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Q&A: Extra Hadasim

January 24, 2017

Question: Last year, I heard you arguing with someone about whether a lulav could have more than three hadasim in it. What was the argument about? Which side were you taking?

Answer: The exact argument was that someone had claimed that it is forbidden to compose a lulav bundle with more than three myrtle (haddas) branches in it. The Mishna (Sukka 34) declares that a lulav bundle should have one palm frond, one ethrog, two willows, and three myrtles, and indeed, that is the way everyone does the mitzwa. The Rabbi was arguing that because some say that increasing the number of certain species, e.g. fronds or ethrogim, is forbidden, and because we have never seen anybody with additional willows in his bundle, it must be forbidden. I have already written that this argument is fallacious yet common in  the later halachic literature. I was arguing that the practice is specifically endorsed by rishonim such as Maimonides and aharonim such as the Aroch Hashulhan, who understand that the Mishna is discussing the minimum of each component of the the lulav bundle. That is, a lulav has to have at least three myrtle branches, but if one wishes to beautify his bundle, he may add as many myrtles as he wishes. As the Beth Yosef himself points out, no major decisors disagreed with this assertion.

Question: Doesn’t the Shulhan Aruch mention that despite that being the halacha, m’dakd’kim only do as exactly the minimum?

Answer: Yes he does. But not because there is anything wrong with adding willows to one’s lulav, but because of the risk. Remember, the permissibility lies in the fact that adding willows would beautify the mitzwa. Like with stripes on our tallitoth, which are also added for decoration and beauty, sometimes beauty can be achieved more simplistically. Truly good looking people don’t need to wear makeup, and many mitzwoth look elegant when they are done precisely according to the halacha. Do you notice how sefardic tallitoth have much less prominent white stripes instead of black? There is nothing wrong with trying to make a mitzwa look nice, and it all comes down to a matter of taste, and can be easily get out of hand, but the Shulhan Aruch certainly did not mean to prohibit or recommend against attempting to beautify the mtizwa of lulav.

Question: Why hasn’t anybody been putting extra hadasim in his lulav?

Answer: The way some Rishonim describe the practice, it seems that many used to do it as a matter of course. I believe that the practice originally fell into disuse due to the rarity of myrtles in northern and eastern Europe. Do you remember all those halachoth that developed because the four species used in a lulav are native to mediterranean climates and not northern ones? (The myrtus communis simply doesn’t grow in White Russia.) In some places in Europe, they only had one or two sets of the four species for the entire community, and other places had to use last year’s dried up bundle. That’s why they had a break between shaharith and hallel, to give everyone a chance to shake the one lulav bundle that made it to shul. A town would be lucky if it had three myrtle branches, and if it had more than that, the people would probably have tried to use them to make another lulav bundle. Today, the practice has not experienced a renaissance because like with the other species, people spend quite a lot of time seeking out the best set of myrtles and paying dearly for them. No one is thinking to have to look for and pay for a second pack of triple-alef, Bedatz sanctioned willows. The practice does not seem to becoming back anytime soon, but not because there is anything wrong with it halachically.

Question: But you did have extra hadasim in your bundle.

Answer: Yes. And I am proud that I can do so. I grow my own palm fronds and willows, and my wife’ uncle, our neighbor, grows his own natural willows, the kind that actually have berries and have a rugged beauty to them. God willing, in the coming years I will also be growing my own citrons, and more people will explore this classic, rabbinically approved manner of showing our enthusiasm for God’s commandments.

Nos et non viderunt sinister ergo rectus.

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From → halacha, original

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  1. Adding More Hadassim? - Hyehudi.org

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