Each week we discuss one familiar halakhic practice and try to show its beauty and meaning. The columns are based on Rabbi Meir's Meaning in Mitzvot on Kitzur Shulchan Arukh
Lulav on Shabbat
The mitzva of Lulav (Four Species) is not fulfilled on Shabbat, even this year when the first day of the holiday falls on Shabbat (SA OC 658). We are accustomed to saying that this is because a person may come to carry the Lulav in the public domain (Sukka 42b), but actually behind this simple reason is a complex web of rulings which encompass different mitzvot, which apply in different ways in different times and places.
If we examine the gemara at the beginning of the fourth chapter of Sukka, or the Rambam in the seventh chapter of the laws of Shofar and Sukkot, we learn the following:
There are really two distinct mitzvot of
The verse (Vayikra 23:40) begins, "And
you shall take to your- selves on the first day" the four species. This is
one commandment, the taking of the species. The verse continues, "and you
shall rejoice before HaShem your G-d seven days". This is a separate
commandment - the rejoicing of the species. (See Yerushalmi Sukka 3:11 where
this expression appears.)
The mitzva of taking applies only on the first day (as the verse states "on the first day"), and each person must have his own Lulav (as the verse states "take to yourselves).
The mitzva of rejoicing applies all seven days (as the verse states "seven days") and applies only in the Mikdash (as the verse states "before HaShem").
Regarding Shabbat, the Sages at the time of the Temple ruled as follows:
The mitzva of taking applies even on Shabbat in Eretz Yisrael, where the commandment is definite (since the date of Yom Tov is known for certain), but is not fulfilled on Shabbat in the Diaspora, where the commandment is doubtful, since the exact day of Yom Tov is not known. (Yet the prohibition of carrying is definite since the day of Shabbat is known.)
The mitzva of rejoicing does not apply on Shabbat even in the Mikdash. Presumably the reason is that this restriction does not really cancel the rejoicing of the holiday, since it is fulfilled both in other ways (for example, by sitting in the sukka and eating festive meals) and on other days, when the lulav is taken. (See Minchat Chinukh 324:2.)
One logical way of understanding this distinction is to say that the command- ment of taking is personal, whereas the commandment of rejoicing is commu- nal. The basis for this distinction is as follows:
1. Rejoicing in general is a communal
mitzva. (See Rambam Yom Tov 6:18.)
After the destruction of the Temple, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai estab- lished that the Lulav would be taken everywhere seven days as a remem- brance of the Mikdash, and as a sign of longing for Eretz Yisrael (Mishna and gemara, Rosh HaShana 30a). Logically, in Eretz Yisrael the Lulav should continue to be taken on Yom Tov itself on the first day, as it always was. Yet the gemara tells us that after the destruction, the Sages concluded that the custom in Eretz Yisrael should be the same as that in the Diaspora (Sukka 43b). Rashi (Sukka 44a) explains that the reason is that the nation should not seem to be divided; the Rambam adds that this problem did not exist when the Temple was in existence, since it is understandable that there are different customs in the place or in the vicinity of the Temple. (7:17.)
One way of explaining this ruling is that the rejoicing aspect of the Lulav was made the primary fulfillment of the mitzva. In this way we recall the Mikdash and the land of Israel, which are the only places of true rejoicing. Therefore the Lulav is taken during the entire holiday everywhere. And since the rejoicing aspect of the mitzva is basically communal, it becomes critical that the mitzva be fulfilled identically everywhere. It follows that there are two reasons that we don't take the lulav on Shabbat:
1. The primary fulfillment of the mitzva
is that of rejoicing - which was not fulfilled on Shabbat even in the time
of the Temple.
A related understanding is that the mitzva of rejoicing is mainly fulfilled by shaking the Lulav during prayer. (One proof is that a child needs education in Lulav only when he knows how to shake it - not when he knows how to take it. Sukkah 42a.) The Lulav is like a symbolic prayer for rain and good weather (Sukkah 37b). Since this prayer has a private aspect, it is inappropriate for Shabbat.
“Meaning in Mitzvot” is undergoing intensive editing; which will be followed IYH by printing. With the help of loyal supporters, we hope to have the book on the shelves by Rosh HaShana. If you would be interested in helping with publication, please contact Rabbi Meir about making a dedication or subscription (advance purchase): E-mail email@example.com, fax 02-642-3141.
Rabbi Meir authors a popular weekly on-line Q&A column, "The Jewish Ethicist", which gives Jewish guidance on everyday ethical dilemmas in the workplace. The column is a joint project of the JCT Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem College of Technology - Machon Lev; and Aish HaTorah. You can see the Jewish Ethicist, and submit your own Qs — www.jewishethicist.com or www.aish.com.