Lulav And Arava
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Written by: Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein
LULAV AND ARAVA
Enumerated in the mishna at the beginning of the fourth chapter of Sukka are the various additional mitzvot which pertain to Sukkot, aside from the one for which the festival is named. Two of these - lulav and arava - are grouped together in the Mishna
and share certain characteristics: they are both mitzvot specific to the day, are both performed with the four species (or a part thereof), and both are mitzvot which involve an act of lifting (ðèéìä).
Despite their similarities, however, we can discern several differences as well:
a. According to Biblical law, the lulav is taken in the
b. Rabbinically, lulav is prescribed outside the
c. Not only the timing but also the authority of their respective obligations differs. While lulav is a full-fledged rabbinic obligation outside the
enactment of R. Yochanan ben Zakkai, there is a lack of consensus among the amoraim in the gemara regarding whether the arava in such circumstances is an institution of the
prophets (éñåã ðáéàéí) or a custom that arose in the days of the prophets (îðäâ ðáéàéí). We conclude that it is a minhag nevi'im, and as such, we do not make a blessing, as is concurrent with practices that only have a status of minhag.
Arising from these points is a clear distinction between the obligation of arava outside the
To all this can be added the statement of Rabbenu Tam that arava does not even share in the full status of minhag. The Rishonim disagree as to whether one must say a blessing on a minhag. Even Rabbenu Tam, who differs from Rambam,
maintaining that a minhag does require a blessing, excludes arava which is a mere shaking (èìèåì áòìîà) and thus is of a lower status than that of other minhagim.
In order to understand those peculiarities, we must analyze the mitzva of arava within the
"How was the mitzva of arava fulfilled? There was a place below
stood them upright along the sides of the altar with their tips bent over the top of the altar. They blew teki'a, teru'a, teki'a."
(Mishna Sukka 4:5)
It appears from this that the mitzva of arava is not an obligation upon an individual, a çåáú âáøà, which is fulfilled through the action of he who takes the arava. Rather, the fulfillment relates to the
The gemara (43b) deals with the question of whether the mitzva of arava lies only in standing it upright (æ÷éôä) on the side of the altar, or also in the actual taking of it
(ðèéìä). If arava does have a mitzva of netila then there is certainly room to say that there is a personal fulfillment achieved by the act of taking, just as there is in lulav.
However, this would all depend upon one's understanding of the mitzva of netila. At the beginning of the sugya, the gemara equates the netila of arava with the netila of lulav, but
further on, the gemara tries to prove that there is a fulfillment of the netila of the arava from the circling of the altar (ä÷ôä), and it is apparently in this hakafa that the gemara sees the fulfillment of the netila of arava. If the fulfillment of the netila is in the hakafa of the altar, then one must still see the essential fulfillment of the mitzva as relating to the altar. That is, the fulfillment that is centered on the altar is not just a function of its being decorated with branches of willow but also in its becoming a focal point around which people circle.
It would seem that this question is repeated in an amoraic disagreement. Resh Lakish opines that Kohanim barred from
According to Rashi, the opinion which states that there is a mitzva of netila would also maintain that there exists an individual fulfillment thereof, similar to lulav.
Tosafot there disagree with Rashi's assessment and categorize R. Yochanan's statement as merely a hypothesis (àí úîöé ìåîø). In their opinion, R. Yochanan states that even according to those who claim that the mitzva is one of netila, this is not incumbent upon every individual to fulfill, but rather, is directed only to Kohanim who are fit for
Tosafot point out that the whole sugya implies that the Kohanim alone did the hakafa, and the netila was incumbent only upon them, and it is patently clear that Israelites did neither netila nor hakafa. Ritva writes in disagreement that Israelites did do netila in their section of the
Our question then, revolves around this disagreement of the rishonim. For the Ritva and the Rambam, who believe that there can be netila even without hakafa, there is a personal obligation to take the arava, which is incumbent upon all
Conversely, for Tosafot, who maintain that only Kohanim did hakafa and netila (for the two go together, as the words of R. Yochanan are most easily understood), even netila is not a personal obligation, but rather a function of the altar. It should be added that according to Abba Shaul (34a), arava is derived from the verse, "You shall take for yourselves" which is said regarding lulav, and is not learned from a separate halacha leMoshe miSinai. If so, it appears that for him, too, there was a mitzva of netila. Indeed, even Tosafot concur that according to the opinion of Abba Shaul there was a mitzva of netila for Israelites in their section of the
From all this, we see that our question of whether arava has an individual fulfillment or a fulfillment only regarding the altar is actually a disagreement among tanaim (Abba Shaul vs. Rabbanan), amoraim (Resh Lakish vs. R. Yochanan) and
rishonim (Rambam and Ritva vs. Rashi and Tosafot).
Accordingly, we can now return to our point of departure and illuminate the distinction between lulav and arava outside the
a function of the altar (except according to R. Yochanan ben Beroka in Sukka 45a who held that they placed along the altar upright palm branches and not willows) but rather an
obligation upon the individual which was fulfilled by the act of netila in the
Therefore, the difference between the two outside the Temple is, also, evident. Lulav, which is an obligation upon the individual, applies both in and out of the Temple, as the action of the individual can retain its significance outside the Temple. Thus, the biblical obligation of lulav applies outside the Temple. The biblical mitzva of arava, on the other hand, does not pertain outside the Temple, for there is no significance to arava without the altar. For this reason they differ on the rabbinic level as well. Lulav, which has significance outside the Temple, was enacted as a fully obligatory rabbinic mitzva. The significance of doing something "in memory of the Temple" lies in replicating
outside the Temple exactly what had, in previous times, been performed inside it, and thus it applies all seven days, as it did in the Temple. Arava, however, which lacks all meaning outside the Temple, cannot be replicated, for without the altar, it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original mitzva in the Temple. Because of this, it is simply a minhag which serves to remind us of the Temple, and is not a full fledged enactment "zecher lemikdash." For this purpose, one day suffices. This is the meaning of the gemara's statement that: "Lulav, which has a root in the Torah, is performed
outside the Temple all seven days 'zecher lemikdash'. Arava, which has no root in the Torah, is not performed outside the Temple all seven days 'zecher lemikdash'." That is, as we have explained, the fact that lulav is biblically prescribed outside the Temple (for one day) shows that its practice has significance there, and thus can be rabbinically enacted for all seven.
Arava, however, which has no biblical precedent outside the Temple, and in fact lacks all significance there, cannot be rabbinically prescribed as a mitzva for seven days as in the Temple, but only as a mere allusion (which is accomplished with one day).
This explains the opinion of Rabbenu Tam that this minhag is of lesser status than others and is, in fact, no more than a mere shaking. That is, that arava outside the Temple, without an altar, can only be "tiltul be'alma", and therefore cannot be transformed into an act of mitzva. This is not, however, the case with other minhagim like the recitation of "half-Hallel" and second-day Yom Tov which bear significance
as acts of mitzva resembling "whole Hallel" and one-day Yom Tov, and thus require a blessing.
It appears to me, that with this in mind one may attempt to explain an additional point which is unique to arava. We mentioned that Abba Shaul disagreed with the sages regarding the source of the mitzva of arava. According to Abba Shaul the mitzva of arava is derived from the verse which speaks about lulav, while the sages maintain that it is not explicit in the Scriptures, but is rather a "halacha leMoshe miSinai" alone. This has been stated by R' Nehunia of the Beit Churtan Valley, "[The law of] ten trees, arava and nissuch hamayim (the water libation on Sukkot) are halachot leMoshe miSinai." Although there are many halachot leMoshe miSinai, what distinguishes arava (and nissuch hamayim) is that the entire mitzva has no source other than halacha leMoshe miSinai, as opposed to other instances where the primary source is within the Torah, and the halacha merely provides supplementary details (as in the black color of tefillin, the five invalid shechitahs, and the like).
It seems that this is connected to our previous discussion: Only in the Temple can there be mitzvot which are completely halacha leMoshe miSinai! Two reasons for this can be offered:
a. The Temple is the earthly dwelling place of God, and therefore its procedures can be determined by means of an oral transmission from God to Moshe, as instructions pertaining to "His House". However, for other mitzvot which apply outside the Temple, and are directed to people at their home and work, His wisdom decreed that a Torah source is necessary, in order to establish the basic principle.
b. One can further suggest that in the Temple, arava and "nissuch hamayim" can be seen as components of the broader framework of Temple service in general and Sukkot ritual in particular, and as such they are in fact details of a framework which has its source in the Written Law.
However, it should be noted, there are limits to how far one can delve, and all this cannot but remain within the realm of speculation.