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Study and Theory/

The Laws of Lulav

Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Lulav

Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Lulav, Chapter 7


1. The term "the frond of the date palm" employed by the Torah refers to the branches of a date palm as they sprout, before their leaves separate and spread out in various directions. Rather, they should appear as a scepter. This is called a lulav.


2. The "fruit of the beautiful tree" mentioned in the Torah is the etrog. And " the boughs of leafy trees" mentioned in the Torah refer to the [species of] myrtle whose leaves surround its branch; i.e., there will be three or more leaves in each ring. However, if there are two leaves on one level, with a third leaf slightly higher than them, that is not considered to be "covered." Rather, it is called a wild myrtle


3. The term "willows of the brook" mentioned by the Torah does not include just any plant that grows by a brook, but rather a particular species, which is called the "willows of the brook". Its leaf is extended, its edge is smooth, and its stem is red. It is called a willow. The majority of this species grow near brooks. Therefore, it is called the "willows of the brook." Even if this species grew in the desert or on a mountain, it would be kosher.


4. There is another species which resembles the willow. However, its leaf is rounded, its edge resembles a saw, and its stem is not red. This is called a tzaftzefah. It is unfit [to be used for the mitzvah]. There is another type of willow, whose leaf does not have a smooth edge, but it is not like a saw. Rather, it has tiny juttings, like the edge of a small sickle. It is kosher. And all ofl the above definitions were explained according to the oral tradition transmitted by Moses, our teacher


5. These four species are considered to be one mitzvah, and each one is required for its performance. All of them [together] are called the mitzvah of lulav. One may not diminish them or add to them. If one of the species cannot be found, a similar species may not be substituted for it.


6. The most desirable way of performing the mitzvah is to bind the lulav, myrtle, and willow together, thus making a single, unified entity from the three of them. Before one takes them to perform the mitzvah, he should recite the blessing on the mitzvah of taking the lulav, for all the others are dependent upon it. Afterwards, he takes this bound entity in his right hand and the etrog in his left hand. He must take them as they grow - i.e., their roots below towards the earth, and their heads upward towards the sky. If a person did not bind them together, but rather took them one by one, he has fulfilled his obligation, provided he possesses all four species. However, if he has only one species or he is lacking one species, he should not take them until he acquires the remaining species.


7. How many does one take of each of them? One lulav, one etrog, two willow branches, and three myrtle branches. If one would like to add more myrtle branches so that the bundle will be larger, he may. Indeed, it is considered to be an adornment of the mitzvah. However, it is forbidden to add to or reduce the numbers of the other species. If one adds to or reduces their number, it is not acceptable.


8. What is the required length of each of these species? The lulav may not be less than four handbreadths. [Beyond that,] regardless of its length, it is kosher. Its length is measured only from its shidrah (spine) and not from the tips of the leaves. The myrtle and the willow may not be less than three handbreadths. [Beyond that,] regardless of their length, they are kosher. Even if each branch has only three fresh leaves on it, they are kosher, provided the leaves are at the top of the branch. If one has bound [the other species together with] the lulav, the shidrah of the lulav must extend beyond the myrtle and the willow a handbreadth or more. The minimum size of an etrog is the size of an egg. [Beyond that,] regardless of its size, it is kosher.


9. Once a person lifts up these four species - whether he lifts them up together or one after the other - whether in his right hand or in his left hand - he has fulfilled his obligation. [This applies] only when he lifts them up as they grow. However, if he does not lift them up as they grow, he has not fulfilled his obligation. The fulfillment of the mitzvah as the law [requires is as follows]: One should lift up the three species as they are bound together in one's right hand and the etrog in one's left hand. Then, one should pass them back and forth, up and down, and shake the lulav three times in each direction.


[10]. What does the above entail? One passes the lulav forward and shakes the top of the lulav three times, brings it back and shakes the top of the lulav three times. One follows this same pattern when lifting it up and down. At what point [in prayer] does one pass the lulav back and forth? During the reading of the Hallel, at the first and final recitation of the verse [Psalms 118:1, 118:29]: Hodu Lado-nai ki tov... and at the verse [Psalms 118:25]: Ana Ado-nai hoshi'ah na. It is acceptable to take the lulav throughout the entire day. However, it is not taken at night.


10 [11]. If one wraps a cord of silver or gold around [the three species] as they are bound together or wraps a [decorative] cloth around them and takes them, one fulfills his obligation. Taking the lulav through another medium is still considered to be taking it, provided [that medium] is one which gives honor and beauty [to the mitzvah, because]: "any entity which makes a substance more attractive is not considered to be a separation. However, if one placed these species in a vase or a pot and took them, one has not fulfilled one's obligation.


11 [12]. If one binds the lulav together with the myrtle and the willow and separates between the lulav and the myrtle with a cloth or the like, it is considered to be a separation. If one separates between them with myrtle leaves, it is not considered to be a separation, because an entity does not separate between its own kind. One may bind the together with a string, a cord, or with any substance one desires, since binding it together is not a required element of the mitzvah.


12 [13]. The mitzvah of taking the lulav in every place, during every age - even on the Sabbath - applies only on the first day of the festival, as [Leviticus 23:40] states: "And on the first day, you shall take In the holy place alone, it is to be taken on each of the seven days of the festival, as [the above verse] continues: "and you shall rejoice before God, your Lord, [seven days]. When the Sabbath falls during the [later] days, [the lulav] is not taken on the Sabbath. This is a decree lest one carry it four cubits in the public domain, as decreed regarding the shofar.


13 [14]. Why was this decree not put in effect on the first day of the festival? Because [taking the lulav on that day] is a mitzvah from the Torah even outside of Jerusalem. Thus, the laws applying to it are not the same as those applying to the remaining days, because on the subsequent days of the festival a person is obligated to take the lulav only in the temple.


14 [15]. When the Temple was destroyed, [the Sages] ordained that the lulav be taken everywhere for the entire seven days of the festival, as a remembrance of the Temple. On each day, one recites the blessing on it. [Baruch Attah Ado-nai...] asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tzivanu al netilat lulav because it a mitzvah ordained by the Rabbis. This enactment, like the other enactments instituted by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai when the Temple was destroyed [is only temporary]. When the Temple is rebuilt, these matters will return to their original status.


15 [16]. While the Temple was standing, the lulav would be taken [in the holy place even] when the first day of Sukkot fell on the Sabbath. The same applies in other places where they were certain that this day was celebrated as a holiday in Eretz Yisrael. However, the places which were distantly removed from Jerusalem would not take the lulav on this day because of the doubt involved.


16 [17]. When the Temple was destroyed, the Sages forbade even the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael who had sanctified the new month to take the lulav on the Sabbath on the first day of Sukkot. [This was instituted] because of the inhabitants of the distant settlements, who were not aware of when the new month had been declared. Thus, a uniform guideline was established, rather than having some take the lulav on the Sabbath and some not. [The guiding principle was] that the obligation [of taking the lulav] on the first day applies in all places, and there is no longer a Temple to use as a point of distinction.


17 [18]. At present, when everyone follows a fixed calendar, the matter remains as it was, and the lulav is not taken on the Sabbath in the outlying territories or in Eretz Yisrael even on the first day [of the festival]. [This applies] even though everyone knows the actual day of the month. As explained, the reason for the prohibition of taking the lulav on the Sabbath is a decree lest one carry it four cubits in the public domain.


18 [19]. Whoever is obligated to fulfill [the mitzvot of] shofar and sukkah is obligated to take the lulav. Whoever is not obligated regarding shofar and sukkah is not obligated to take the lulav. A child who knows how to shake [the lulav] is obligated regarding the lulav by Rabbinic law, in order to train him in the performance of mitzvot.


19 [20]. It is a halachah conveyed by Moses from Mount Sinai that - in addition to the willow of the lulav - another willow branch was taken in the Temple. A person does not fulfill his obligation with the willow branch in the lulav. The minimum requirement [to fulfill this mitzvah] is even one branch with one leaf.


20 [21]. How was this mitzvah performed: On each of the seven days [of the festival], branches of willows were brought and stood upright near the altar with their tops bent over the altar. When they would bring them and arrange them [near the altar,] a series of [shofar blasts] - teki'ah, teru'ah, and teki'ah - were sounded. When the Sabbath fell in the midst of the festival, the willows would not be arranged [near the altar] unless the seventh day fell on the Sabbath. [On such an occasion,] the willows were arranged [near the altar], to publicize the fact that [taking] them is a mitzvah.


21 [22]. How would they fulfill [this mitzvah on the Sabbath] They would bring [the branches] to the Temple on the Sabbath eve and place them in golden containers, so their leaves would not dry out.  On the following morning, they would be placed next to the altar and the people would take them in the same manner as they did each day. Since the willow is not explicitly mentioned in the Torah, it is not taken on each of the seven days of the festival as a remembrance of the Temple. Rather, at present it is taken only on the seventh day. What is done? One takes one branch or many branches in addition to the willow of the lulav and hits the ground or a utensil with them two or three times. No blessing is recited, because this practice is a custom instituted by the prophets.


22 [23]. On each day of the festival, they would walk around the altar once, carrying their lulavs in their hands, reciting: "Please, God, save us. Please, God, grant us success" [Psalms 118:25]. On the seventh day, they would walk around the altar seven times. It has become universally accepted Jewish custom to place the ark in the center of the synagogue and walk around it each day, as they walked around the altar in remembrance of the Temple [service]


23 [24]. The following custom was observed in Jerusalem: A person would leave his house in the morning [carrying] his lulav in his hand. He would enter the synagogue with it in his hand; pray while it was in his hand; go to visit the sick and comfort the mourners with it in his hand. When he entered the House of Study, he would send it home with his son or his servant.


24 [25]. During the time the lulav was taken on the Sabbath, a woman was allowed to receive the lulav from her son or her husband and return it to the water on the Sabbath. On the festival, a person might add to the water. On Chol HaMoed, one might change the water.


25 [26]. It is forbidden to smell the myrtle in the lulav. Since it is useful only for smelling and it has been set aside for the performance of the mitzvah, it is forbidden to smell it. However, it is permitted to smell an etrog, because setting it aside for the mitzvah [prohibits it from being] eaten.


26 [27]. It is forbidden to eat the etrog throughout the seventh day [of the festival]; since it was set aside for a portion of the day, it is set aside for the entire day. However, on the eighth day it is permitted to be eaten. At present, when we celebrate [the festivals for] two days - even though the etrog is not taken on the eighth day - the etrog is forbidden on the eighth day, since it was forbidden on the eighth day during the time [the festivals] were celebrated for two days because of the doubt whether [the eighth day] was, in fact, the seventh. When a person sets aside seven etrogs, [one for each] of the seven days [of the festival], each one of them can be used for the mitzvah on its day and eaten on the morrow.

Mishneh Torah, The Laws of Lulav, Chapter 8

1. [These are the rules governing] the four species: the lulav, the myrtle, the willow, and the etrog. If one of them was: a) dried out, b) taken by force or stolen, even after [the owner had] despaired of its recovery, c) came from an ashera that has been worshiped, even though the worship of the ashera has already been nullified, d) or it came from an apostate city it is not acceptable. If one of them belonged to an idolater: at the outset, it should not be taken. If it was taken, the person has fulfilled his obligation. If [one of the species] was wilting, but had not dried out entirely, it is kosher. In extreme situations or in a time of danger, a dried out lulav is kosher. However, [this does not apply] to the other species.

2. An etrog of orlah, of impure terumah, and of tevel is unacceptable. [An etrog] of d'mai is permitted, for it is possible for a person to declare all of his property as ownerless. Thus, he will be a poor man who is permitted to eat d'mai. An etrog of pure terumah and of ma'aser sheni in Jerusalem should not be taken, lest one cause it to become susceptible to contracting ritual impurity. However, if it was taken, it is kosher.

3. A lulav whose tip becomes cut off is unacceptable. Should it become split to the extent that the two sides of the split become severed and appear to be two, it is unacceptable. If it is bent forward so that its shidrah appears like a hunchback, it is unacceptable. If it is bent backwards, it is kosher since that is its natural pattern of growth. If it is bent toward either side, it is unacceptable. If its leaves have separated one from the other, but they have not begun to hang downward like the top of a date palm, it is kosher. However, if its leaves have burst open and they hang down from the shidrah as does the top of the date palm, it is unacceptable.

4 The natural pattern of growth of the leaves of the lulav is that two grow in pairs, connected at their back. The back of each pair of connected leaves is called the tiyomet. If the tiyomet is split, it unacceptable. Should a lulav's leaves grow individually from the beginning of its formation without having a tiyomet, it is unacceptable.

When a lulav's leaves do not grow on top of the other like all lulavs, but rather one below the other, [the following rules apply:] If the top [of the lower leaf] reaches the base of the one above it so that the entire shidrah of the lulav is covered with leaves, it is kosher. If the top [of the lower leaf] does not reach the base of the one above it, it is unacceptable.

5 A myrtle branch whose top is cut off is acceptable. Even though most of its leaves have fallen off, it is kosher, provided three leaves remain in one row. When there are more berries than leaves, [the following rules apply:] If they are green, it is kosher. If they are red or black, it is not acceptable. If one reduced their number, it is acceptable.

We may not reduce their number on the holiday itself, because [by doing so, one] makes [the myrtle] fit for use. If one transgressed and removed them or removed them one by one to eat them, it is kosher.

6 A willow branch whose top is cut off is kosher. If its leaves have burst open, it is not acceptable.

7 If an etrog is perforated from side to side - no matter how small the hole is - it is not acceptable. When [the hole] does not go from side to side, if it is the size of an isar or more, [the etrog] is not acceptable. If [a hole was made in an etrog which caused] even the slightest amount [of the etrog] to be missing, [the etrog] is not acceptable. If its pitam - i.e., the small protrusion from which its flower grows - was removed, it is not acceptable. [Similarly,] if the stem from which it hangs from the tree is removed from the etrog itself and a hole is left, it is not acceptable. If it becomes covered with bumps in two or three places, it is not acceptable. Even if it is covered with bumps in only one place, if that place covers the majority of the etrog's surface area, it is not acceptable. [Similarly,] if a bump grows on even the slightest portion of the pitam, it is not acceptable. If its peel is removed without causing [the etrog] to lose any substance and it remains greenish yellow as in its natural state, [the following rules apply:] If the peel was entirely removed, it is not acceptable. If even the slightest portion of the original peel remains, it is kosher.

8 An etrog which is inflated, decaying, pickled, cooked, black, white, spotted, or green like a leek is unacceptable. If it was grown in a mold and shaped into the form of another creation, it is unacceptable. If its natural form was preserved, even though it was shaped in different layers, it is kosher. Two etrogs that grow joined together, and an unripe etrog are kosher. In places where the etrogs grow naturally with a slight black tinge, it is kosher. However, if [the etrogs] are very black - i.e., like a Kushite - they are unacceptable everywhere.


9 All the species which 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. Those which are disqualified because of the association with idol worship or because the etrog is forbidden to be eaten are unacceptable both on the first day and on the later days.


10 On the first day of the festival, a person cannot fulfill his obligation by using a lulav that belongs to a colleague and was borrowed from him, unless the latter gives it to him as a present. If [the owner of the lulav] gives it to him as a present on the condition that he return it, he may fulfill his obligation with it and return it, because a present given on condition that it be returned is considered a present. If he does not return it, he does not fulfill his obligation, because it is as though it were stolen. [On the first day,] a lulav should not be given to a minor, since, according to Torah law, a minor can acquire articles but cannot transfer them to others. Thus, [the minor's] return of the article is not considered to be a return [from a legal perspective]. The above applies to the lulav and to each of the other species of the four taken with it. If one of them was borrowed, the person does not fulfill his obligation on the first day of the festival.


11 When partners purchase a lulav or etrog together, neither is able to fulfill his obligation with it on the first [day of the festival] unless his colleague gives him his portion as a present. Should brothers purchase etrogs from the funds [of their father's] estate, which they have not divided yet: If one of them takes an etrog with the intent of fulfilling his obligation, [the following rules apply:] If he could eat it without the other brothers objecting, he has fulfilled his obligation. If they would object, he does not fulfill his obligation until they give him their share [in the etrog] as a present. If one brother bought an etrog and another a quince, or together they bought an etrog, a pomegranate, and a quince from the funds [of their father's] estate, which they have not divided yet, one cannot fulfill one's obligation with the etrog until the others give him their share [in it] as a present, even though they would not object to his [use of it].


12 Even though it is a mitzvah to rejoice on all the festivals, there was an additional celebration in the Temple on the festival of Sukkot, as [Leviticus 23:40] commands: "And you shall rejoice before God, your Lord, for seven days." What was done? On the eve of the first day of the festival, they would set up a place in the Temple where women [could watch] from above, and men from below, so they would not intermingle with each other. The celebration would begin on the night after the first day of the festival. Similarly, on each day of Chol HaMoed, after offering the daily afternoon sacrifice, they would begin to celebrate for the rest of the day and throughout the night.


13 What was the nature of this celebration? The flute would be sounded and songs played on the harp, lute, and cymbals. [In addition,] each person would play on the instrument which he knew. Those who could sing, would sing. They would dance and clap their hands, letting loose and whistling, each individual in the manner which he knew. Words of song and praise were recited. This celebration does not supersede either the Sabbath or the festival [prohibitions].


14 It is a great mitzvah to maximize this celebration. The common people and anyone who desired would not perform [in these celebrations]; only the greatest of Israel's wise men: the Rashei Yeshivot, the members of the high court, the pious, the elders, and the men of stature. They were those who would dance, clap their hands, sing, and rejoice in the Temple on the days of the festival of Sukkot. However, the entire people - the men and the women - would come to see and hear.


15. The happiness with which a person should rejoice in the fulfillment of the mitzvot and the love of God who commanded them is a great service. Whoever holds himself back from this rejoicing is worthy of retribution, as [Deuteronomy 28:47] states: "...because you did not serve God, your Lord, with happiness and a glad heart." Whoever holds himself proud, giving himself honor, and acts haughtily in such situations is a sinner and a fool. Concerning this, Solomon warned [Proverbs 28:10]: "Do not seek glory before the King."


16. [In contrast,] anyone who lowers himself and thinks lightly of his person in these situations is [truly] a great person, worthy of honor, who serves God out of love. Thus, David, King of Israel, declared [II Samuel 6:22]: "I will hold myself even more lightly esteemed than this and be humble in my eyes," because there is no greatness or honor other than celebrating before God, as [II Samuel 6:16] states: "King David was dancing wildly and whistling before God."

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