an etrog that is missing something is only on the first day of the festival, so too the lekicha tama which makes the four species indispensable for each other, is only on the first day. And so is the law.

 

            According to the Ri of Orleans and the Or Zarua, fundamentally, the mitzva of the four species can be fulfilled by taking each species separately. It is only on the first day that there is an additional law that the four species are indispensable for each other, which requires that they be taken altogether.

 

THE POSITION OF RABBENU TAM

 

            Let us continue now in the Gemara in Menachot. What does Rav Chanan mean when he says that according to the Sages, "when he has them, they do not hinder"? Most of the Rishonim understood, in one way or another, as we shall see below, that there is no obligation to take them all together, joined by the hand. Rabbenu Tam, however, disagrees:

 

It is astonishing to say that. Since it is all one mitzva, how will it help one after the other? Rabbenu Tam emended his book to read: "This only applies that they hinder each other because of '[lekicha] tama,' when he is lacking [one of the species], but when he has them, it is 'tama' even if he does not join them together in a binding, as we said that the Sages did not learn 'taking' – 'taking.' And according to R Yehuda who did learn 'taking' [- 'taking'], it seems that it is only 'tama' if he binds them. (34b, Tosafot, s.v. shetehe)

 

            Rabbenu Tam attributes to the Sages the understanding that the Re'a offered regarding the view of Rabbi Yehuda. It is clear to Rabbenu Tam that it is meaningless to perform part of the mitzva, for each unit lacks meaning by itself. Were it not for the law of "lekicha tama," we might have thought that even the taking of a single species is meaningful. But after we have learned that they are all indispensable for each other, each one by itself is left with ho meaning. Joining the various components together is what gives them meaning, and it is on this point that Rabbi Yehuda and the Sages disagree, whether joining by hand suffices, or whether the species must be joined by a cord.

 

THE RISHONIM WHO DISAGREE WITH RABBENU TAM

 

            The Rif clearly disagrees with Rabbenu Tam: "When he has them, they do not hinder - even though he takes each one separately, he fulfills his obligation, for we maintain that lulav does not require binding" (17a). See also Rambam: "These four species constitutes a single mitzva, and they hinder each other, and they are [all together] called the mitzva of lulav… And if he did not bind them, but took them one after the other, he fulfills his obligation, provided that he has the four of them. But if he only has one of them, or if one species is missing, he must not take [what he has] until he finds the rest" (7:5-6). Both the Rif and the Rambam imply that a person can fulfill his obligation by taking the species one after the other, but only if all the species are in his possession. On this point, writes the Ran, the Ramban disagrees:


In the name of the Ramban, z"l, they are even more lenient, saying that even if they were not together in his possession, as long as he takes them all, he fulfills his obligation. When we say that if he is lacking [a species], they hinder each other, this mean that as long as he has not taken all of them, he has not fulfilled his obligation with respect to any of them. But as long as they come into his hand, even one after the other, he has fulfilled his obligation. Nevertheless, it is unfitting to recite the blessing on the lulav unless he knows with certainty that he will have all of them. For even though we recite the blessing exclusively over the lulav, since we say that if they do not all come, he does not fulfill his obligation, perhaps he will not have them, and it will be a blessing recited in vain.

 

            On a certain level, the Rambam and the Rif accept Rabbenu Tam's fundamental approach. We are talking about a single unit which must be joined together, but for that purpose they need not be taken all at the same time. It suffices that all the components be present and that he take them in succession (see Sefat Emet on Menachot, who explains that according to this opinion, we require that the various species be fit for binding, based on the rule of "whatever is fit for mixing, mixing is not indispensable"). The Ramban, on the other hand, rejects this principle, saying that each component can be isolated, though there is an external condition that over the course of the day all parts of the mitzva must be executed.

 

            Incidentally, we find that one of the Rishonim, R. Moshe b. R. Yehuda, father of the author of the Hashlama, proposed a most exceptional understanding of the Gemara in Menachot:

 

"This only applies where he is lacking [one of the species]" – that is to say, where he does not have all of them, but only two or three; "they hinder each other" – he must take together whatever he has, but if he takes them one at a time, he has not fulfilled his obligation. If, however, "he has all of them, they do not hinder each other" that he must take them all together, for even if he takes them one at a time, he has fulfilled his obligation. (Mikhtam 34b)

 

            According to this understanding, when there is only a single species, there can be no fulfillment of the mitzva. When there is more than one species, there are two tracks: the mitzva can be fulfilled through the joining of more than one of the four species, and for that purpose they must be taken together; or the mitzva can be fulfilled by taking all four species, in which case the fulfillment of the mitzva depends not necessarily on the joining of the various species, but on the presence of all the species.

 

            It should be noted that a serious clarification of this topic must relate also to the issue of the blessing recited over the four species in one taking as opposed to four takings. God willing we shall deal with this issue later in the chapter.

 

 

 

            For the next shiur, please advance to the colon on p. 31b. We shall deal with the law of "bal tosif" with respect to lulav. Alongside our passage, with its two components which appear to contradict each other, see also the Mishna, below, p. 36b, and the Gemara, ad loc., until "chamisha minei," together with Rashi; the Mishna in Sanhedrin 88b and the Gemara on it. In addition, see the following:

1)         Rabbenu Chananel, 31b, "amar mar… ka mashma lan de-pasil"; Tosafot, s.v. ho'il; Ritva, s.v. amara mar.

2)         Sanhedrin 88b, Tosafot, s.v. iy; Chiddushei ha-Ran, ad loc. (cited below).

3)         Rambam, Hilkhot Lulav 7:5, 7, and Ra'avad, Maggid Mishne, and Kesef Mishne on halakha 7.

 

Try to analyze in light of what we have seen in this shiur the ramifications of the positions of Rabbi Yehuda and the Rabbis on the prohibition of bal tosif, and its ability to disqualify the mitzva.





[1] The Mishna Acharona, in his commentary to Mishna Para, proposed a solution similar to that of the Re'a, but he understands that according to Rabbi Yehuda, there is a rabbinic enactment that one must bind the species with a cord, so that one not come to take the one after the other, and this enactment disqualifies the mitzva even bedi'eved.

[2] In Recanati's commentary to Vayikra 23:40, we find: "One must join the etrog to the other species, so as not to separate it from the rest. This secret was revealed to me in a dream on the first night of the festival of Sukkot when I was a guest of a certain Ashkenazi chasid named R. Yitzchak. I saw in my dream that he was writing the Tetragrammaton, separating the final letter 'he' from the first three letters. And I asked him, What are you doing? And he answered, This is the local custom. And I objected and wrote it whole. And I was astonished by the vision and did not understand. The next day at the time of taking the lulav, I saw that he waved only the lulav and its [accompanying] species, but without the etrog. And I understood the meaning of my dream, and he retracted." The Ashkenazi chasid apparently understood like Tosafot (37b, s.v. be-hodu) that the law of waving the lulav in Hallel is based on "Let all the trees of the forest sing," and he understood that the unit of the trees of the forest does not include the etrog. Recanati, on the other hand, attached great importance to joining the etrog to the other species, but this too as a separate unit that is taken in a different hand, which at most must be drawn close and made to come into contact with the other hand holding the three species. For we learned in the Gemara: "You might say that the etrog must be together with them in one binding. Does it say, 'the fruit of the hadar tree, and the branches of palm trees'? Surely it says only, '[the fruit of the hadar tree,] the branches [of palm trees]'" (34b), implying that the binding must join the lulav to the hadas and arava, but not to the etrog. Following this Gemarai, the Bet Yosef brings in sec. 621 the words of the Orchot Chayyim that one who takes the etrog in the same hand with the other species has not fulfilled his obligation, for we are dealing with two separate units, though he himself brings the Recanati's conclusion. The Taz (no. 14), however, raises a question about the position of the Orchot Chayyim: "This position is not clear, for on the contrary, the Gemara proves the opposite, for it is stated there on page 34: 'You might say that the etrog must be together with them in one binding. Does it say, "and the branches of palm trees."' Why does it not say: 'You might say that the etrog must be together with them in one hand, even if he did not bind it with the others.' Rather, it is only about the binding that the Torah was insistent that it not be together with the others, but it was not concerned about it being in the same hand."

[3] See Reshash and Maharatz Chayes, ad loc.

 
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