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09/19/2013

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Unless specified otherwise, citations from Rashi, Tosfot, Rif, Ran, and Rosh can be found in their commentaries on Masechet Sukkah. Citations from the Rambam are from Hilchot Lulav, andcitations from the Tur and Shulchan Aruch are in Orach Chaim.
Lulav
1.
 
One should buy a lulav with a hechsher in order to be sure that it came from a date palm tree and not a Canary palm.
1
 2.
 
The lulav must have leaves that cover the spine
2
and a spine of at least 4 tefachim.
3
 3.
 
It is preferable to buy a lulav with leaves that are not separated from the spine. If,however, the leaves are somewhat separated from the spine, the lulav is acceptable aslong as the leaves are not drooping downwards.
4
 4.
 
If the majority of the middle leaf is split, according to Ashkenazim the lulav is invalid,
1.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe O.C.4:123) holds that a branch of a Canary palm tree,which does not produce edible dates, is notconsidered a lulav. Rav Shlomo ZalmanAuerbach (cited in Halichot Shlomo 10:9),however, argues that the date palm and Canary palm are of the same species. Rav HershelSchachter (“Halachos of Daled Minim,” min. 15)favors the former approach. The Halachos of theFour Species (p. 100) details how to distinguisha Canary palm branch from the regular date palm branch; one indication is that the spine of theCanary palm is very flexible.
2.
The Gemara (Sukkah 32a) explains that alulav whose leaves do not cover its spine isinvalid. This is codified by the Rambam (8:4),Tur, and Shulchan Aruch (645:4). The Beiur Halacha (645:1 s.v. V’adayin) cites a view that alulav is invalid only if the majority of the spine isuncovered, but he leaves the matter unresolved.The Chazon Ish (146:21), however, sides withthose who require the entire spine to be covered.
3.
Rabbi Yochanan’s opinion in the Gemara(Sukkah 32b) is that the spine of the lulav must be a minimum of 4 tefachim. Based on Tosfot(32b s.v. Tzei), the Tur (650:1) holds that thelulav need be only 13.3 etzba’ot (rather than 16)since Rabbi Tarfon allowed using the smaller tefachim to measure the lulav. The Rambandiffers slightly and requires 14 etzba’ot. The BeitYosef (650:1), however, infers from the fact thatthe Rif and Rambam do not cite Rabbi Tarfonthat they hold that 16 etzba’ot are required. TheShulchan Aruch (650:1) quotes all three opinionsand seems to side with the Tur. The Rama,though, writes that the minhag is to follow theRambam. Chazon Ovadia (p. 362) writes that itis preferable to be strict for the opinion of theRambam.There is great dispute about the length of atefach: Rav Avraham Chaim Na’eh holds it is3.2 inches, Rav Moshe Feinstein and the AruchHashulchan hold it is 3.6 inches, and the ChazonIsh holds it is 3.8 inches. See Rabbi ChaimJachter’s essay in Kol Torah (Parshat Ki TavoVol. 13 Num. 2).
4.
The Mishna (Sukkah 29b) states that a lulavwith parted leaves is valid, while a lulav withleaves split completely is invalid. Rashi (29b s.v. Nifratz, as understood by Tosfot) explains thatthe lulav is invalid only if the leaves are actuallydetached from the spine. Tosfot, however,question Rashi’s approach. In a sense similar toRashi, the Rif (15a) and Rambam (8:3) explainthat the Mishna invalidates a lulav that hasleaves split to the point that the leaves droppeddownwards. The Shulchan Aruch (645:1) quotesthe opinion of Rambam and Rif; the Beit Yosef quotes from the Ran that everyone would agreethat by a lulav where the leaves fell off, it would be invalid, albeit for other reasons.The Maggid Mishneh (Hilchot Lulav 8:3)cites the view of the Geonim that although alulav with parted leaves is acceptable, it is preferable to get a lulav with leaves that are notseparated from the spine. The Rama (645:1)
 
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while some Sephardic poskim are lenient.
5
It is preferable to get a lulav that iscompletely closed, if it is easy to get one.
6
 5.
 
Ideally, one should have a completely straight lulav. If the spine of the lulav is bent, itis still acceptable unless it is as bent as a sickle. One should avoid using a lulav wherethe majority or all of the top leaves are bent like a reed.
7
 
codifies this position and adds that it is preferable to have a lulav with leaves that arecompletely bound straight with the spine. TheTaz (645:1-2) strongly questions the Geonim andRama and concludes that a lulav with slightly parted leaves is acceptable even l’chatchila. TheMishna Brurah (645:3) and Kaf Hachaim(645:7), though, cite several achronim who sidewith the Rama.The Gemara (Sukkah 32a) states that if theleaves of lulav are stiff like wood, the lulav isinvalid. Rashi (s.v. Charut, explained by the BeitYosef 645:2) explains that when the lulav is lefton the tree for a long time, its leaves harden somuch so that it is impossible to bind them to thespine. Although this Gemara is quoted by theTur and Rama (645:2), the Rambam andShulchan Aruch make no mention of it. See PriMegadim (E”A 645:1), who explains how theRambam understood the Gemara.
5.
The second version of Rabbi Yehoshua benLevi’s opinion (Sukkah 32a) is that a lulav witha split tiyomet is invalid. Rashi (s.v. Tiyomet)explains that the tiyomet is the highest middletwo leaves extending directly out of the top of the spine. Tosfot (Bava Kama 96b) cite theGeonim as agreeing with Rashi but note thataccording to this explanation it would be almostimpossible to find a valid lulav, as almost everylulav in Tosfot’s area grew with one middle leaf rather than two. Tosfot, though, explain that evenRashi and the Geonim would agree that a lulavthat did not grow with two middle leaves isvalid; the only problem referred to in the Gemarais if a lulav grew with two middle leaves thatsubsequently split.The Terumat Hadeshen (Responsa 96) citesone version of Rashi (Bava Kama 96a s.v.Hatiyomet) that the tiyomet is the single tallestmiddle leaf. The Terumat Hadeshen writes thatthe minhag is in accordance with thisexplanation. The Rama 645:3 writes that theAshkenazic minhag follows the TerumatHadeshen. Mishna Brurah (645:16) adds that oneshould not use a lulav if the majority of themiddle leaf is split. Rav Shlomo ZalmanAuerbach (Halichot Shlomo 10:1) explained thatthat minhag is not concerned for the opinion of the Geonim who required a “double” tiyomet.The Rif (15a) and Rambam (8:4) explain thatevery leaf is really doubled over, and the point atwhich these sides meet is called the tiyomet. TheRosh (3:6) explains that according to the Rif, if the majority of the length of the majority of theleaves split, the lulav would be invalid. TheShulchan Aruch 645:3 codifies the opinion of theRif. Chazon Ovadia (Sukkot p. 297-8) codifiesthe opinion of the Rama even for Sephardim,while the Ish Matzliach (on Rama
ibid 
.) rulesthat if there is no other lulav, Sephardim mayrely on the Rambam.Interestingly, the Maamar Mordechai (645:4)writes that one should not check the middle leaf too forcefully, as it may split in the process; if itdoes not look split upon glancing at it, it is valid.This view is quoted by the Kaf Hachaim(645:24).
6.
Rama 645:3 writes that it is preferable to get alulav that is completely closed to be strict for theopinion of those who hold that if the middle leaf is even partially split, the lulav is invalid.Chazon Ovadia (p. 300) agrees. Mishna Brurah645:18-9 writes that if only the minority of themiddle leaf is split one need not be strict unlessanother lulav is available to him.
7.
The Gemara (32a) states that a bent lulav isinvalid if it is as bent (“akum”) like a sickle. TheGemara adds that if the leaves of the lulav are

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