4 minim Materialism segula

What if You Never Get to Use Your Own Esrog?

Many people spend a great deal of time and money each year in their search for the perfect esrog. Sure, we’re supposed to seek hiddurim in our four minim, but is it so obvious what those hiddurim actually are?

For years I’ve wondered if there’s any benefit in all the effort for those of us who can’t necessarily tell the difference between esrogim costing $100 and $300. (And after speaking with many people in the industry, I’m not completely convinced there actually are any differences.) Does just spending the money improve the quality of the mitzva?

But I was recently thinking about this mishna in the fourth perek of Succah:

מצות לולב כיצד כל העם מוליכין את לולביהן להר הבית והחזנין מקבלין מידם וסודרין אותן על גג האיצטווה והזקנים מניחין את שלהם בלשכה ומלמדין אותן לומר כל מי שהגיע לולבי בידו הרי הוא לו במתנה ולמוחרת היו משכימין ובאים והחזנין מזרקין לפניהם

How was the mitzva of lulav performed (in the mikdash when the first day of yom tov fell on Shabbos)? Everyone would take their lulavim to the Temple Mount (before Shabbos) which the officials would take from their hands and arrange along the bleachers…(the officials) would teach everyone to say ‘I present my lulav as a gift to whoever receives it.’ The next morning, they would all come early and the officials would (randomly) throw (lulavim) before them.

While, as the mishna later makes clear, this procedure didn’t continue for long, it was the way Chazal would have preferred we do this mitzva (at least when the first day of yom tov fell on Shabbos, when carrying our lulavim to the mikdash was impossible).

Which means that we were expected to go to the trouble of purchasing and preparing our four minim with the full knowledge that we wouldn’t ever get to use them! After all, they would end up wherever the officials threw them that first morning.

Now, if you knew that you’d never get to use it yourself, would you spend as much money and energy getting it? For myself, at least, I’m not sure how I would answer that question.

4 minim Unexpected Yerushalmi

The Four Species: waved but never shaken

The נענועים are an integral part of the mitzva of lulav (see Mesechte Sukkah 37b). But how is that waving supposed to be done? As anyone who’s ever been in a shul over Sukkos knows, the question seems to inspire a wide range of answers. The gemara’s conceptual source is the waving associated with the מלואים (see שמות כט:כז). There, the הנפה and הרמה referenced by the verse suggest to ר’ יוחנן that we should move the four species outwards and inwards, and then up and down.

One popular interpretation involves shaking the lulav with each movement. The source for this seems to be the Rema (תרנא:ט) who wrote:

ומכסכס הלולב בכל נענוע

The popular translation of כסכס is “shake.” However, from the Yerushalmi to Sukkah (פרק ג הלכה ח) this would not seem to be correct:

תני צריך לנענע ג’ פעמים ר’ זעירה בעי הכין חד והכין חד או הכין והכין חד או הכין הכין חד

One must wave (the lulav) three times. Rabbi Zeira asks: this way is one and this way is one, or this way and this way is one? (i.e., are those three waves made up of three sets of “in and out” movements, or one inward movement, one outward, and a third inward).

The Yerushalmi answers via a proof from the laws of Niddah (found in the Bavli in Niddah 62a). There, the required steps for properly cleaning a stain involves כסכוס three times in each direction. Here’s how the Yerushalmi concludes:

תמן תנינן צריך לכסכס ג’ פעמים בין כל דבר ודבר ר’ זעירה בעי הכין חד והכין חד

Which would seem to clearly limit the Rema’s ומכסכס to simple outward/inward/upward/downward movements. And there seems to be no source for shaking.

Just sayin’.