Lulav on Shabbat

Sukkah (4:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 10 years ago

The fourth perek lists the mitzvot performed during sukkot including the number of days that the mitzvah applies. The first of these is the mitzvah of lulav; or more accurately the mitzvah of arbaat haminim(four species). According to Torah law, the mitzvah of lulav is to be performed in the Beit HaMikdash for the seven days of Sukkot(excluding Shimini Atzeret). Outside the Beit Hamikdash the mitzvah to shake lulav was only for the first day. The Mishnah however teaches that it is possible that the mitzvah would apply in the Beit HaMikdash for either six or seven days of sukkot depending on the year. If the first day of sukkot was Shabbat, then the mitzvah was performed for seven days. If however the first day was not Shabbat, meaning that Shabbat was on one of the remaining days of Sukkot, then the mitzvah was performed for six days with it not being shaken on Shabbat. What is the difference?

The Gemara (Sukkah 42b) explains that the Chachamim made a gezeira to refrain from performing the mitzvah on Shabbat. This was out of concern that one might carry the lulav to an expert when seeking guidance in performing the mitzvah and thereby desecrate Shabbat having carried in the public domain. If so, why then was the mitzvah performed on Shabbat if it coincided with the first day of Sukkot? The Gemara explains that since on the first day it is a mitzvah to take the lulav even outside the Beit HaMidkash the Chachamim did not extend the gezeira to that day. Rashi elaborates that since the first day was a mitzvah everywhere, it carries a greater importance.

What about today? Why do we not shake lulav if the first day of sukkot falls on Shabbat? The Bartenura explains that since we are not experts in establishing Rosh Chodesh it is possible that it is not the first day of Sukkot that coincided with Shabbat. He explanation uses the wording of the Gemara.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however directs us to an earlier Mishnah (3:7) that discusses various blemishes that would invalidate an etrog. There the Bartenura explains that these pesulim apply only to the first day and that the second day of Yom Tov shares the same status as the remaining days of Sukkot. This implies that we are indeed experts in establishing Rosh Chodesh. The Tosfot Yom Tov stresses that the Gemara was referring to the times of the Beit HaMikdash and that even though those people outside Israel may have known how to calculate Rosh Chodesh, since they had to rely on it being fixed in Eretz Yisrael, they were considered as if they did not know. Such an explanation however does not help the Bartenura due to what appears to be an inconsistency between his explanation here and his ruling regarding etrog stated above.1 What then is our status nowadays with respect to establishing Rosh Chodesh?

The Tosfot Yom Tov suggest that explanation of the Rambam should solve our difficulty whose ruling the Bartenura shares in the above two cases. For a period of time after the destruction, the Rosh Chodesh was still established through witness testimony received by Beit Din. Many who lived far away had no way of knowing when Rosh Chodesh was so they could never be certain if the first day of sukkah was Shabbat. They therefore decreed at that time that everyone, both inside and outside of Israel would not take the lulav if the first day fell on Shabbat “so that there would not be two Torahs”. Even though later Rosh Chodesh was determined via calculation, nevertheless the status quo was maintained. With respect to pesulim of etrog however, Bnei Eretz Yisrael were always different from Bnei Chutz La’aretz. Consequently since Rosh Chodesh can be calculated, the pesulim only apply on the first day.

What about second day Yom Tov? Considering the above reasoning, one might ask why we have two days of Yom Tov outside Israel now? The Tosfot Yom Tov flatly rejects such a question. He directs us to Gemara Beitza (4b) where the message was sent from Eretz Yisrael to Bavel: “Be careful with the custom of fathers in your hands, someday government may decree [against learning Torah] and you will err [in calculating Rosh Chodesh and possibly eat chametz on Pesach].” The two-day Yom Tov was therefore maintained based on this plea. Since the pesul of etrog however only applies on sukkot and is not dependent on the kedusha of the day, it is not covered by this gezeira and according to the Bartenura, both those living inside Israel and abroad share the same law.


1 The Rosh however rules that these pesulim also apply on the second day of Yom Tov.The Tosfot Yom Tov suggests that the Rashi and Tosfot may hold like the Rosh.

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